A Guide to Search Engine Marketing + SEM Strategy: The Basics and Beyond

A Guide to Search Engine Marketing

SEM Strategy
SEM Strategy

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a marketing strategy that involves putting advertisements on search engine results pages (SERPs) to improve website traffic. 

The terms are frequently confused with search engine optimisation (SEO), which is more concerned with optimising your website to increase traffic. For my clients, I would only recommend doing SEM only after there has been a complete check that the website is fit for traffic and SEO optimised.

SEM Strategy

Table of Contents - A guide to SEM Search Engine Marketing

The Basics: What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing Both in a sense and practice, yet these two are opposed. This post focuses on SEM and how to use it effectively for your business. Placing advertising and driving traffic may seem simple, but it takes a lot more to do it well. So now you have your Pages Maximised for SEO.

Let us start with the basics of Search engine marketing (SEM). SEM is a marketing strategy that involves placing advertisements on search engine results pages (SERPs) to increase your website traffic. So to reiterate, do not confuse it with your search engine optimisation (SEO), which optimises your website to increase traffic for your target audience.

Placing advertising and driving traffic may seem simple, but it takes a lot more to do it well. So what keywords should you choose?

Choosing the right keywords for SEM can be challenging. However, once you have a broad idea of your keywords, it’s time to find out how important they are to your target audience.

Do you, for example, target only niche keywords that you can gain exposure for, or do you focus on more general keywords that are the most competitive?

The keyword (pun intended) here is balance. It would be best if you catered to all styles. To understand why to consider the metrics, we propose categorising and valuing keywords.

Search Engine Marketing + SEM Strategy
SEM Strategy

The Basics: What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing

  • Difficulty and Volume

Volume: The number of keyword searches for the phrase within a specific period.

Difficulty: The level of competition for the keyword among domains.

Actionable keyword types include:

Typical: A one-word keyword with very little meaning. Consider searching for the word ‘Apple.’ What knowledge can we glean about the person’s quest by simply looking at the keyword ‘Apple’? It’s not much. He may be searching for an iPhone or maybe an orchard or a pie recipe. Without more details, it’s hard to say.

Transactional: Every long-tail keyword that includes the word “transaction.” These are usually associated with e-commerce questions. For example, adding ‘buy, “rent,’ or ‘price’ to an inquiry indicates that the consumer is most likely looking for something to buy.

Long-tail queries containing the typical markers of ‘how to,’ ‘why,’ ‘tips,’ or review indicate that the consumer is searching for information about the keyword. Informational sites like Wikipedia, etc., typically dominate these keyword words.

This is not to say that you can neglect keywords that fall into the other categories. On the contrary, they may be low-hanging fruit and easier to pick, which means quick wins for your site in terms of traffic. Both can be advantageous to you.

The Benefits of Search Engine marketing

There are numerous advantages to using SEM for your company. For example, increasing your online presence increases brand recognition and exposure. This, in turn, creates online leads and sales (which obviously allow you to make money by selling products and services). Similarly, you will provide your guests with knowledge that they might not be able to find elsewhere.

Business owners always question if SEO or PPC is a better marketing investment. However, SEM is not necessarily about which strategy is better but is more appropriate to your current circumstances and budget. You will probably find that engaging in organic and paid marketing is worthwhile since using them concurrently would help your company prosper more than if you just used one tactic and ignored your other choices.

Organic SEO is ideal for long-term growth, while PPC is ideal for businesses that need results quickly.

Many websites and business owners start with SEO because it is often less expensive than other marketing methods, and I get that. I started my brand out the same way.

According to statistics, 41 per cent of marketers worldwide claim to get the best ROI from SEO. By 2019, organic search engine results accounted for 65 per cent of all website traffic. Furthermore, approximately 64% of marketers are now investing in SEO, implying that most of your rivals might be taking advantage of one of the most effective business development methods.

You can also do some aspects of SEO on your own with a little research and basic website skills, assuming you have the time to devote to it. Furthermore, traffic derived directly from organic search is free, while traffic derived from PPC incurs a fee for each click.

Working on quality SEO will help you build reputation and confidence by marking your company as a trustworthy place for tourists to find the products and information you offer. If you demonstrate to Google and other search engines that your website should rank for relevant keywords that accurately identify your goods, you should naturally rise in the SERPs. Organic optimisation takes time, but as you develop a positive reputation and keyword development, traffic should naturally increase and become more consistent.

It’s also worth noting that organic search options are now being expanded to include Google Shopping, the search giant’s huge response to eCommerce marketplaces like Amazon. Google Shopping organic and paid results are an important opportunity for eCommerce brands to increase their sales reach through SEM.

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There are two types of search marketing: organic and paid.

SEM, which employs PAID techniques to appear in search results

SEO, which employs ORGANIC techniques to appear in search results

The primary distinction between SEM and SEO is that SEM is a paid strategy, while SEO is an organic strategy.

The concepts of search marketing, like most items in the search industry, have changed. Some marketers may consider SEM to be a catch-all word for both paid and organic strategies. However, to make the marketing strategy more transparent, we suggest categorising the terminology.

Since these words can be synonymous and mean different things to different marketers, it is important to always explain terminology before working with search partners. Discuss the concepts with the marketing partners to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the plan.

  • Both aid in the visibility of your brand in search results. One of the fundamentals of SEO and SEM is that they both strive to help your brand appear prominently on SERPs. Each tactic aims to help a brand appear in search results as users search for terms relevant to the brand’s industry, company, or offerings.
  • Both are intended to increase traffic to your website (home base). The aim of both is to increase exposure on search engine results pages (SERPs) and drive traffic to a website. Each strategy employs tactics to boost click-through rates (CTR) and encourage more users to click on search results.
  • Both necessitate an understanding of your target audience and potential customer. To be effective with either strategy, understanding your audience and how they behave. You will get to know your audience, discover their needs and what they are looking for by using buyer personas and psychographic segmentation. Then, and only then, creating useful content that appears as they search for solutions relevant to your brand.
  • Both use keyword analysis to identify common search words. The first step in both SEM and SEO is to conduct keyword research to determine which keywords to target. Looking at keyword popularity to decide the top keywords or purchasing keywords that your ideal audience searches for is part of your digital marketing teams investigations. Entailing researching keyword competition to see which brands are targeting the same keywords as you and deciding what you would need to do to compete with those other firms.
  • Both SEM and SEO are aimed at particular keywords. Both techniques are based on targeting unique keywords discovered during keyword analysis. Keywords are at the heart of each tactic.
  • Both necessitate research and ongoing optimisation. When comparing SEM vs SEO, keep in mind that neither is a set-and-forget technique. To improve results, both require ongoing testing, tracking, and optimisation and consistently reviewing what changes have been made on Google and how you can optimise your site for those changes. i.e. recently, Google Core Web Vitals.

The Differences Between SEM and SEO

The simple answer for you is that SEM search placements contain the word “Ad.” SEO, however, does not. 

On SERPs, search results that appear as a result of SEM or SEO appear differently. Paid advertisements that receive placement by SEM strategies are often classified as ads (e.g., by the “AD” appearing next to the placement). In contrast, organic SEO search results are not labelled in this way.

Ad extensions appear in SEM search results. Snippets have appeared in SEO search results. When comparing SEM vs SEO, you’ll notice variations in how search results appear. Ad extensions, including additional links, phone numbers, and callouts, can appear in SEM search results. SEO results, on the other hand, can appear in search with featured snippets.

You are charged any time a user clicks on an SEM result. When a prospective client clicks on an SEO result, you pay nothing. 

SEM outcomes are paid placements, and your company is compensated each time a user clicks on one of them. As a result, you’ll need a budget to keep displaying SEM ads and using this form of PPC lead generation. On the other hand, when a consumer clicks on an organic search result, you are never paid.

SEM findings are shown to a specific target audience. SEO reports, however, do not. Although effective SEO and SEM strategies are guided by a plan to communicate with a specific audience, SEM is the only way to specify the target audience. Via SEM, you can (depending on the publisher) choose which audiences see the search results by applying filters based on age, place, income, behaviours, and other factors. You can’t pick and choose who sees the search results with SEO.

Your SEM strategy will have an immediate effect. However, your SEO is your marathon and will take time to develop. With just a few clicks, you can start putting your results in front of audiences through paid SEM advertising. 

Your advertisements begin to appear in SERPs as soon as you initiate a campaign. You can switch advertising on or off at any time to increase or decrease their exposure. On the other hand, SEO is something that you build on over time, and the benefits will reveal themselves over a long period. It can take months for a brand to rank on search engines after introducing an SEO strategy.

  • SEM is more suitable for testing than SEO. It’s a perfect technique for checking because you can immediately switch off and on SEM paid advertising. To test your new strategies, you can easily rewrite your ad copy, reach new markets, and adjust the quality of your landing page. This adaptability enables you to notice variations in your tactics right away. This cannot be accomplished by SEO because it would take too long to make adjustments and track discrepancies in performance.


Over time, SEO adds value. SEM is not one of them. SEM is only active if you pay for your results to appear. Your SEM plan is over the moment you turn off your advertising. SEO is the polar opposite. SEO strategy evolves and compounds over time, yielding long-term success.

If you can get to the top using SEO, SEO will have a higher click-through rate (CTR) than SEM. CTRs are what all Digital Marketing companies and brands are searching for and will be the most effective in the first few organic search results. So, if you can reach the top, you can most likely outperform SEM advertising. 

So for clients who are currently appearing on the second or lower page of performance while they work on their SEO, it might be time for you to consider getting more clicks via SEM.


Which Is Better: SEM or SEO?

You’ll be able to determine which strategy is best for your marketing campaigns now that you’ve compared SEM and SEO. Using what you know and remember the following when deciding which is best for your brand.

Think about the rivalry. Before you determine how to deal with your competitors, look at what the rivals are doing and how they perform in search marketing. Investigate the search terms for which they rank organically. Consider if you can carry out a strategy to outperform their SERP placements. Examine the paid terms they’re using to push traffic to their own pages. Look for holes that you can fill and places where you will be unable to compete in both paid and organic search while you conduct this study.

Search Engine Marketing +SEM Strategy

Which Is Better: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or SEO?

This competitive analysis Free tool, “Ubersuggest”, will help you get a full picture of how you compare to the competition in search and identify areas for development.

Using Ubersuggest to get a clearer look at the rivals’ keyword strategy. Please enter up to ten of your rivals to review the top organic and paid search words driving traffic to their websites.

Think about how well you know the business. If you’ve been in business for a while and already know what your customers want and how to meet them, you may want to start developing a long-term SEO strategy that can deliver value over time.

If you are unsure how consumers or rivals will respond to your offers or content, you can consider an SEM campaign that allows you to test your concepts, products, and services. Use these websites for market analysis better to understand your target audience and your business role.

Consider the duration of your average customer’s purchasing period. If your goods and services have a short consumer purchase time, which means that your customers know what they want, search for it, and buy it, you will benefit from SEM ads that place your product right where customers can see it. Longer purchasing periods, in which consumers study and compare for weeks or months, can not work well with SEM because there is no immediate purchase after seeing one ad.

Consider the industry’s average cost-per-click. Before deciding if SEM is right for your business, do your homework and calculate how much you’ll need to pay to appear in paid search results. The cost-per-click for keywords varies according to competition. It could be the best strategy for you if your cost-per-click is poor. On the other hand, a very high cost-per-click could lead you to believe that you would be better off focusing on SEO.

Consider the age of your business. If you have just started your company and launched your website, it will take some time to build your SEO and appear organically in search results. Although this does not preclude you from developing an SEO strategy, it does imply that you can benefit from an SEM strategy while you work on your SEO. SEM is a great way to move traffic while also improving your organic SEO.

Consider the website’s current state. When developing a marketing plan, search for “low-hanging fruit” or opportunities that will have the greatest effect with the least amount of effort. So, before you start a search marketing campaign, look at your website and see where you may be able to expand an organic SEO strategy already working before investing in an SEM campaign.

Using Ubersuggest tool to get a comprehensive analysis of your website’s SEO. Enter your site to receive a comprehensive report on the state of your site in terms of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO elements.

Disadvantages of SEM

Short-term strategy: In this case, I mean that when promotional spending is decreased, the results will suffer. If you cut your budget in half, chances are your visits and conversions will be cut in half as well.

Economic spending: We can only see benefits if we invest our resources more wisely than our competitors. If you are in a highly competitive industry and do not have a lot of money, you will most likely waste it.

Success is conditional on investment: this is connected to the first argument. In this case, you must consider SEO. If we cut our SEO investment to zero, it will take some time to lose the spot, and we may keep it if a good job has been done. 

In SEM, this is not the case; if you quit spending, you can no longer achieve results.

Creating your SEO marketing strategy and website structure so that search engines easily index it. Set goals for the marketing goals you want to achieve.


How do I use Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

  • Using Your Established List of Keywords (keyword Mapping).

Before you can refine your platform or start a paid campaign, create, update, or look at the current list of keywords you are ranking for – phrases that your customers can use while searching for the information you can provide. You can create a list and traffic forecasts by brainstorming, copying keywords from rivals, or using online resources.

  • You Have Already Optimised Your Website.

Rewrite the content to include more of the keywords you’ve selected.

Assuring that the material is structured in the best way possible.

Getting rid of any innovations that make it difficult for search engines to read your content (for example, search engines cannot read graphics or Flash content).

  • Registering your website in essential directories that influence search engine performance.
  • Adding a blog to your website
  • Creating RSS feeds to spread the site’s modified content to other websites
  • Web distribution of search-engine-optimised press releases
  • Establishing Your Inbound Linking.


When other sites connect to yours, search engines conclude that your site must be important, and you will rank higher in search results. And the higher the “rating” of the sites that link to you, the more weight they have in your overall ranking. You want connections from well-known industry officials, reputable companies and associations, and well-known directories.

SEM Strategy

Using SEM in Your Digital Marketing

  • How to get started with your SEM Strategy.

Begin experimenting with SEM Marketing / Paid Searches.

To get started with the paid search, you’ll need to

  • Creating specific landing pages for each campaign focused on the keyword.
  • Create your ad and enticing copy (s)
  • I prefer to Create 2 Ad’s and see how each one works.
  • Create an account with a popular search network for business users (i.e. Google Ad Words)
  • Configure your campaign with the network. (google)


A new online business or company will need to create a page for themselves, with links to the business website (often a product page or customers’ favourite pages and the keyword-optimised URL. 

This landing page will also need to be integrated with the Search Engines of the platform you are using to run your business. The list of Search Engines may include, but is not limited to, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, DuckDuckGo, Ask, Yandex, and Baidu, depending on the size of your business and/or the market you are in.

Next Look At Creating A SEM budget

“How much money should I set aside for SEO and SEM?” The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all number that will work with all companies. However, you should take those variables into account to arrive at a suitable number for yours.

Companies frequently want fast results or don’t know how to track SEO conversions, so they invest more in search marketing advertising. Even though SEO traffic accounts for 75% of all search traffic, it receives just 15% of the marketing budget. Meanwhile, though SEM accounts for 25% of all search traffic, it typically consumes up to 80% of SEM campaign budgets.

Many marketing experts believe that at least half of the money spent on SEO and SEM services creates high-quality content. As previously mentioned, SEO and content overlap, so it is critical to producing useful blog posts while developing a comprehensive search marketing strategy.

How much you can spend on SEO and SEM depends on three factors: the size of your market, the future profit you intend to generate, and the competition. If you are a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) distributing around the country, your budget should logically be higher than that of an SME with a local reach (for example, a brand available on an online marketplace versus a mom-and-pop coffee shop). 

They will reduce the number of competitors, the more difficult it will be to rate. Your current ranking would also have an impact on how much money you need to invest. Furthermore, your overall budget would include the SEO and SEM services (such as Google AdWords management) that you need.

Me, I would invest more in your SEO long game and again then use SEM to support the SEO you have bringing the leads.


The 4 Ps of SEM

In the 1950s, Neil Borden popularised the concept of the marketing mix. Borden described a marketing executive as someone who combines ingredients to create the best recipe for marketing a product. Later, it was E.Jerome McCarthy who sublimated Borden’s ideas of a marketing combination into the definition of the 4Ps of marketing.

McCarthy said that the 4Ps (product, price, promotion, and place) are the first control elements to form a marketing strategy. He also expressed the shifting of the balances of these factors over time, with the commodity remaining the most complex to adjust.

The key marketing mix fundamentals focused on the four Ps would increase the performance of your goods by providing the following advantages:

  • Creating a symbiotic relationship

When the four Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, and Place) are properly combined, they establish coordination that gives the product the right pitch. It adheres to the adage that “the whole is greater than the sum of its pieces.”

  • Branding loyalty and worth

Since the strategy focuses on the needs and satisfaction of the consumers, the product wins consumer loyalty and esteem. 

  • Serving as a bridge

The product specifications, pricing, and location all aim to take into account the customer’s needs. The promotional aspects inform the consumer of what your company has to offer and, therefore, help place the goods better. As a result, a bond is established between the customer and the company.

  • Allowing for proper integration

The architecture of the four Ps necessitates logical thought and perception. If they are properly combined, the product will find a distinct place in the customer’s mind.

Marketing Strategies

There are numerous strategies for generating traffic. These are divided into 2 broad categories: Conversion Marketing: an approach to marketing whereby advertisements or branded content is used to persuade visitors to take the desired action.

Lead generation: the process of getting new customers through means other than selling products or services directly. Related: Followed by these are some of the primary types of marketing strategies we use for our SEM: Cold Calling: looking for potential customers who may be looking for products or services. Email Marketing: choosing your targets carefully and getting them to follow your emails or respond to emails if they don’t like yours.


Advanced SEM Strategies

#1 SEM Strategy: Consider local search.

Local businesses account for 46 per cent of Google searches. So, whether you sell products or provide services locally, the SEM campaign is another opportunity to be discovered.

Include your place in the text of your ad, as well as its headline, and don’t forget to mention the audience – it should live in your location and search from it.

Since so many rules are intertwined here, our ultimate guide to local SEO will come in handy. For example, consider a method for selecting geo-targeted keywords.

#2 SEM Strategy – Infiltrate your rivals

I’m sure your biggest rivals are using search engine marketing. It’s a great idea to study their campaigns and extract the most useful ideas for your SEM strategy.

Conduct a competitor PPC study to learn about their keywords, bidding techniques, and writing tactics. You’ll be able to equate your advertising efforts with those of your rivals using SEMRush, and SEM tools like SpuFu and iSpionage can give you access to their ad copies (I’ll go over the helpful SEM tools later).

#3 SEM Strategy – Instill a sense of urgency

Since the sense of urgency is a powerful motivator for people to buy, you should incorporate it into your marketing strategy, especially in paid ads.

Add any urgency-inducing works to the headlines of your advertisements, such as “Special Offer – 24 Hours Left” or “Ends when.”

#4 SEM Strategy: Make use of the “Similar Audience” feature.

This Google Adwords feature helps you expose your ads to a community of users who share your audience’s behavioural habits and interests. My recommendation to my clients is that their business purpose is to expand the reach of your top-performing pages and content by targeting new users who have similar characteristics as your site visitors, who are unaware of what they do.

#5 Search Engine Marketing Strategy – Segment and personalise your advertising

As previously reported, Google Adwords provides very customisable settings for personalising and segmenting your ad campaign. For example, you might configure your advertisements so that they only appear to mobile users.

Alternatively, you can segment your users in a more nuanced manner. If you use a Google Adwords custom audience, you can segment your users into those that have recently abandoned a cart and show them a highly customised remarketing ad with a very special deal.

#6 SEM Strategy: Use A/B testing to determine the most effective solution.

A/B testing is a flexible marketing strategy that assists you in determining the best visual/textual solutions for any campaign.

When it comes to paid ad testing, you can first determine which part of the ad you want to test. For example, you can evaluate two different headlines, explanations, extensions, or separate terms such as urgency triggers on a small target audience.

Then, compare the findings to see which phrasing better inspired the experimental audience. Apply the winning version to the remaining members of the audience.

#7 SEM Strategy – Implement Automated Rules

The good news is that it is no longer possible to monitor data and make adjustments to the ad campaign manually. The automated rules in Google Ads allow you to control your account using criteria that you define: display ads on a schedule, bids based on time of day, season, location in search results, and so on.

You can remove the human element in some circumstances by enabling automation in your account. This is particularly true when major changes are required, and nothing can be ignored.

However, before you set automatic rules, double-check that you did everything correctly – otherwise, you risk wasting your budget.

The Must-Have SEM Tools for PPC Professionals

Using these low-cost (or even free) SEM methods, you can develop a truly fruitful SEM strategy:

  • Keyword research tools include Keyword Planner, SEMRush, iSpionage, and SpyFu.

These are PPC control tools that are all-in-one. One of their outstanding features is the compilation of winning keywords. Use the keywords you’ve chosen in your targeted advertising, local and on-page SEO, and create hashtag ideas for your social media marketing.

Furthermore, with the aid of these SEM tools, you can develop, distribute, and optimise your content, study the market, obtain SEO/SEM insights from your rivals, and maximise your SEM strategy.

Search Engine Marketing

Key Takeaway's Search Engine Marketing - SEM Strategy

With your website optimised and in good shape, you can begin to place advertising. However, you must remember that your customers are mobile-first, so ensure your ads can be seen on mobile phones and other devices. SEM is a multifaceted process that requires a lot of work.

This post is part of a series of posts with tips on how to use SEM effectively. You can read more about the basics of SEO, and more tips and tricks for SEO

Despite its apparent simplicity, developing a highly efficient and result-driven SEM strategy for your company can be daunting. Our full-service digital marketing agency employs a team of experienced SEO & SEM experts who are eager to assist you with all aspects of search engine marketing.

Contact us right away to see your PPC ROI surge!

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