This week’s Swimming in a Sea of Acronyms is about SEM, a necessary term for any business owner or marketer to understand. SEM is also something you should learn to practice, and we will cover more of the practice of search engine marketing in other posts.

What Is SEM (Search Engine Marketing)?

In our first Swimming in a Sea of Acronyms post, we talked about “SEO.” Another acronym tossed around these days is SEM. SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and can be an important element to successfully marketing your business online. SEM is using paid search engine ads to reach a customer while he or she is actively searching for your product or service.

The most popular SEM is probably Google AdWords. Bing Ads and Verizon Media (formerly Oath) are others. If you use Google, Bing, or Yahoo to search for, say, carpet cleaning, you have probably seen businesses’ ads among your search results, or alongside your results. This is SEM.


SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the crafting of your website to have relevant content so it’s readable and appealing to search engines. That way when someone searches for your product or service, you show up in the results. However, it can be difficult to get a spot on the first (or even second) page of results. SEM can bring your business right to the top of the list by way of an ad.

Keywords Are Important

How does your ad show up? Certainly there are other advertisers hoping to get the same business traffic that you are. Relevant keywords bring your ad into play (if you’re the carpet cleaning company, “carpet cleaning” certainly would be one. “Carpet shampooing service” and “rug cleaning” are others you might consider.). There are also keywords to exclude (“rental,” and “DIY,” for example) to avoid those who aren’t really in the market for your business.

Once you’ve identified your keywords, you offer a bid on them. The highest bid doesn’t always get the top spot, however; the quality of your landing page and website (SEO) are factors with some platforms. Google AdWords, for instance, will take both of these (bid amount and quality) into account, give your ad a score, and rank it according to that score. An optimized website helps keep SEM costs down, because you won’t have to bid as high while still getting ad exposure.

Part Of Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Most businesses need to be found on search engines; most businesses should include SEM in their digital marketing strategy. If you are interested in more information on SEM, please contact us for a free strategy consultation.