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Introduction to Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

According to research conducted by Google, “89% of visits to advertiser’s sites from ad clicks would not have occurred without ad campaigns.” This means that investing in online ad campaigns (Search Engine Marketing) does, in fact, pay off. It is something that pays in the short-term and the long-term.

SEO takes time to place your website on the first page of your selected keywords, in the meantime, an effective way to get in front of potential customers is through Search Engine Marketing.

What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) is a fancy name for online advertisement, among other things. Some people consider SEO to be part of SEM but not everybody agrees. Here at Phidev, we like to think of them as separate, while SEM encompasses a similar process to SEO. The main difference between the two is that Search Engine Optimization is organic – which means that page views happen naturally (without you having to pay for clicks) and SEM is paid search results to bring people to a specific section of your website.

Most SEMs efforts are done in the “campaigns”, this means, you have a budget and you want to promote a specific product or service within your website. So you do your keyword research and with data in hand, you begin by creating a campaign.

When managing an online (SEM) campaign there are countless of factors that contribute to your campaign’s success and consequent business growth. Either if you are doing this by yourself or decide to hire an agency, you will find out that there are a lot of terms you will need to get familiar with to better understand what is going on with your campaign in order to improve your results.

Here is a quick and dirty list of terms you will need to know when you start doing SEM.

Advertising Strategies

Once you decided you want to go ahead start advertising online (and you should), the next step is to define what advertising strategy you will use. For the most part, there are three different strategies.

Pay-Per-Click or PPC

There are different strategies used to run campaigns online, one of them is, Pay-per-click or PPC. This means that you will be paying everything someone clicks on your ad to take them into your website. For example, imagine you are running a restaurant and you have selected “Best Tacos” as a keyword. Then, you will run a PPC campaign this keyword. This means, your ads will show when someone types “Best Tacos” in Google. Your ad might show, but you will only be charged when someone actually clicks on your ad.

Cost-Per-Mille (Thousand) or CPM

Depending on the objective or your campaign, PPC might not be the right strategy for you. Another, advertising strategy available for you is Cost-per-mille or CPM, in which, instead of paying every time someone clicks on your ad, you decide you want to pay per impression instead. This might help you get a lot more eyeballs into your ad but might not necessarily bring traffic or convert your visitors.

Cost-Per-Acquisition or CPA

Another strategy for your SEM campaign is Cost-per-acquisition or CPA. In this strategy, you decide you want to pay only when someone makes a predefined action once they are on your website. Let’s say you are only willing to pay when someone makes a reservation to your restaurant by submitting a form. Someone will see and click on your ad, visit your website, but you will only pay once the visitor fills and submits your reservation form. This strategy is directly related to sales, and most people might think it is the best strategy since you are basically paying per performance. However, depending on your business objectives it might not be the right strategy for you.

Components of Search Engine Marketing

Once you have selected your strategy there are many other things you will need to know in order to successfully run a marketing campaign online.

Cost-Per-Click or CPC

When you are running a PPC campaign, another term you will need to know is Cost-Per-Click or CPC which is the amount you are paying per click or visitor into your site. So, in a PPC campaign, your ad can be displayed to a hundred people, but if only one of them clicks on it, you will only pay for that click.

The cost-per-click depends on a lot of factors, but mostly on how many other people want the keyword for that ad.

Landing Page

A landing page is the section of your website you want people to visit right after they click on your ad. A lot of people, especially when they are starting into SEM, make the mistake of setting their homepage as their landing page. You want your landing page to be as relevant to the ad as possible, for example, if you are advertising “tacos” then send your visitors, to the taco section of your site.

Geo Targeting

Geo-Targeting means you want to display your ads to people in a specific geographical area. If you are advertising snowboards, you will want to geotarget your ads to cities or regions that have snow and/or skiing areas/resorts.

Device Targeting

With many different devices available, with device targeting, you decide in which device your ad should be displayed, whether on your mobile, personal tablet, or desktop. For example, if you are advertising an Android app, you wanna make sure only people on Android phones get your ad, as you don’t want to waste your hard-earned ad dollars on people on iPhones as they won’t be able to install your app.

Audience Targeting

This refers to targeting a specific group of people who share similar interests and therefore will have similar purchasing habits. Going back to the snowboard example, you might only display your ads to people who have expressed an interest in extreme sports and/or snow boots.

Ad Scheduling

Defines what days your ad will be displayed and at what times of the day. Depending on your audience’s online searching and purchasing habits you can determine the best time to show your ads. This might also make sense if you are running a campaign that invites the visitor to call you for a specific reason. You want to make sure your ad displays only when your business is open and someone will be available to pick up the phone.

Conversion Rate

This one is really important and if you are working with an agency, something you will want to pay attention month-to-month.


Refers to the place on the website where your ad is going to be located. It can be either on the header part of the web page or aligned to the right, you decide what works best.


Also, know as cyber-stalking, Remarketing is a tactic that is highly underutilized. Re-marketing refers to displaying ads only to people who have visited your website. It can be even more specific and you can display ads only to people who made a specific action within your site, for example, placing something into their shopping cart on your website but that did not finish the checkout process. This is a hot lead that you want to close.

So, now what?

The availability to track all this information allows you to use the best methods of advertising to optimize your business. It is a matter of utilizing all of the tools available to you in order to achieve your business goals.

The online marketing world is a highly populated one, which only means that it is a very competitive one as well. In such a competitive environment, it is your job to make your business stand out from the crowd. It is a matter of advertising your business in the right place, at the right time, with the right strategies and tactics.

Want to learn more about search engine marketing and how it can help your business grow? Request a Free Consultation to see how we can help.

Ares Saldaña
Ares Saldaña
Since 2005, I have been helping clients find and develop new systems, products, or solutions that address their business challenges and problems. As the founder of Phidev, a digital marketing agency, and a partner at Audisatt, a data-driven SaaS audit company, I combine technology, data, and design to create and deliver effective and innovative online campaigns and platforms. My passion lies in generating and developing ideas that leverage my expertise in marketing strategy, digital marketing, content development, and product/software development. I also enjoy leading and managing teams that share my vision and values of delivering high-quality and customer-centric results. I am always eager to learn new skills and technologies that can enhance my performance and expand my knowledge.