What Is Search Engine Marketing? (Benefits, Types, and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 1, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You can use online marketing to help a company extend its brand's reach. For example, you can use a search engine marketing (SEM) strategy to help the company acquire new customers. Understanding this form of marketing can help you adopt strategies to implement it effectively in your workplace. In this article, we answer "What is search engine marketing?", highlight its benefits, review its types, explore how to conduct an effective SEM campaign, and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is search engine marketing?

A company that's searching for more customers or exploring new advertising options might wonder, "What is search engine marketing?" Search engine marketing is the practice of promoting a company's products and services through paid advertising campaigns that display results on search engine result pages. Using this marketing strategy often helps increase a business's visibility.

For instance, if a consumer conducts an internet search for information on similar aspects of the business, SEM can ensure the company appears among the search results. In addition, search engine marketing leverages the psychology of online customers who may patronize the brand after seeing relevant ads.

Related: SEO vs. SEM: When and How to Use Them (With Definitions)

SEM benefits

Here are some of the benefits SEM offers users:

  • Quick revenue generation: Using SEM with effective ads can lead to immediate revenue. There typically isn't any lag time between purchase and placement.

  • Sustainable growth: SEM allows you to control the size of the campaign, so it's relatively easy to scale the campaign up or down depending on the business' needs.

  • Competitive advantage: Paid ads typically appear above SEO ads. Using SEM ensures the company's ads appear above its competitors' ads, irrespective of their search engine optimization techniques.

  • Targets the right customers: Search engine result pages display ads based on the keywords. This means that customers who engage with these ads are more likely to be interested in the company's products or services.

Related: E-Commerce Marketing (Definition, Benefits, and Tips)

Types of SEM

Here are the three main types of search engine marketing:

Pay-per-click ads

You can use pay-per-click ads to help a company target its marketing efforts to customers who meet particular criteria and help ensure those customers see the relevant ads. In this type of SEM, the company pays a fixed amount for each click on the ad that directs a customer to its website. In addition, using pay-per-click ads can help the company increase the traffic directed to its website.

Related: Cost Per Impression (With Definition and Steps to Calculate)

Organic search engine optimization

This method of SEM entails identifying commonly searched phrases and keywords, then incorporating them into the company's website to increase traffic organically. It also involves link building and content creation. This strategy can help ensure that a company's website appears among search results for relevant key phrases without it having to pay for website clicks.

Related: 10 Types of Marketing to Explore (With Tips and FAQs)

Local search engine optimization

Local search engine optimization has a geographical aspect. This strategy aims to get the company's business listing in the map results. Local SEO helps increase the company's visibility in a particular geographical area. This optimization strategy doesn't require you to pay for clicks. It can also increase the company's presence online for queries made by a local audience, ensuring that customers can find the business online and offline. Local SEO includes online review and rating management, business listing, social media engagement, search engine map result placement, and location page setup.

Related: How to Become an SEO Expert (With Salary and Job Outlook)

How to conduct an effective search engine marketing campaign

Here are the steps to follow to help you create an efficient search engine marketing campaign:

1. Define a strategy

Defining the strategy of your campaign involves conducting extensive research on your target audience, its demands, and its needs. Your strategy may address how the company's products and services fulfill those needs. It's important to determine what ad campaign messaging appeals most to your target audience. When creating your strategy, you may consider the company's position in the industry, its primary competitors, their methods for engaging their audiences, and the goals you want to achieve with your campaign.

2. List the keywords to target

After identifying your strategy, you can determine which keywords and phrases your audience typically searches for, then target them with your marketing campaigns. To ensure you create a comprehensive list, you can request feedback from the customer service team members, sales representatives, or other individuals who interact with customers. You may also use keyword research tools to identify commonly searched keywords and phrases in particular business segments or industries.

3. Revise the website content

Next, you may revise the company's website to include the phrases and keywords you've identified. This helps ensure that the website appears when people search for these terms. Revising the content of the company's website is a part of the SEO marketing process, which works with SEM in an effective digital marketing campaign.

Related: Importance of Review Sites and How to Get More Reviews

4. Invest in paid ads and searches

Investing in pay-per-click ads and paid searches can help the company generate higher quality leads to its website. This can allow individuals who may have an interest in the company's products or services can see the campaigns. Usually, this strategy can be cost-intensive at first, making it important to get the support of the management team.

5. Identify success metrics and benchmarks

It's essential to decide which metrics and benchmarks you're using to measure the campaign's success. This step also includes identifying actionable strategies that can help the company improve the results of future campaigns. Common metrics you can use include traffic increases to the site, the time visitors spend on the site, and the number of new and returning visitors. You can also use the company's rank in the search engine result pages based on the selected keywords.

Search engine marketing FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about search engine marketing:

What is an SEM ad auction?

Organizations bid on keywords for their search engine marketing campaigns to appear on the top of the first search engine result page. Companies in the auction offer the search engine the maximum amount they want to pay for a keyword. They also include a copy of the ad and the landing page to which they can redirect the consumer when they click the ad. The search engine then collects this information and compares it to other organizations' information.

The auction winner isn't necessarily the party with the highest bid, but also the best landing page, highest ad quality, and greatest anticipated impact. These auctions are instantaneous and happen every time a consumer runs a search. In addition, the company's success in the auction process determines its quality score and the amount it costs the organization to place search engine marketing ads.

Related: Pull Marketing Strategies with Types and Advantages

What is SEM keyword research?

Researching keywords related to ad campaigns can help a company maximize its revenue opportunities. Keywords refer to phrases and words that consumers use in search engines to find information, services, and products. It's essential to consider positive and negative alignment with your ads when researching keywords. Positive alignment refers to words directly related to the company's products or services.

For example, if a company manages a fashion brand, relevant keywords that can trigger its ads may include fashion design, women's clothes, men's fashion, fashion model, fashion week, and fashion blog. In contrast, you may not want terms like sewing practice, model training, or fashion courses to activate your ads if you don't offer those services. These are negative alignments to consider.

Related: What Does a Digital Marketer Do? Everything You Need to Know

What are the most important parts of an account structure?

It's essential to create an account if you want to manage your SEM ads through a search engine. The account structure may vary based on the search engine. Here's a common structure for an account:


Your account contains a unique password, e-mail address, and billing information. It also contains all the other components in the structure. The organization usually has one account that it can use to run multiple campaigns.


You can select the campaign you want to run. There are various options, such as a call-only campaign, search campaign, and display campaigns. Each campaign addresses a specific business objective. You can create several campaigns in your account.

Ad groups

This section gives structure to your campaign. You can organize your ads and keywords within your ad group by connecting ideas or a general theme. You can create six to ten ad groups for each campaign.


This refers to the phrases and words customers search for that trigger your ads. It's essential to research the highest yield keyword related to the company's products and services and apply them to the ads. You can use about 20 keywords per ad group.


Ads are the campaigns that show up on the search result pages when consumers trigger your ad through keywords. You can test various ads to see which generate the strongest response and highest return on the company's investment. You may include up to three ads for each ad group.

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