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 Search Engine Marketing

Tired of waiting for your SEO efforts to succeed? It may be time to consider Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Don’t know what SEM is? Let’s explain it to you! It can be extremely frustrating to invest a lot of time and money in creating your brand and website, only to realize that you’re not even on the first page of Google yet or even on the top three.

Time, great technical knowledge, and some in-depth keyword research will allow you to climb up the search engine results pages (SERPs), but search engine optimization (SEO – read more: what SEO is all about ) pays off, but it takes time.

The good news is that Search Engine Marketing (SEM, in Portuguese, search engine marketing) can help you skip a few steps and save a lot of time.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what SEM is, how it’s different from SEO, and how to get started with it.

What is SEM?

It is the abbreviation for “Search Engine Marketing”. SEM is often used to describe the immediate and paid part of search engine marketing that usually takes the form of PPC (pay per click)/CPC (cost per click) on search results pages in one form or another.

In fact, when you get into the SEM range at an online marketing conference like SMX, for example, you can learn about:

  • Google AdWords;
  • Bing Ads;
  • Advertising pay per click or per acquisition (CPC and CPA ).

And more specific areas of paid search advertising such as retargeting, geo-targeting, and mobile targeting.

Search Engine Marketing vs SEO

SEO and SEM: what’s the difference?

Until relatively recently, search engine optimization used to fall under the generic term “Search Engine Marketing,” but both have become so complex that SEM and SEO now exist as two separate (but closely related) entities.

Search engine optimization is focused on how to rank your site on google organically. SEO basically revolves around:

  • placing keywords strategically throughout the site;
  • link building ;
  • establishment of site authority;
  • use of Google-traceable metadata.

With Search Engine Marketing (SEM), on the other hand, you pay to appear in search engine results (SERPs).

Essentially, you pay to show your ads to users who are actively searching for the keywords you’re targeting.

You don’t need a high authority on the site to be able to appear on the first page of Google when you’re willing to pay for that position.

Do I need Both SEM and SEO?

Do you absolutely need both SEM and SEO? No. But will you end up getting a lot more leads and sales if you implement both? Absolutely yes.

It’s always a good idea to optimize your site according to SEO best practices. You want to establish a solid foundation that puts you as far into the SERPs organically as possible. After all, SEO clicks are basically free – why not want as many as you can get?

Using SEM, however, can significantly accelerate your ability to build your brand and your customer base. It will put you in front of target audiences who are actively looking for products, services and brands like yours. You want to appear at the top of your surveys or someone else will get the sale.

SEM Platforms

Most search engines have an ad platform for SEM. The best known (and effective) platform to use is Google AdWords. Bing Ads and Yahoo Search Ads are also SEM platforms you can use.

It’s important to note that while all SEM platforms use a PPC (pay-per-click) advertising model, not every PPC is SEM.

Facebook ads and other social media ad platforms, for example, are pay-per-click platforms that don’t fall into the SEM category.

Instead of showing your ads to people searching for similar content, such as ads on search networks, social media sites present your product to people more likely to be interested in your business, based on an algorithm. Those are two very different types of online advertising.

Are keywords still important for SEM?

Keywords are everything to SEM, as they are to SEO. When you run SEM campaigns, you choose keywords that determine which ads will appear on which searches.

As a result, in-depth keyword research is the key to running a successful search engine marketing campaign. Display your campaigns with the exact right terms or you’ll lose your target audience.

Say, for example, you run a construction company that helps with home repairs after natural disasters and you want to advertise this service.

The official term for the service is “fire restoration”, but keyword research may indicate that customers in your area search for “fire repair” or “fire damage repair”.

If you don’t optimize these two keywords, you’ll lose a lot of traffic and potential customers, even if “fire restoration” is technically more correct.

What keywords should I choose?

Choosing the right keywords can (and probably will) make or break your SEM campaigns. And you want to bet on keywords that have high volume and low competition. This will make your ad more likely to rank highly and lower your CPC (cost per click).

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose keywords blindly and wait for the results to come before figuring out which keywords have adequate volume and an acceptable CPC.

There are several keyword research tools you can use to do research like the Google Adwords keyword tool.

In addition to providing information about the search volume and level of competition for your keywords, most tools will also provide detailed information about the average or current estimated CPC for the keywords of interest.

This is particularly important for companies with smaller ad budgets, and this feature allows you to predict whether certain keywords will actually be beneficial to your ad campaigns or whether they will cost too much.

How much should I offer?

While choosing the right keywords is important, if you want your ads to rank well and generate profitable results, you need to have an effective bidding strategy.

All SEM platforms work on a bidding system, where advertisers bid for certain keywords and target audiences.

Whoever bids the highest ranks the highest. The good news is that you only need to pay enough to beat the next highest bid. So even if you bid $1 and the next lowest bidder bids $0.70, you will only have to pay $0.71.

However, while bids of $1 on each keyword and ranking #1 for each relevant search sound good in theory, most companies have to play a game of balancing higher ranking and paying a lot for clicks.

After all, if it costs $2 to rank in position 1, but you can only pay $1 per click, bidding $2.50 on a keyword to secure the #1 position would be a great way to bid out of business.

Fortunately, even if you can’t afford position 1 CPC, most SEM platforms consider the quality of your ads, which can help you outperform your competition, even if you can’t afford to outperform. them.

For example, Google assigns each ad a quality score (Quality Score) and takes that quality score into account when calculating where your ad is ranked:

Max bid X Quality Score = Ad Rank -> Position

To calculate your quality score, most SEM platforms analyze the quality of your landing page and the relevance of your ad to the keywords you’ve selected.

Because a minimum required CPC can mean you can pay for more ad placements in the long run, optimizing your Quality Score can help your campaigns a lot.


Because Search Engine Marketing puts you directly in front of users who are actively looking for what you have to offer, SEM can be a great investment for your business.

Highlighting all the organic results that your potential bottom-of-the-funnel customers see is a huge advantage, even if you have to pay for every click.