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SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is an often misused term that refers to a number of online and internet marketing techniques designed to raise the levels of visitor traffic flow to a site.

The term is also commonly used to include marketing techniques like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SMO (Social Media Optimization), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and marketing, and even paid advertising with the various search engines like Google and Bing!

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

So why do businesses rave about SEM?

Businesses all over the globe have come to realise over the past few years that a well-structured SEM campaign can significantly boost their site’s website traffic and uplift their sales –  and more cost effectively when compared to other marketing methods.

a well-structured SEM campaign can significantly boost their site’s website traffic and uplift their sales…

So why does it work so well?

The answer is surprisingly simple – diversity. SEM utilises a wide variety of different strategies, as opposed to relying on merely one. For example, in a typical SME campaign, there are several marketing channels that are used:

  • SMO “gets the word out” to whole neighborhoods of individuals in the marketplace that are seeking your business’s services and products.
  • PPC marketing functions just like more traditional marketing, putting your advertisements on the ‘virtual billboards’ (monitors) of hundreds and possibly thousands of potential customers throughout the net.
  • Paid inclusion is often employed to ensure that the search engines will place your website high in the rankings, depending of course, how much you are willing to pay for those coveted positions.
  • SEO is mainly focused on obtaining high rankings in the organic search results as they are free and if done correctly, will last long term, potentially saving significant amounts of money. SEO ensures that the various components of website like META tags, content quality, keyword density and the quality and number of your backlinks, all comply with the high standards that Google is continuing to enforce at an increasing level.

So fundamentally, where your bog standard marketing project would typically only target one or 2 marketing funnels, good SEM will cover the complete range of advertising opportunities.

What to watch out for

Beware SEM service providers

One thing to watch out for before spending for SEM is that you fully understand what your prospective SEM provider is offering you. All reputable SEM providers will usually be transparent and totally clear with you, explaining in simple language which of these services it will be providing, in addition to any extra fees to charges should there be any non-standard services you are after. Many SEM service providers concentrate on delivering only one or two elements of internet marketing, such as search engine inclusion or some SEO, for example. Others will offer particular services for what at first seems a low cost, however will eventually cost substantially more to include the complete spectrum of SEM. But be aware that there is nothing immoral about paying an SEM solution to do purely SEO or purely online search engine inclusion. Just be sure that you fully understand right at the beginning that that’s all the service provider will be prepared to offer, and that anything in addition to the initial engagement will cost you an additional amount.

Overall, SEM is effective because it deals with the manipulation of organic patterns of website traffic on the internet. It takes advantage of paid advertising campaigns, the rankings on the search engines, as well as word-of-mouth publicity through the various social media channels. An experienced SEM firm has a deep understanding of how to make use of each of these marketing channels the best way possible that suits your particular business requirements and expectations.

And that’s the true secret of SEM; knowing how to work WITH the Internet (and Google), as opposed to finding ways to work AROUND it.