Search engine marketing (SEM) is the most important part of any online marketing campaign. Direct, cost-effective and efficient, the goal of SEM is to increase a company’s online visibility by raising its ranking in search engine results. SEM typically refers to techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO), paid inclusion and paid placement/pay-per-click advertising.
Search engine optimization utilizes links and keywords to increase search rankings. Paid inclusion, also known as sponsored listings, is when a search engine company charges set fees for a website’s link to appear in search indexes, though some companies only allow paid inclusion advertisers to be listed separately as advertisers as opposed to included in search results. Pay per click advertising refers to a method whereby advertisers pay only when a customer clicks on their link on the host site.
Because the majority of people find their goods and services through web searches, search engine marketing yields more leads than standard advertising, generating the least cost per response and thereby higher ROI’s.
Search engine marketing, to some extent, relies on the concept that people tend to assume that the results listed first are the best. On that basis, the companies that are ranked highest in search engine results are most likely to be used to fulfill the consumer’s needs. Additionally, search engine marketing gears its marketing efforts to consumers actively seeking products and services, as opposed to convincing people to make a purchase they had not planned for. Search engine marketing, therefore, is a company’s best bet to attracting customers to their business.