Do you really need Search Engine Marketing? 

Consider this: 

Your business finally decides to use a website so you can get noticed online by your target market. But even if it’s up, spreading the word about your brand and getting your desired reach doesn’t happen overnight. 

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The good news is that you can leverage Search Engine Marketing (SEM), a faster way to increase brand awareness.

Have you been asking yourself:

  • What is SEM?
  • How does a Business benefit from SEM?
  • How Search Engine Marketing Works
  • What To Expect When Working With an SEM Provider 

This article will not only cover the aforementioned questions but also explore SEM, its use, and some tips for finding the best SEM company.

SEM Glossary

We’ve gathered a list of important search engine marketing terms to further your knowledge and understanding of this topic.

Ad – is the promotion of a brand, product, or service to attract an audience’s interest, eventually leading to engagement and sales.

Ad Group – is part of a marketing campaign with one or more ads sharing similar targets. 

Ad Platform – is a tool for managing and controlling advertising campaigns that can also monetize online traffic. 

Ad Viewability – is a measure of whether or not an ad can be seen by someone who searches online. 

Campaign – in marketing, is an organised series of steps that promotes and sells a product or service. 

Click – is a metric that counts the number of times users have clicked on an ad. 

CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) – is a prediction of the value a business’s relationship with a customer can bring to your business.

Conversion – is when a user completes a desired action on your ad or website.

Conversion Rate – is the percentage of users who take the desired action (e.g. buying a product, clicking a link, etc.).

Cost Per Action (CPA) – also known as cost per acquisition, is the cost divided by the actions being measured. This shows the average amount you spent to acquire a conversion from your ad.

CTR (Click-Through Rate) – is the number of clicks your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown. This tells you what works when trying to reach your target audience. 

Customer Engagement – is the interaction that existing customers do online.

Google Ads – is an advertising system Google developed that helps businesses reach their online target markets through its search engine platforms and partner sites.

Impressions this is when a user sees an advertisement.

Impression share – shows you how your ads performed compared to the performance of other ads. 

Intent-based marketing – is the practice of using the audience or potential customers’ intent to make a purchase decision based on their actions. 

Keyword – a word or group of words an online user uses to search in a search engine. 

Keyword cost – also known as Cost-per-click (CPC),  is the amount of money an advertiser pays the search engine every time someone clicks on their ads.  

Keyword intent – represents the user’s purpose for searching for something. It can be for commercial, transactional, informational, or navigational purposes. 

Keyword volume – the volume (or number) of searches for a keyword in a given period.

KPI (Key Performance Indicator) – also known as Metric, is a measurable performance item over time for a specific objective.

Organic marketing – focuses on content that provides education, entertainment, better search results, and building customer loyalty. The cost of this marketing is in creating content and optimising websites. 

Paid marketing – is where businesses pay a publisher (whether a search engine or website) each time someone clicks or views their ads in a search result. 

PPC (Pay-per-click) – is where an advertiser pays a publisher (a search engine, social network, or website) every time an advertisement link is clicked. 

Quality Score – is a diagnostic tool to give you a sense of how well your ad quality compares to other advertisers. 

Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) – is the revenue earned for every monetary cost (usually in dollars) spent on a campaign.

Return On Investment (ROI) – is the monetary value of the investment versus the cost. This can be calculated by subtracting the cost from the final gross profit. 

Search Engine – is a software program that helps people find information online using keywords or phrases. Among the popular examples are Google, Bing and Yahoo. 

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) – is a combination of organic and paid efforts to get more traffic visibility for websites in SERPs.

SEM Campaign – is the entire advertising strategy that uses organic and paid efforts. 

SEM Positioning – is the paid method used to quickly gain search engine positioning to attract new visitors and generate quality traffic to a website. 

SEM Provider – a third-party business providing services related to Search Engine Marketing. 

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – is the process used to optimise a website’s content and technical setup so it can easily be found in search engines. 

SERP (Search Engine Results Page) – is the list of results that search engines provide in response to a specific keyword or phrase, which includes organic and paid results. 

Traffic – the number of visitors to your website.

Understanding Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM is a digital marketing strategy that helps businesses and their products or services become more visible on search engine results pages. This marketing approach helps your business gradually become the first thing that comes to your target market’s mind, eventually leading to leads, sales, and retention of loyal customers. 

Here’s a more detailed discussion of the differences and similarities between SEM and SEO.

An Overview of SEM and SEO

SEO and SEM have huge differences, but they are interconnected and help businesses appear at the top of a SERP. SEM helps a website gain traffic and higher visibility on search engines using both paid and organic search. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is part of its arsenal; it’s a strategy that allows companies to appear above the SERPs by paying a fee when the ad is clicked.   

An excellent example of this is Google’s version of PPC called Google Ads. Marketers target a specific keyword on Google and make bids on the keyword. Bids made are “maximum bids” – or the maximum the business is willing to pay for an ad. You have ad placement if Google determines that the PPC matches your bid. Otherwise, you don’t have ad placement if it is lower than what Google determines. 

Google has the resources to house massive amounts of data. Also, using Google Ads gives you the advantage of Google helping you improve your ads over time. Conversely, SEO helps a website rank high on SERPs (especially Google) through organic search. It’s a long-term strategy that optimises the website and content to drive organic traffic.

In the end, SEO became an essential subset of SEM. 

Check out the table below for a quick summary of SEM and SEO.

SEO, SEM, similarities and differences, search, arrow, extension

How Your Business Benefits from SEM

Search engine marketing helps businesses reach specific audiences based on their search intentions. It provides several benefits, including:

1. Captures Audience Attention

People already know what they’re searching for when they type keywords in a search engine. This means you’re sharing the content and ads you created with a highly engaged audience actively looking for what you have to offer – all this at a lower cost and without imposing on them.

2. Increasing Brand Awareness

Brand awareness keeps you a top choice for your audience. The more people know about your business and speak about your product or service, the higher your chances of boosting sales and revenue. Over time, you’ll see that the keywords used by your prospects are becoming more and more related to your brand and business. SEM brings this about by bringing you closer to the top searches.

3. Easier and Faster to Implement 

Setting up SEM campaigns is relatively easier and quicker than SEO campaigns. There might be some time before the full impact comes to fruition. But you have the power and flexibility to adapt in a few hours through easy-to-use platforms. You can change parameters, like budget and performance goals or metrics, as you go. Also, you will be able to tailor your website content, keywords, and spending to match the behaviour of your target audience.

4. Measurable

Business thrives on efficiency. The best way to do that is to optimise the efforts and resources you have at your disposal. This is where SEM excels. You can precisely track and analyse every step of the way.

Of course, there are specific benefits that businesses can take advantage of when they use SEM strategy, including the following:

  • Reach your audience quickly
  • Create location-specific search ads that target the right audience using optimised ads
  • Increase more website visitors through ad viewability
  • Save costs through pay-per-action activity

How Search Engine Marketing Works

Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which includes Google Ads and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, is a digital marketing strategy that promotes web pages by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through paid advertising. It is often used as a part of a broader online marketing strategy to attract targeted traffic and drive conversions. To understand how SEM strategy, Google Ads, and PPC work, let’s elaborate on the key components and the cycle of planning, execution, review and optimisation:

SEM agencies and practitioners follow several steps. These include planning the right strategies, using the right keywords and tools, reviewing the results, and optimising the website and content to ensure brands stay on top of search results.


The planning phase is the bedrock upon which a successful SEM campaign is built:

  • Keyword Research and Selection: 

The journey begins with meticulous keyword research. Identify the terms and phrases potential customers might use when searching for products or services in your niche. Comprehensive keyword research ensures that you target the most relevant and cost-effective keywords.

  • Strategic Planning: 

Crafting a strategic plan is essential. Define your campaign goals, allocate budgets wisely, and pinpoint your target audience. A well-thought-out strategy serves as your roadmap throughout the campaign.

  • Ad Campaign Setup:

In this phase, you’ll establish ad groups, campaigns, budgets, and targeting criteria. Pay close attention to the fine details, which are crucial to campaign success.


With your plan in place, it’s time to execute your SEM campaign:

  • Ad Creation: 

Create compelling ads that capture attention with captivating headlines, concise descriptions, and links to relevant landing pages. Your ad quality significantly influences ad position and click-through rates.

  • Bid Management: 

SEM operates on a bidding system. Advertisers compete for placement in search engine results based on bid amounts, ad quality, and other factors. Carefully set maximum bids for each keyword to maximise your reach.

  • Landing Page Preparation: 

Remember your landing pages. Ensure they are not only relevant but also optimised for conversions. A well-designed landing page can enhance your ad’s quality score, leading to lower costs and better ad placement.


Optimisation is an ongoing process designed to improve the performance of your SEM campaign:

  • Continuous Monitoring: 

Regularly monitor campaign performance metrics such as Click-Through Rate (CTR), conversion rate, Cost Per Click (CPC), and Return on Investment (ROI). These metrics offer valuable insights into your campaign’s effectiveness.

  • Adjustment of Strategies: 

Based on performance insights, refine your keyword targeting, modify ad copy, and adjust bidding strategies. SEM success often hinges on your ability to adapt to changing market conditions and user behaviour.

  • Landing Page Enhancement: 

Never stop optimising your landing pages. Continual improvements can boost your ad’s quality score, resulting in better ad placements and lower costs.


The review phase is where you evaluate your SEM campaign’s effectiveness and gather insights for future improvements:

  • Evaluation: 

Assess whether your campaign achieved its goals and delivered the desired ROI. Determine what worked and what didn’t.

  • Data Analysis: 

Dive deep into the performance data. Identify strengths and weaknesses in your campaign. This analysis will inform your future decisions.

  • Feedback Loop: 

Use the insights to refine your planning, execution, and optimisation strategies. SEM is an iterative process that benefits from a continuous feedback loop. Choosing the right SEM agency is an imperative decision that warrants meticulous consideration. Our commitment to excellence, founded upon this intricate cycle of planning, execution, review, and optimisation, is designed to empower your business’s online success.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating an SEM campaign: 

Key SEM Metrics You Should Track

Like search engine optimisation, search engine marketing requires consistent monitoring and tracking. It relies on essential KPIs that give you the most insight into your campaigns.

What is an SEM Agency or Company

SEM agencies are experts in attracting consumers through relevant paid campaigns. They help brands achieve their goals–ignite visibility, bolster awareness, generate leads, or increase sales. But here’s the thing: not all SEM agencies are built similarly. They can either be full-service agencies or only provide partial service to clients. Full-service agencies give the most comprehensive support. This could include SEO, SEM, social media, content marketing, and other activities promoting your online presence. 

They usually provide a service package or let clients choose the services they want, which consultation services are one. Aside from that, they have a dedicated team of SEO and SEM specialists, content marketers, copywriters, visual designers, and web developers to provide the most rounded help possible. On the other hand, partial Service SEM agencies or providers offer a limited amount of help. 

More often than not, they provide singular services and consultations. Also, they have a small group in their team or even only one person doing the job. Whatever your choice, you have to know your goals regarding your SEM needs. We recommend a full-service SEM agency for that.


What to Expect from an SEM Company

Can you do search engine marketing by yourself? The short answer is yes. While you can learn how SEM works, you must realise that it costs you time, effort, and money that you can instead spend on more important matters. Here are three reasons to hire an SEM agency:

1. Focus More on Your Business

As a business owner or leader, your primary goal is to optimise your business to produce more profit and efficiency. Outsourcing the complicated task of SEM and digital marketing optimisation can allow you to focus on other business-related activities like product creation, customer fulfilment, finances, and logistics.

2. Save Time and Resources

As mentioned, anyone can learn how to do SEM and all related activities. The challenge, however, is that you will learn everything from scratch. When you hire an SEM agency, you won’t have to worry about spending days or weeks learning the entire process and wasting your money on ads that don’t deliver results, you can save money and time instead.

3. Grow Your Profits 

Every business is looking out for more profit. The Internet has enabled virtually anyone to harness it for that. With an SEM agency at the helm, you don’t only strengthen your online presence but also can get more of the following: 

  1. Leads. When the traffic that visits your website becomes part of an email list, they become leads that you can potentially sell to.
  2. Sales. When the people in your email list finally buy your product or service for the first time, they become a sale. 
  3. Retention. Are they the customers who repeatedly buy from your business?


Checklist for Choosing the Right SEM Agency

It’s not enough to search for an SEM agency to hire. You should be able to find one that fits your needs and budget. Here are five considerations when choosing an SEM company:

1. Knowledge

Check whether they’re competent enough to help boost your business’s online presence. This means they should possess extensive knowledge and skills to help you launch performance-driven search engine marketing campaigns. They also have access to reliable tools for their SEM and digital marketing efforts. Here are some of what they use:

Questions to answer before hiring the prospective SEM agency: 

  • Are they updated with the latest developments in their field?
  • Do they have continuous training related to this field?

2. Team

One of the advantages of hiring an SEM agency is its ability to align your SEM efforts with other digital marketing disciplines. We recommend partnering with a full-service digital marketing agency with varied specialisations that can help in your unique business marketing situation. You must ensure they have the human resources and expertise to handle all your needs. This means that you need individuals within their teams who are experts in:

  • SEO
  • SEM
  • Social Media
  • Content Marketing
  • Copywriting
  • Web Development and Maintenance

Question to answer before hiring the prospective SEM agency: 

  • Does the agency house a team of proven experts or specialists?   


3. Performance and Results 

Ensure that the SEM agency you hire will help you reach your desired goals. One of the best ways to validate that is through performance and results they have done on previous clientele.

Questions to answer before hiring the prospective SEM agency: 

  • Do they have relevant reviews and testimonials on the work they produced or case studies showcasing their work? 


4. Pricing 

Working with an SEM agency means staying within a specific marketing budget. You must consider hiring someone worth the financial resources you shell out.

Questions to answer before hiring the prospective SEM agency: 

  • Does this fit the budget of my business? 
  • Does the cost of hiring give me a good potential profit?

5. Customer Service 

Performance and results are significant. However, your working relationship with your prospective SEM agency is also essential.

Questions to answer before hiring the prospective SEM agency: 

  • How do they treat their clients and customers?  

Key Takeaways

No doubt you want your business to get a good foothold online through your website. If that’s the case, you should harness the power of SEM. Hiring an SEM company helps you improve your site’s visibility and search rankings. This leads to increased engagement that will turn into more leads and profit. As a business owner, you must understand some concepts of SEM so you can choose the right SEM agency to partner with.

Originally published: 28 July, 2022
Updated: 21 October 2023

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Frequently Asked Questions About Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Agency

What is the Difference Between an SEO & an SEM Specialist?

An SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialist focuses on optimising a website to achieve higher rankings in organic search results. Their work involves keyword research, on-site optimisation, link-building, and content strategy. On the other hand, An SEM (Search Engine Marketing) specialist is concerned with driving traffic and visibility through paid means, primarily through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, like Google Ads. While SEO is about earning traffic organically, SEM is about buying traffic through paid search listings.

How Does SEM Help Businesses?

SEM helps businesses in several ways:

  1. Immediate isibility: Unlike SEO, which can take time to yield results, SEM offers immediate visibility in search engines.
  2. Targeted Traffic: Businesses can target specific keywords, demographics, and geographic locations, ensuring their ads reach a specific audience.
  3. Budget Control: Businesses can set a budget for their campaigns and only pay when someone clicks on their ad.
  4. Measurable Results: SEM campaigns provide detailed analytics, making measuring ROI easy and adjusting strategies as necessary.


Is SEM Push or Pull Marketing?

SEM is considered “pull” marketing. This is because users are already searching for specific products, services, or information when they see the ads. The ads “pull” the user towards the business rather than the business “pushing” their message onto a broad audience.

How Does SEM Work in Digital Marketing?

In digital marketing, SEM operates primarily through platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads, and Yahoo Search Ads. Advertisers bid on specific keywords that users might enter when searching for products or services. When users search for those keywords, the search engine displays the ads in the search results, typically at the top or bottom. Advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked (pay-per-click or PPC). SEM campaigns require ongoing optimisation to adjust bids, refine ad copy, and expand or narrow keyword selections based on performance metrics.

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