SEM: Tips, Benefits, & How It Relates to SEO

Ben Tippet

 One of the biggest challenges a business faces is getting attention. Your potential customers are bombarded with ads daily. According to Forbes, people can see 10,000 advertisements in a single day. But what if you knew with 100% certainty that you could place your brand name directly in front of your ideal customer in a way that commanded attention? This is the power of search engine marketing (SEM for short). In this guide, we will break down what search engine marketing is, how it works, and how you can leverage it with SEO to increase the success of your digital marketing efforts.

What is SEM?

  Back in the old days, SEM (short for search engine marketing) referred to any digital marketing activity that increased the visibility of a website on the search engine results pages. It included both paid and organic SEO strategies. Today, search engine marketing refers exclusively to using paid ads in marketing campaigns to accomplish this feat. It involves buying advertising for relevant keywords so your brand appears at the top of Google. Search engine marketing can also be referred to as paid search marketing or PPC (pay-per-click advertising).

Why SEM Is So Important

One of the foundational principles of any successful marketing endeavour is getting your message to the right people, at the right time, and in the right place. Search engine marketing (SEM) is one of the most potent forms of advertising because it allows you to put your brand in front of someone specifically looking for your service at the exact moment they are ready to make a decision. For example, if someone needs an inflatable cabana for their pool (yes, this fantastic product exists), one of the first places they will turn to is Google to find out where they are sold and how much they cost. By entering a relevant search term, they will be presented with a series of options at the top of the search engine results page. If you are doing SEM (and doing it right), your company’s name will appear for that search with compelling ad copy that drives the customer to click over to your landing page and convert.

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SEM vs Social Media Marketing and Other Advertising Channels

Compare this intent-based strategy to other advertising channels like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, television, magazines, and radio. One key difference between SEM and all these other platforms is intent. The other channels (though not an exhaustive list) are a form of interruptive advertising. Your customers are spending their day trying to consume information on their terms, and boom – they’re hit with an advertisement telling them to buy something. Because your customers see thousands of ads, many people have developed “advertising blindness,” where they either unconsciously or purposely block out advertising. With SEM, on the other hand, your customers are deliberately searching for what you are offering, and you are positioned to be the first in line when they’re ready to buy.

Benefits of SEM

Each digital marketing strategy comes with unique benefits, and search engine marketing is no exception.

Get Intent-based Traffic

Arguably, this benefit takes the cake regarding paid search ads. Instead of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks, with a search engine marketing campaign, you can be certain that the only people seeing your advertisements are those with a genuine interest in your product or service.

Attract Massive Amounts of Eyeballs

Did you know that 87% of people now begin their research for products and services online? And, which Internet penetration topping 99% in Australia, there is no other channel that can deliver that amount of targeted traffic at scale. If you want immediate attention, search engine marketing is a powerhouse strategy.

Engage in Next-Level, Advanced Targeting

In addition to putting your company in front of millions of people, search engine marketing also allows you to narrow your scope and focus only on the customers you want to attract. A Google Ads campaign gives you the power to target the following:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Personal interests
  • Marital status
  • Education level
  • Homeownership
  • Parental status

You can also add people who have already been to one or more of your web pages to that list using a Google Ads feature called RLSA Audiences, short for Remarketing List for Search Ads.

Leverage Flexible Formatting

You can create Google ads in a variety of formats, including:

You also have the option to make your ads longer or shorter by using ad extensions. Dynamic creative is another option that customises the content of the ad based on the person who performed the search. For example, Google can dynamically generate a headline based on users’ search queries.

Get Immediate Results

You don’t have to go through several rounds of meetings with a creative team or ad agency to launch your ad. There’s no printing, there’s no lengthy approval process, and there’s no waiting. Once you submit your campaign to your Google Ads account, it will usually be approved by Google within one business day.

Tips for Successful Search Engine Marketing Campaigns

Perform Thorough Keyword Research

Keyword research helps you ensure that you are creating ad groups and ads that reflect what people are actually searching for. The keyword research step comes first in a successful search engine marketing campaign.

Structure Your Google Ads Account the Right Way

Whether you are running ads through Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), Bing Ads, or both, having a properly organised account structure is critical because it contributes to a higher quality score and better overall results. A disorganised or improperly structured account can lead to missed opportunities and cannibalising your keywords. Not only that, but if your account structure is a mess, you’ll have additional challenges with reporting. If you cannot readily see how your PPC ads are performing, you won’t know what changes to make or how to optimise or adjust them for peak performance. An organised account structure includes a hierarchy that includes:

  • Ad campaigns: Ad campaigns are typically divided into groups of similarly themed products and services.
  • Ad groups: Further subdivide campaigns into at least one ad group to reach a more specialised audience.
  • Keywords: A critical success factor in an SEM strategy is targeting the right keywords that reflect a user’s search query. The research phase can take time, but it is well worth it.
  • Ad copy: Like any paid ads campaign, your Google ads should include a compelling headline and messaging that speaks to your audience.
  • Landing pages: You can create several landing pages to test the effectiveness of different types of ads. By implementing a Google Ads structure that includes an ad campaign and at least one ad group, you’ll increase your chances of a high-performing campaign with a top-notch quality score and positive ROI for your ad spend.

Bid to Win the Ad Auction

One thing to note is that just because you create an ad using keywords with high search volume doesn’t mean that it will be seen by everyone who searches for the keyword or keyword phrase on Google. There’s also an ad auction to win for your ads to be seen. Google takes several factors into account with the ad auction, including:

  • Your maximum bid
  • Quality score

Together, these metrics determine your ad rank, otherwise known as the position your ad will appear on the search engine page.

Boost Your Quality Score

Quality score is an important metric because it influences the ad rank in the ad auction, and it can significantly impact your maximum bid. A high-quality score, for example, can give you a higher ad rank without having to increase your bid. On the other hand, if you have a low-quality score, you’ll need to bid higher to win the ad auction. The best ways to boost your quality score include having a well-structured Google Ads account with compelling ad copy that makes a user want to click.


  As SEO Perth professionals we often get assessed which is better SEO or SEM. Short for search engine optimisation, SEO is the practice of ranking your website to appear at the top of “organic” search results on Google and other search engines. The organic search results appear directly below the ads, and they still make up the biggest share of clicks that Google gets. And, if you can secure the top spot of the organic search results, you’ll be sitting pretty with a 25% share of the clickthrough rate. Having an effective strategy to attract organic traffic is important because a significant number of people still scroll past the advertisements on Google and get to the content that is seen as potentially less biased than paid advertisements.

How SEO and SEM Work Together

When we talk to marketers about the relationship between SEO and SEM in a marketing strategy, a lightbulb often goes off in their heads. They begin to realise that by having their brand name show up on the paid search results area of Google, as well as in the organic section, they can literally blanket the entire first page of Google with their messaging.

How to Create a Successful SEO Strategy

Both SEO and SEM are vital components in successful search marketing. And SEO comes with something that SEM doesn’t: longevity. People often ask us to pick a winner in the battle of SEO vs SEM, and the truth is that both SEO and search engine marketing are effective in different ways. One of the reasons that SEO is one of our most popular services is because you can continue to reap the benefits of SEO even if you are not doing any online advertising. 

Think of it this way: once you turn off a paid ad and stop paying for clicks, it will no longer be visible to your target audience. While this allows you to control the flow of traffic to your website and landing pages, it is inherently a pay-to-play model. SEO, on the other hand, continues to build momentum, and there’s no automatic “off switch. As you continue to work on your SEO, you will see your website climb the ranks of Google’s search results and bring revenue to your business at an extremely high ROI. Despite the longevity of SEO, SEM still has one thing that SEO can never match – speed. If you want to know how to appear on page one of Google fast, there is only one guaranteed way to do it, and that’s to run paid advertising.

A Crash Course in Mastering SEO

It’s beyond the scope of this guide to cover all aspects of SEO, but there are some things you need to know about ranking highly in the search engines. SEO consists of both on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is what you can control on your page. Often referred to as technical SEO, it involves the following elements:

  • Creating relevant content
  • Structuring your page with appropriately placed header tags
  • Incorporating key search terms into your content
  • Understanding search volume and user search queries to know how to tailor your content for your website visitors
  • Crafting a quality meta description for each page to drive clicks
  • Optimising your site for page speed and the mobile experience

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO involves search engine ranking factors that happen outside of your website. Typically, this means having other websites link back to your website because your website had valuable or authoritative content. In Google’s eyes, this means that your page benefits Google’s user base, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely with a higher search engine ranking.

The Bottom Line

Search engine marketing is a powerful way to control how much traffic, and ultimately, how much revenue your company gets. At Perth Digital Edge, we have a successful track record of helping businesses of all sizes grow their revenue with cutting-edge search engine marketing techniques.

To learn more about how we can help you grow your business, call Perth Digital Edge and find your digital edge today.

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