Digital marketing has skyrocketed in popularity and importance over the past decade. Within the first few years of the 21st century, online advertising and digital marketing campaigns were still very much optional for companies and did not usually have the ability to make or break the success of a business. Now, however, that reality has drastically changed. Two decades into the 21st century, the Internet has become incredibly influential in virtually every facet of modern life—including marketing and advertising.

In this modern, increasingly tech-focused world, it has become very, very difficult for small businesses and giant corporations alike to stay afloat and thrive without expanding their marketing campaigns to the digital world. Designing and maintaining effective digital marketing campaigns has become virtually imperative for businesses big and small. Digital marketing strategies are constantly changing and evolving, but SEM is currently one of the most popular and most effective practices underneath the umbrella of digital marketing.

What is SEM?

‘SEM’ is an acronym that stands for ‘Search Engine Marketing’, a phrase that is also commonly shortened to ‘Search Marketing’. There are many different marketing strategies and practices that are included under the umbrella of search engine marketing, and SEM is constantly changing as search engine algorithms change. These realities complicate the tasks of clearly defining and truly understanding the concept of SEM as a whole.

To put it simply, SEM refers to any digital marketing strategy that involves a company’s attempts to drive traffic to their website by making their website more visible to potential customers in the results pages of popular search engines. In reality, SEM is much more complicated than that simplistic description makes it out to be. Even with carefully constructed strategies and plenty of resources and effort, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to raise the ranking of their websites in the results pages of popular search engines–especially Google. A high Google ranking is by far the most desirable outcome of SEM for most companies. Extremely complex algorithms

determine how certain websites rank on Google’s results pages. These algorithms are constantly shifting and changing and becoming even more complex, which makes it very difficult for companies to keep up with these changing algorithms to elevate or even just maintain their websites’ Google ranking.

For many companies, building effective SEM strategies into their digital marketing campaigns is key to earning high search engine rankings for their websites and expanding their digital reach.

SEM vs. SEO

It’s easy to get confused about the difference—or lack thereof—between SEM and SEO. It’s important to understand the differences and similarities between SEM and SEO in order to gain a better understanding of what search marketing is, how it works, and what marketing strategies and practices it involves.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are both marketing practices that are included under the umbrella of search marketing as a whole. They share the same purpose of elevating the search engine rankings of companies’ websites and thereby driving more traffic to those websites. The main difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO usually refers to marketing strategies that improve search engine rankings and drive traffic to certain websites organically, whereas SEM tends to refer to paid marketing strategies that involve the use of paid search tools such as Google Ads.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both SEM and SEO. SEM practices tend to be more effective more quickly and produce outcomes that are easier to measure, but they are also more expensive to execute. SEO practices, on the other hand, take a while to become effective and their outcomes are difficult to measure accurately, but they are much less costly to maintain. As such, many companies choose to incorporate both practices into their search marketing campaigns in order to maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of both SEM and SEO.

The Importance of SEM

How effective is SEM as a marketing strategy that helps ensure your company’s success? Are the outcomes of SEM profitable enough to be worth the time, effort, an money that is required to develop effective SEM strategies for your company? The short answer to this question is a resounding yes.

SEM drastically increases brand awareness in a very short period of time—even for small businesses that are just starting out and have a very limited digital reach. Although it requires a significant output of resources to get it started, SEM practices can lead to amazing short-term outcomes that can help you significantly expand your company’s reach, increase your customer base, and boost your profits almost instantly. Whether you’re struggling to get your small business off the ground or are just hoping to expand the reach of your company as it continues to grow, take search marketing seriously and start incorporating SEM practices into your company’s digital marketing campaigns.