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Having an active online presence is the price of admission for doing business today. Each day, there are 3.5 billion searches on Google alone, which means your future customers could be looking for you online right now. In an overcrowded online space, however, you need a way to stand out from the competition instead of getting lost in the shuffle. A key component to successfully connecting with customers online is search engine marketing—often referred to as SEM. SEM works in conjunction with search engine optimization—SEO—to create a comprehensive strategy for achieving competitive placement in search.
The easiest way to think of SEM is advertising for search engines. You have probably noticed SEM in action as an internet user yourself. Any time advertising appears in search results, you have SEM to thank. The advertising may appear in text form on top of the organic search results, or it may appear alongside the search results in the form of visual ads for specific products. These ads ensure that your company’s products and services are front and center in the search results potential customers encounter, so that they are more likely to choose your site from the hundreds of thousands of links their search generated.
SEM is usually conducted using the advertising platforms of the major search engines. Google AdWords is the largest player in the market, though Bing Ads and Yahoo Search Ads are also important platforms to consider. When building an SEM strategy, you may also hear these ads referred to as PPC, or pay-per-click, but whatever name you use, your business can reap a long list of rewards from using SEM:
As you might imagine, businesses are vying for the limited space reserved for advertising on search results pages. Typically, the placement of ads is determined by an auction process, instead of simply going to the higher bidder. The process generally looks like this:
If you think your business can’t win auctions over large players in your space, think again. Quality scores are usually weighted more heavily than bids, so you can’t buy your way to SEM success. Instead, focusing on smart keyword selection and high-quality ad design will increase the reach of your SEM efforts. It’s also important to note that successful SEM begets successful SEM. The more clicks your ads get, the more ad auctions you are likely to win.