What is SEM? An Introduction to Search Engine Marketing

What is SEM: Visitors from search engines are the most qualified and motivated that you can receive on your site.

After all, they have taken the initiative to do a search. And finally they have clicked on the link that leads to your site.

But for this to happen, you first need to introduce yourself to the user who does an online search.

Search Engine Marketing solves this problem.

Search engine marketing or SEM is a type of online marketing that promotes a website gaining visibility in search engines such as Google for certain words or search terms.

The basis of the SEM is that search engines are good at providing relevant information and that users are constantly using them to find the products, services and content that interest them. Using keywords, they locate what they are looking for easily and quickly.

Given that the range of terms used by users is very broad and varied, a key aspect of search marketing lies in deciding which words or phrases to use to promote a website. Making the right selection allows you to reach users truly interested in what you offer.

Types of listings in search engines

Once you have identified your keywords, the next step of search engine marketing is to get good positions on the search pages, also known as SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

In these pages you have 2 types of listings:

  • Organic or natural listings – They usually appear in the center of the page and are the result of a user doing a search. When that happens, the search engine applies algorithms to select and order the pages that will be displayed. Appearing in these listings is free and receives clicks as well.
  • Listings of payment – They are usually placed at the top of the results (above the organic listings) and also in the right column. Its operation is similar to organic; When a user does a search, ads appear with a link to a page. The difference is that if someone clicks on your ad you pay a fee.

How to appear in the listings

Different listings involve different activities. Search engine marketing includes 2 types:

  • SEO or Search Engine Optimization – SEO consists of obtaining traffic from the organic or natural results of the search engines. It includes activities such as keyword analysis, the creation and optimization of content and the construction of links. It is common to refer to SEO as search engine positioning.
  • Search Engine Advertising – Consistent in obtaining traffic by buying ads in the section of sponsored links from search engines, such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads or Yahoo!
  • Search Marketing – It involves activities such as keyword search, ad creation and bid management. It is also known as PPC (Pay Per Click) and CPC (Cost Per Click).

That said, you should know that the term SEM is commonly used to refer ONLY to search engine advertising. Being aware of this detail will avoid confusion.

Advantages and disadvantages of the SEM

Although search marketing can help you achieve your goals on the Internet, it is not a “one size fits all” strategy valid for everyone. If you liked what you have read so far and want to know if this kind of marketing is for you, it is time to know their strengths and weaknesses.


  • Qualified public – Thanks to the use of keywords you can reach a highly motivated audience interested in what you have for them.
  • Achievement of objectives – Search engine marketing is a proven way to achieve business objectives, such as generating sales and acquiring customers. The Internet is a big market and search engines are the starting point for the consumer.
  • Visibility Gain – A search query can put you in front of the people you want to reach in an instant. Repeated searches create brand awareness.
  • Highly measurable – Web analytics tools provide large amounts of information about visitors and what they do when they arrive at your site.
  • Great profitability – Compared to other types of marketing, the SEM is a bargain.


  • Increasing competition – The spread of the Internet is making the game increasingly difficult. The first to arrive usually have an advantage.
  • It’s always new – Because search marketing is constantly evolving, it requires continuous learning.
  • Non-immediate results – Contrary to what may seem, launching a campaign, measuring results and making improvements in performance can take months.
  • Only valid in the search – This type of marketing is useless if your target audience does not use the search engines.

Let’s now know what happens in each of its modalities:

1. The case of SEO

Its biggest advantage lies in profitability. You do not have to pay the search engines for appearing or receiving clicks, which translates into a fixed cost, regardless of the volume of visits.

Against it, SEO has the time factor. It requires time to develop it, time for the search engines to value it and time to see results. Another drawback of SEO are the continuous changes in the search algorithms that cause an important lack of control.

2. The case of search advertising

Speed ​​is your strongest point. In the same day you can create a campaign, launch it and receive visits. In addition, traffic, positions, return and costs are fairly stable and easy to predict.

On the other hand, search engine advertising implies a higher cost in the long term, since it only works while you pay. Likewise, the system based on bids and high competition sometimes makes it difficult to monetize the cost per conversion.