Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is defined as a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs).

While the industry term once referred to both organic search activities such as search engine optimization (SEO) and paid, it now refers almost exclusively to paid search advertising.

Search engine marketing is also alternately referred to as paid search or pay per click (PPC).

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Definition: Google AdWords or Pay-Per-Click is Google’s form of online advertising. Advertisers bid on “trigger” words and phrases which prompt their ads to display in sponsored search results. Advertisers pay a fee every time someone clicks on one of their ads.

Display: Advertisements appear at the top and/or bottom of a search results page. Google labels paid search results as “sponsored” or an “Ad”.


  • Paid search results are the first to be seen by searchers.
  • They can start displaying in search results very quickly.
  • They are a great way to experiment, “test and learn”.
  • You can precisely target the geographic location of your search audience.
  • Google Analytics captures precise results for paid search campaigns allowing you to better fine-tune your strategy.


  • Ads tend to be less trusted than organic or local search results.
  • 70-80% of searchers ignore paid advertisements.
  • New businesses and inexperienced practitioners tend to pay higher rates while their quality scores improve. A high-quality score (influenced by past performance) will lower your cost per click.
  • Your visibility lasts only as long as you’re willing to pay for it.

Local SEO

Definition: Local SEO is a type of search engine optimization (SEO) that focuses on getting your business listing to show up in Google map results. There is no charge for clicks.

Display: Local search results appear roughly in the middle of the search engine results page (SERP) and stand out because of the presence of a map.


  • Local search results stand out (because of the map).
  • They are very prominent on mobile devices.
  • Local SEO also gives you visibility in online directories and on GPS devices.
  • Searchers tend to trust local search (probably because of the 1st-page positioning, address verification requirements, and reviews)
  • Increase traffic to brick and mortar locations.


  • It can take months before you begin to see local search results.
  • Local results do not display for every search query.
  • You are limited by geography; you won’t show up when geographic qualifiers exclude your business location or if you are too far away.
  • It is not mandatory but easier to rank in local search results when you are willing to publicize your address. Some may not want to do so.


Definition: Organic SEO is a search engine optimization process that results in your website content gaining increased visibility in unpaid, non-local results. There is no charge for clicks through to your site.

Display: Organic search results appear roughly in the middle of the SERPs, often sandwiched between paid search results and below local (if local results are displayed). Organic search results display as traditional “10 blue links” or non-traditional SERP features like rich or featured snippets, universal results, and knowledge graphs.


  • Organic search results are considered trustworthy and earn the most clicks.
  • Organic results offer maximum display flexibility – they are triggered for any result you are deemed relevant.
  • Results (if arrived at via white hat methods and maintained) continue to compound and grow over time.


  • It can take months before you begin to see organic search results.
  • Organic search results are subject to daily algorithm updates and market adjustments. Results can be volatile.
  • There is a maximum of 10 blue links on page 1 of organic search results. Competition is tough and getting tougher.

Search engine marketing and SEO are intertwined and complex. It is very hard to decide where to invest, especially if you are a small business owner constrained by budget and staff shortages. Please feel free to contact us if we can help guide you in the right direction. Every business is different.