You may have heard of Search Engine Marketing and wondered how it can help your business. The technique is also known as SEM and is related to SEO. Another common term that people use when talking about SEM is “paid search”, and this name illustrates how it differs to SEO perfectly.

If you want to learn more about how to start your own SEM business you can check out the official training course by Aidan Booth and Steve Clayton called Parallel Profits here:

What are SEM, CPC, and PPC?


SEO concentrates on getting visitors to your site (and hopefully new customers) through organic means, like ensuring the site and its content really meet their needs, that the website is easy to use, and that people are talking positively about your business online. When you use SEM, however, you pay search engines to position your business higher in search rankings – the results page you see when you search for something online.

When talking about SEM, you’ll also hear terms like CPC and PPC. These mean “cost per click” and “pay per click”, respectively because this is how a customer will pay for their search engine marketing – by paying for the number of clicks one of their ads get. Like SEO, the ads that you make or provide for SEM should be based around a keyword that is highly relevant to your business.

How is SEM different to SEO?

The main reason that people choose SEM over SEO is because SEO, although effective, takes more skill to implement and longer to see results. By paying for your search engine marketing, you can boost the speed with which your business will turn up in the search results page, as well as being specific about the keywords you appear for. With SEO, you sort of just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best!

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How do you pay for your ads?

In order to use SEM, you must create ads and then pay the major search engines, like Google and Bing, to display them for searches containing the keywords you’ve chosen. Although creating ads sounds complicated, these search engines make it very, very easy for even a total beginner to start running an ad. Everything from designing the ad visuals, to writing the copy, picking the keywords, and financing your ads is very straightforward.

When it comes to paying for these ads, SEM usually works on a principle of credit – you buy credit, as you might for a mobile telephone and the ads run to your specifications until that credit runs out. You change how quickly you run through that credit by things like the number of ads, the size of the audiences you’re trying to reach, and the popularity of the keywords you have chosen.

Is SEM right for all businesses?

For most businesses, a combination of SEM and SEO will produce the best results. There are some occasions, however, when a carefully-planned SEM campaign can be really effective. Think about SEM when you need to give SEO a boost, when you need to power-up a specific promotion or new offer, or as a way of finding out what keywords can really put in some work for you.

One word of warning, however. Like we said before, SEM is really easy to get started with and seeing your first good results can be intoxicating. More than one paid marketing beginner has invested too much, too soon in their ads, however, and gotten themselves into trouble! It’s very easy to spend too much on paid ads, so keep a calm head on your shoulders and make sure that you see real results before upping that budget!

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