What is Search Engine Marketing or SEM?

As the name implies, Search Engine Marketing encompasses all of the marketing messages delivered by search engines. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that drives organic search results and Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) that covers paid search placement based on what users are entering into the search engine query box. Options like Google My Business that helps with location based search results, Answer Boxes that highlight specific answers to specific questions, and mobile first optimization are also a part of SEM.

Search Engine Marketing is the user-centric approach to search. When a person goes to Google or Bing they get a page of results based on what they asked the search engine to find. That page is a mix of organic and paid placement. Those results could be delivered on a large desktop screen, a tablet, a smartphone, or verbally by a digital assistant like Amazon Alexa, Siri, Cortana, or Google Home. SEM takes all of these options into consideration when planning how a business will represent itself in the search environment.

How Does Search Engine Marketing Work?

Search Engine Marketing works as a holistic approach to search, providing all of the best and most useful options for users looking for information, solutions, recommendations, or ideas.

For Example…

I like real-world examples. They give us a way to relate to a new and/or complex concept. So, let’s consider a circumstance that most adults have experienced – moving. Two of my three kids have finished high school and are moving on to college. I don’t need to live in a great big house anymore, so I’ve decided to downsize and move. But moving is a big ordeal and will cause me to do a lot of research and make a lot of decisions.

User’s Considerations When Searching

There are a lot of businesses both nationwide and locally that would love to get my attention and do business with me in the process of my move. In the course of this move, I will likely need the services of a realtor, handyman, landscapers, storage facility, cleaning crew, and movers. I will need to decide how much of the packing, cleaning, fixing, and moving I want to do myself and how much of it I want to hire someone else to do.

All of the things listed above WILL impact what terms I use when I go to search for something related to my move. How I integrate the move into my already busy lifestyle will impact how I engage with the search engines to get what I need when I need it.

Back to the Example…

So, let’s drill this down to something very specific. I need to stage the house I’m currently living in so that my realtor can show it to potential buyers. Which means I need to get a bunch of excess stuff out of my house. I need a place to store that stuff.

I started pondering this issue during my lunch break one work day, and since I was already sitting at my desk, I typed a search for “storage facility” into Google in my desktop browser. Since I’m always logged into my personal Google account on Chrome, the search engine took into consideration my search history and location when generating my results for my search. I don’t want to drive all over town when I want to clear out a closet, so location was absolutely a consideration. In that moment, my eyes went to the map pack on the results page to see what options I had near my house. I clicked through a few results to see what size units were available and what kind of pricing I could expect.

Then my stomach growled reminding me that it was time for lunch. So, I paused my research for the moment.

Guess what, if the local storage facilities put most of their time and effort into PPC for local search terms, but had not kept their geographic information up to date in Google My Business, I would not have looked at their listing even though they were on the results page for that search.

The next time I had a moment to ponder where I will keep my stuff, I was out running errands. I went to my Maps app on my phone to look up that list of storage places again. Different device, different interface, different context even though I’m still trying to make the same decision. The storage facility that had been top of mind for me a few days earlier fell out of consideration because I found a facility that was more ideally located and was promoting a special on their website.

SEM for the WIN

The place I chose to store my extra stuff as I get my house ready for sale earned my business because they kept an eye not only on SEO or PPC, but because they made sure that all of the elements of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) were working together to get my attention. Their SEM efforts drove me to their mobile website, gave me the detailed information I wanted, and caused me to walk into the office to close the deal.

Search Engine Marketing works for your business when you address the context of the search users at the time they may be looking for your products, services, or expertise.

Think of it this way. Would you pay for a billboard on the highway to advertise your business and then not put a sign over your door? SEM insures that no matter how a potential customer conducts their internet searches, you have given them every opportunity to find you.

Successful Search Engine Marketing requires engaging several digital marketing disciplines, contact us and we’ll help you get started!