SEM (Search Engine Marketing) packages, as sold by companies like MerchantCircle and Manta, are paid ads that appear in the top and right of major search engines – also called “sponsored links” or “sponsored results.” You either pay the search engine or you pay a marketing company who pays the search engine to create an ad with a link to your website in that ad in that section. Look closely at the Google results page and you can see this section is highlighted with a very light color that you might not notice if you weren’t looking for it. Your ad is created and placed based upon what customers are searching for (keywords), and how much has been budgeted for the campaign you purchased. SEM targets searching customers in major search engines and drives them to your website in the form of views and clicks. You are essentially bidding against other companies trying to get on the search engine’s first page results and then higher on the page with the same keywords. You only pay for an actual click on your ad which is why it’s commonly called “Pay-Per-Click” (PPC). Clever, huh? The higher packages perform at a better click per view rate. Since Google dominates the search market most SEM marketing is done through Google AdWords.
Technically, Search Engine Marketing includes Search Engine Optimization but the way it’s promoted by many marketing companies the term is used in the more narrow context of Pay-Per-Click campaigns since those companies typically don’t sell Search Engine Optimization.