What Is SEM?Advantages, Disadvantages, and Key Concepts


Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising. Search engines provide sponsored links, often called sponsored links or paid ads. These are generally text adverts that appear as commercial/service provider listings which include cost per click (CPC) bidding and sometimes Pay per impressions (PPM). With SEM you can advertise your company, products or services on search engine results pages which are highly relevant to what you pay for.

What is SEM?

SEM is used to refer to paid search ad campaigns, like Google Ads. But, some may use it to refer to all marketing actions that take place within a search engine, whether or not they are paid. Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs).

What Is Search Engine Marketing in Advertising?

SEM is defined by the set of tools, techniques and strategies that help optimize the visibility of websites and web pages through search engines. Generally, Google search pages and other sites show two types of results:

  • Organic results: To know which results to show, the search engine uses an algorithm that tells you which websites best to respond to a specific query. Google’s algorithm is based on relevance (web content) and authority (links from other pages). The set of techniques and tools used to position organic listings is known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
  • Paid results: Unlike organic listings, here the advertiser must pay  for each click. To get traffic by buying ads in search engines, you will have to resort to search engine advertising solutions, such as Google Ads. This system is also called PPC (pay per click) or CPC (cost per click).
Basic SEM Concepts

SEM is a very broad topic that has many different avenues to explore. Here are some of the some articles on more specific topics within the SEM methodology:

  • SEO and SEM: SEO and SEM are essentials in online marketing strategies, but they are also two abbreviations that lead to a lot of confusion. Which is better for your brand and how can you leverage both to boost traffic and increase conversions? 
  • SEM Positioning: SEM positioning is the paid method that’s used to quickly gain search engine positioning.
  • SEM Campaign: A SEM campaign represents the entire advertising strategy that generates ads in search engines like Google. A campaign can encompass many different ad groups and keywords in order to increase positioning. 
  • SEM on Google: The most popular form of SEM is on Google Ads. To create a SEM campaign on Google, go from the most general to the most concrete. There are many different ways to advertise on Google Ads, with a variety of ad options and structures. 

Why Use SEM for Your Business?

There are many reasons to incorporate SEM in your digital marketing strategy. These are just some of the benefits of using Search Engine Marketing for your brand.

  • Bring highly qualified traffic to your page. One of the bases of any digital marketing strategy is to attract the right users to your landing pages. Search engine marketing is very effective in attracting users’ attention and generating clicks by allowing users to filter based on the words they seek. This ensures that your traffic is made up of people who are potentially interested in your brand
  • Make your brand or company known throughout the world. Placing yourself at the top of Google is a great way to get visibility for your brand. To see your page in the first place will allow the user to associate it with the need that they’re looking to solve even if they don’t click on the page.
  • Generate conversions. Google Ads offers many ways to measure conversions and thus ensure that your ads are really effective.
  • Get results with a tight budget. Search engine advertising solutions can be adjusted to your budgetary needs at any time. You do not need a large initial investment, so these are suitable for small and medium businesses. If your brand is growing, the sky is the limit!
  • Finally, with Search Engine Marketing Google Ads solutions, you can not only place advertisements in the search engine, but also take advantage of the data and parameters available to place contextual advertising on other websites. The possibilities of personalization are very high. For example, you can target users who have already visited your website, are interested in X type of products, are from a specific city, etc. Combined with your search engine advertising campaigns, these can be powerful tools to grow your brand.

Advantages of SEM

  • Highly measurable: Tools like Google Ads give you highly detailed reports of the evolution of your campaign, so you can always know what is happening with your ads. In addition, you can take advantage of the integration with Analytics to have everything controlled to perfection.
  • Real-time monitoring. The analytics interface allows you to see what is happening at each moment and corrects the course to the moment if you do not get the results you are looking for.
  • Within everyone’s reach. Since budgetary investment is scalable, this solution works for both large companies and SMEs. They all compete in equal conditions to reach the first positions for keywords.
  • Speed. Regarding other techniques such as SEO or content marketing, search engine advertising allows you to achieve relatively fast, large-scale results.
  • Pay per click. With this, you will only pay if you get results. You can control the maximum daily budget that you are willing to invest as well as the maximum cost per click you can pay. This way, you make sure that the campaign is profitable.
  • Segmentation. Finally, another positive of this tool is its great segmentation possibilities. By focusing on keywords, you will reach the public that is actively interested in you. You can also filter it by other factors such as location, language, or behaviour.

Disadvantages of SEM

  • High level of competition. Search Engine Marketing has become popular and there are many companies that compete to position themselves for the same keywords. This competition causes costs to rise and sometimes it can be difficult to get a good ROI.
  • It’s interruptive. As opposed to other solutions like native advertising, SEM involves “invading” the user’s space with content that they didn’t seek out. In fact, if the user you are targeting has an ad blocker, they may not see your ads.
  • Higher long-term cost. To be clear, SEM only works while you pay. Although over time you can optimize your campaigns and reduce costs per click, you will have to continue paying for each of the visits you get.

These are the terms that are used in Google Ads:

  • Ad group: Ad groups are ad sets and keywords. These are grouped into campaigns, in which you can define the daily budget and the countries or territories where the ads will appear.
  • Search network: the part of the search engine where your ads can appear. The simplest thing is to work with text ads on the top and right of the results page but you can also show ads on other sites such as Google Shopping or Google Maps.
  • Keywords: keywords are the basis of all search engine marketing. Keywords are the words, groups of words, or phrases that will make your ad appear to users.
  • Impressions: the number of times an ad is shown
  • Clicks: the number of times an ad has been clicked on
  • CTR: the percentage of impressions that generate a click.
  • Text ad: the standard ad type that is shown in search engines. They usually have a title, two lines of text, and a customizable link.
  • CPC: the average cost per click. You can define a maximum CPC to guarantee that you do not go over budget.
  • Quality level: Score (determined by Google) of a keyword and an ad to determine your CPC. In theory, the higher the quality of an ad, the less you pay for each click.

How to Perform Keyword Research in SEM

To perform keyword research for SEM campaigns, here the steps:

Analysis of the Product or Service (And, if Already Created, of the Landing Page)

Keywords should always be relevant to the product or service you are offering. Therefore, the first step is to draw up a list between two and ten main ideas that summarize the services or products you offer. In addition to studying your own offer, you can also take a look at your competitors’ sites.

Filtering and Selecting Keywords

Using the keywords as a starting point, you will have to filter manually to discard irrelevant words, group related keywords, and select those that have the highest number of searches and the lowest competition (i.e. that there are not many advertisers bidding for the same word). To get the best results, these keywords should be present both on your landing pages and in your ads.

Keyword Research Tools 

There are many keyword planning platforms on the market, such as SemRush and Google keyword planner. If you enter the basic ideas defined in the previous section, the tool will provide you with a list of related keywords. To filter the results, you can segment by location and language. The good thing about these tools is that they can give you a lot of suggestions that you would never have thought of. Of course, there also are times when they offer suggestions that aren’t to the original search. 

How to Develop a SEM Campaign Step by Step

Strategy and planning are fundamental to guarantee the results of your SEM campaign. So here are ideas on how to launch a successful SEM campaign.

  • Campaign Creation: The time has come to put your entire SEM strategy into place. These are some of the key aspects that you will have to define to launch a campaign in Google Ads or any other tool:
  • Budget and maximum bid.
  • Ad groups: Unless you are selling a very specific product or service, you will have different groups of related keywords. The idea is to structure the keywords within specific ad groups to achieve the best results. 
  • Designing and optimizing landing pages: Ideally, you should have a landing page for each product or service and for each target.
  • Ad creation. When setting up the campaign, we advise setting up different creatives so that you can compare the results with one another. 
Measurement and Optimization

The work doesn’t end after launching the campaign; SEM is based on continuous optimization. Therefore, you must periodically monitor the results of your campaigns to be able to swap out keywords, creatives, and any other aspects of the campaign. To make sure you don’t miss anything, you can set up alerts for critical aspects of the account and define a specific review schedule. 

Keyword Research 

Keywords are the basic foundation on which the entire SEM strategy is structured. To carry out a complete keyword study, you must pay special attention to:

  • The products and services you offer
  • How your competition is performing and how you are positioned relative to that 
  • Your buyer persona
  • Searching for generic and “long tail” keywords using specialized tools
  • Combing through and cleaning the keyword list. 

How to take Advantage of SEM to Do SEO

SEM and SEO are two closely related disciplines, as they both seek to rank on Google. Therefore, you can take advantage of the effort invested in SEM to improve your organic positioning. Keyword research will help you detect keywords that can help you position your page organically, although they may not result in quick conversions. However, the results will help you identify which topics are more interesting for users and can help you to get more traffic and visits.


Search engine marketing, or SEM, is the practice of using paid advertising to bring traffic to your site. Paid search ads can appear in a number of places including Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Facebook. SEM includes two main strategies: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and PPC. These strategies help drive more people to your site so that they can interact with your brand, purchase products and services or learn more about your company’s offerings. Search engine marketing is a powerful tool for companies, who are looking to obtain their goal and reach users and customers in a cost-effective way. The main objective of SEM is to increase targeted traffic from a particular search engine. Through this strategy, companies can maximize profitability, improve relationship with clients and boost brand image via organic ranking or pay-per-click campaigns.