Search Engine Marketing SEM What Is It and Why Is

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an umbrella term that refers to the process of driving traffic and gaining visibility from search engines through paid ads (SEM) and free, organic listings (SEO). The paid SEM efforts usually take shape of PPC (pay-per-click) and CPC (cost-per-click) ads.

search engine marketing

What is a SERP?

SERP, short for search engine results page, is the page served to a user by a search engine in response to a search query. Typically, SERPs contain two types of content: organic (SEO) and paid (SEM).

The Most Popular Search Engines

  • Google. The world’s biggest search engine with 77.82% of the global market share, Google is a marketer’s primary choice for both paid and organic reach. Google has 1.6 billion estimated unique monthly visitors worldwide.
  • Bing. Bing has 400 million estimated unique monthly visitors and 7.96% of the global market share. Bing often generates twice as many autocomplete suggestions as Google and has a great video search, therefore Bing Ads are also a popular advertising option among marketers.
  • Baidu. Baidu is the most popular search engine in China with over 80% of the Chinese market share and 6.37% of the global market share.  
  • Yandex. Yandex is the leading search engine in Russia and other Russian-speaking countries (Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan) with about 60% market share.
  • Yahoo. With 300 million estimated unique monthly visitors, Yahoo has 6.58% of the global market share and mainly competes with Bing. It’s worth noting though that Verizon has purchased Yahoo for $4.8 billion dollars and is planning to merge it with Aol, which has 125 million estimated unique monthly visitors and 0.13% of the global market share.

What do You Need to Know About SEM?

Generally, marketers use a mix of different paid and organic search marketing techniques to drive traffic to their site.

Paid ads encompass:

  • Search ads (Ads, Bing Ads)
  • Product Listing ads or Shopping ads
  • Display & Banner ads
  • Mobile ads
  • Social Media ads (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest)
  • Retargeting & Remarketing
  • In-App ads

SEO encompasses:

All search queries can be classified into three main types:

  • Informational: has very low commercial intent, user is looking for more information on a given topic;
  • Navigational: user is trying to locate a website whose URL they can no longer remember, or a similar navigational objective;
  • Transactional: has high commercial intent, user is looking to make a purchase. Transactional SERPs are typically the ones that feature paid ads.

Search query types can also suggest where in the buyer’s journey the user is, allowing marketers to apply the right conversion funnel optimization techniques.

Organic search is extremely important for online retailers, as many studies suggest it drives around 50% of website traffic. When it comes to search engine optimization for eCommerce, marketers get obsessive about testing all methods available to them to try and achieve higher rankings. The logic is very simple: higher positions on SERPs automatically result in higher impressions and a significantly better click-through rate. More people visiting your store should ultimately translate into better conversions and higher revenues.

Paid search advertising focuses on investing in the right types of ads to achieve prominent positions on search engine results pages and drive traffic to the site. Well optimized search ads can sometimes achieve higher positions than organic search results, while others might be displayed on the right side of the browser page. The success of paid search campaign rests on targeting the right keywords and selecting optimal advertising channels.

There are many search engine marketing tools that can help you optimize both paid and organic search campaigns.

Primary tools:

Google Analytics

Google’s Search Console

Google’s Keyword Planner

Additional tools to help you optimize your SEO:

Open Site Explorer

Authority Labs


MOZ Keyword Explorer



Want to Learn More?

Is there anything else you’d like to know more about and wish was included in this article? Let us know!


Karyn Corrigan is a Content Writer at Oberlo. Apart from writing, she likes to spend her time reading and learning about Content Marketing. Follow Karyn on Twitter




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