SEM – Search Engine Marketing, so what exactly is it?

SEM - Search Engine MarketingSearch Engine Marketing or SEM is a form of internet marketing that aims to promote a website with the goal to increase its visibility and improve its ranking on search engine results page (SERPs) through advertising and optimisation. While the first one refers to the promotion of the website through pay per click listings, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion, the latter refers to the process of optimising the content (on-page optimisation) based on the established algorithms of search engines to improve ranking. The main goal of SEM marketing is to drive and increase web traffic to a website as this is the most crucial element to improve one’s conversion rate.

SEM and Paid Search Marketing

SEM is an umbrella term used for different online marketing and traffic-generating activities. One part of SEM is paid search advertising (commonly referred to as Pay-per-click advertising), where marketers buy premium ad spaces on SERPs. They are then charged by search engines based on their bid amount each time their ads are clicked by potential clients. This works the same way as typical ads you’ll find on newspapers. Advertisers buy ad spaces from the publishers to showcase their products. This could be a one-time deal or recurrent. However, once the advertiser decided to stop paying, the ads will be automatically removed.

Although I prefer SEO over PPC advertising, I would recommend the PPC for short-term marketing campaign of particular products or services. As an SEO, I only encourage clients to use paid search marketing for one of the following three reasons;

  • You need instant traffic; Let’s say you’re a florist and tomorrow is mother’s day or valentine’s day – what should be your biggest days of the year. If you have no promotion then no one will know you exist. To take advantage of times like these, paid search marketing is perfect as you only have to pay for promotion when you need it.
    Or another example, if you’re offering potential clients with massive discount for your summer sale which would last for just a couple of weeks, PPC can help you get the kind of attention you need in as little as 24-48 hours.
  • Your competition is outranking you for your own business name; in this case, my current SEO clients Bridgewater Terraces come to me asking about Google Adwords. They were concerned that when you search ‘Bridgewater Terraces’, the first listing that appears is a paid listing from In this case, the only way to top that listing is to sign up to AdSense and bid higher than for the term ‘Bridgewater Terraces’.
  • You want direct-response business. If you’re offering a product that online users can easily buy the moment they get into your website or if you’re managing an online store, PPC will work wonders for you.

In SEM, paid search marketing should never been looked at as a stand-alone marketing technique, but rather one part of an overall integrated campaign. Paid search marketing may give you the kind of exposure and attention that you need quickly because the ads will be shown prominently on search page results but once you run out of money for the campaign, your ads will be removed and forgotten. Because of this, it is crucial that your SEM campaign is consists of both SEO and paid search marketing and that’s exactly what we offer here at Ignition Media.

Guide to Pay-per-Click advertising

Let me blunt; Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising can be very expensive particularly if you’re bidding on extremely competitive keywords. But again, it’s probably your best (and only) option if you’re looking to get traffic ASAP.

When investing hundreds or thousands of dollars in Pay-Per-Click advertising, it is important that you plan it out thoroughly and ensure precise execution otherwise you’ll just waste your money along the way. The process is all about buying listings on search engines like Bing and Google that appear above or to the side of the non-paid, natural search results. Keep in mind that these listings are sold in an auction. If you’re the highest bidder, you’ll have the chance of ranking number one. Yes, I said chance because Google will consider your website’s quality score when assigning page ranking even on paid listings. Even if you are the highest bidder, if Google is not convinced that your website offers valuable content to potential clients, your paid listing ranking will be negatively affected.

Anyway, you’ll be charged based on your bid price each time your ads are click. It doesn’t matter if you were able to convert the traffic into paying customers, the publisher will still bill you. Let’s say your bid is $1 and your ads were clicked 100 times. You will be then expected to pay $100.

My advice is to always track your conversion rate. It doesn’t matter if your ads are clicked 1,000 times per day; if your conversion rate is less than 5%, you’re not getting a good return on investment (ROI). Google offers a free tracking system to help you measure your conversions from all the PPC sources. Pay attention to this so you’ll know how much you’re spending for your campaign and if it is worth it.

Also, don’t focus on just PPC advertising; explore other traffic-generating techniques to ensure steady flow of traffic even after you run out of money for your paid techniques. SEO is one of the most highly recommended not just because it is free (if you do it yourself) but also because it gives you organic traffic, which is easier to convert to sales.


I firmly believe that the best way to promote a product, service, and a website online is through search engine optimisation or SEO. This is the process of attracting organic or natural traffic through the use of different techniques including the use of keywords and the distribution of valuable and high quality content.

When your target audience searched for a keyword related to your website or your company on search engines like Google, they will be presented with thousands of relevant websites on the SERPs. The goal of SEO is to get your website not just listed here but to get better ranking. If you can get your website to appear on the first page, then you’re laughing; based on research, being ranked on the first page gives you up to 600% more traffic.

Unlike paid search marketing though, SEO typically does not offer quick results. In fact, even if you’re a SEO expert, you are still looking at waiting for several weeks or maybe even months to a year to get your website rank high on SERPs. The key here is being aggressive in doing white hat SEO techniques to get your website noticed by the search engines. Some of the techniques we use here at Ignition Media include the following:

  • Analytics – Before you even start an SEO campaign, you need to know where your website stands in terms of page ranking and traffic. By using Google Analytics, you can see the numbers and figures that you’re looking for. From here, you can develop your SEO plan and set objectives based on the statistics you’ve gathered. Make your goals are realistic and measurable. Instead of saying “improve my traffic by next month”, it’s better if you write down “increase web traffic by 30% in the next 30 days” or “improve my Google ranking and make my website appear on the top 100 websites for certain keywords.”
  • Pay attention to keywords. Keywords are and will always be the very foundation of SEO. Using a keyword suggestion tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner, will help identify the most searched keywords and phrases related to your website or your business. When you get the results, you’ll also receive the stats that will tell you the search volume for each keyword. Technically, the most searched keywords are the best to target however, this means you’re also up against some stiff competition as all the marketers are targeting the same keywords. What I suggest is that you focus on long-tail keywords that are extremely popular to your target audience. Use these keywords in your domain name and within your content; including blog posts, website content, articles, newsletters, and even ebooks.
  • Build links – Quality inbound links are considered very important by Google when it ranks a website – each one coming from a reputable site is considered a vote of confidence. For this reason, link building is simply a must when launching SEO campaign. Aside from paid inclusion, you can also get high quality inbound links through guest blog. This is the process of writing content for well-established blogs in exchange of an opportunity to promote your own website somewhere in the post. Also look at adding your website in as many free local directories as you can. I always start with,, and
  • Content. Google is very particular with the quality of your content. With the aim of providing online users with a great experience, it prioritises those websites that offer highly valuable and useful information. So, ditch the idea that using keywords is enough to rank well on search engines. Google and online users will love you if you share expert advice, free answer to questions, the best solutions to problems, how-to-guides, etc. If you strive to provide something of value, I guarantee Google will reward you for it.


So there you have it. SEM is a great service if you’re looking to get more traffic to your website. It’s a perfect mix of Pay-per-click advertising and SEO, but be sure you plan each carefully as SEM can be very expensive and SEO can be very time consuming so it’s important to get it right from the get-go!

If you’re looking for a reliable, experienced partner to trust with your SEM needs, you can trust Ignition Media. We not only specialise in SEO and content marketing, but we also only build search engine friendly websites. To give your website the best chance of ranking high on Google, get in touch with me today.

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Nicole Brooke

About Nicole Brooke

Nicole is owner and SEO of Ignition Media. She has been an SEO for 15 years and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to SEO, content marketing and Social Media exposure. Follow me on Google+

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