What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search Engine Marketing is the marketing practice comprised of Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The primary objective of the two disciplines is to generate higher and more desirable rankings in search engines in order to increase website traffic from a target audience.

What is a Search Engine?
A Search Engine is essentially a giant database filled with every website and webpage the search engine knows exists. It is the job of the search engine to deliver the most relevant website or webpage based on the query a person types into the search engine.

How do Search Engines work?
Search Engines don’t automatically know about every single website and webpage ever created. They must find and index websites and web pages. Search engines do this by sending out spiders, crawlers or robots that move from webpage to webpage using links found on those web pages. Links show spiders the way from one webpage to another webpage or website. Once these spiders find and index websites and web pages the search engine must then determine a way to rank them in order of importance. The ranking is done by an algorithm the search engine programs. Algorithms are highly guarded secrets by search engines. An algorithm is the secret recipe that a search engine uses to make itself better than other competing search engines. The ultimate goal for a search engine is to provide the most relevant result, the first time and every time, based on the search a person conducts.
Let’s describe this in another way. Let’s say you went to the first website you knew about. From there you began to copy and paste every single webpage you could find on that website into a folder on your computer. After you finished copying and pasting every webpage, you noticed there was a link that would take you to another website, so you clicked on it and followed it to the other website. Once you arrived at the new website you repeated the process of copying and pasting every webpage into a folder on your computer before clicking on a link to another website. You continue to repeat the entire process over and over again until you arrive at a website that leads you to a dead end with no more links to follow. So now you have a folder filled with millions of websites that you must somehow organize by topic and order of importance. Here comes your first test. A friend of yours is visiting Chicago and she asks you where she can find the best deal on a new Louis Vuitton handbag in the city. Your job is now to provide her with the best website from the millions of websites spanning millions of topics in your folder to give her the information she is seeking. And by the way, you have less than three seconds to complete the task. This is the challenge a search engine faces millions of times each day.

What are Spiders, Crawlers and Robots?
Spiders, Crawlers and Robots are interchangeable terms. They are automated programs sent out by search engines to crawl the world wide web. Their job is to find websites, copy text of web pages and index those web pages in the search engine’s database. They cannot read images; so, it is wise not to turn text on a website into an image.

What is an Algorithm?
An Algorithm is a program consisting of rules put together by a search engine that determines how websites are ranked based on the query a person types into the search engine. Algorithms are highly kept secrets by search engines. No outside person has access to or knows the algorithms search engines use.

What is a SERP?
SERP is an acronym for Search Engine Results Page. When a person conducts a search in a search engine a webpage is rendered with results of websites that are relevant to that query. There are typically 10 organic listings per search engine results page. Additional paid listings can also appear at the top, bottom and on the right of a search engine results page.

What is an Organic or Natural search engine listing?
The terms Organic and Natural are interchangeable. These are the search engine listings that appear for free in search engines. Search engines use algorithms as well as quality weighting on editorial and content to determine how to rank and order these free listings. Positions within the organic / natural listings are not sold and may not be purchased. It is solely up to the discretion of the search engine to include a website in its organic / natural listings.

What is the difference between an Organic and Paid search engine listing?
Organic listings are the free listings that appear in the main portion of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). There are typically 10 organic listings on a SERP.
Paid listings can appear at the top, right-hand side and sometimes bottom of a SERP around the free listings. Typically there are 2-3 paid listings at the top and 8 paid listings on the right-hand side of a SERP depending on the number of advertisers for a specific query. The position or rank of a paid listing is determined by the maximum bid amount and quality score of an advertiser’s keywords.

What is Universal Search?
Universal Search produces a mix of various types of search results. When a query is made a search engine can now return results for websites, news, videos, images, local listings and books on the same SERP.

What is the market share among major search engines?
The market share among major search engines varies slightly from month to month. Following is an estimate of the percentage of search volume each major search engine receives. (Subject  to changes)

  • Google = 63%
  • Yahoo = 20%
  • Bing = 9%
  • Aol = 4%
  • Ask = 4%


What is Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising?
Pay Per Click Advertising involves placing textually based ads on a search engine results page (SERP). An advertiser only pays for the placement of the ad when someone actually clicks on it regardless of how many impressions the ad receives. The cost per click is determined by the maximum bid amount specified by the advertiser on a keyword as well as the advertiser’s quality score on that keyword. The quality score is determined by the search engine and can only lower the advertiser’s cost per click if the quality score is high. A low quality score cannot raise your cost per click higher than your maximum bid amount but can raise your minimum bid amount.

How is Quality Score determined?
A Quality Score is affixed to each keyword in a PPC account. The following factors determine the Quality Score for each separate keyword.

  • Historical click through rate (CTR)
  • Relevance of keyword to context of ads
  • Content quality of landing page
  • Speed rendering quality of landing page

How does Quality Score affect a PPC account?
A poor Quality Score can raise the necessary minimum bid and lower the ad position of a keyword.
A good Quality Score can decrease the necessary minimum bid and higher the ad position of a keyword.

What is PPC Management?
PPC Management is the marketing practice that involves managing a pay per click advertising campaign. It starts with keyword research, keyword selection, building multiple target campaigns, organizing several ad groups and composing multiple ad creatives. Ongoing management includes continually testing and monitoring the performance of campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ad creatives. Proper analysis of analytics and statistics are administered to adjust target keywords, keyword bids and ad creatives to gain optimal performance and a better return on investment.

How can Pay Per Click Services help my company?
Pay Per Click Services can help your company control marketing costs as well as the return on investment of your marketing strategy. With pay per click services you can attract people to your company at the exact moment they are searching for the product or service you offer. You can target as broad or specific of any geographic location and demographic in any language. You set the limit of the amount you are willing to pay. You can use real time statistics to make timely and relevant marketing strategy adjustments mid campaign. In short, pay per click services provide you the most controlled method and comprehensive reporting of any form of marketing currently available.

What kind of results can I expect from PPC Advertising?
The results of PPC Advertising vary by industry, product and service. First and foremost extensive research of related keywords must be conducted to determine the search volume for those keywords. Search volume helps to give a general estimate of how many people could possibly be reached through the keywords related to your industry, product or service. Of equal importance is the level of competition for keywords. A high level of competition most likely means higher bids are necessary for higher ad positions. A low level of competition would normally indicate a low bid amount would still garner a high ad position. Search engines do not publicly publish the amount being bid on keywords. Advertisers’ bids are kept confidential. In any case your key indicator will be your Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). If you sell a product for $20 and your cost per acquisition is $10 then your ROAS is 100%. Expectations for your PPC advertising should then be forecasted by calculating keyword search volume, keyword competition and cost per acquisition.


What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of editing a website’s content and code in order to make it more easily accessible and readable by search engines. It starts with researching and selecting keywords relevant to a product or service. Selected keywords are strategically placed in META tags, content and navigation links. Ongoing support includes monthly keyword rankings reporting, editing adjustments and incoming link building from relevant external websites.

Why is Link Building important for SEO efforts?
Each incoming link from an outside website acts as a vote of confidence for the website being linked to. If another website feels the content of another website is important enough to recommend its visitors to read it, search engines are alerted to that importance. Caution must be taken here that quality is much better than quantity. Incoming links from websites that are absolutely irrelevant can cause more harm than good. Search engines take a close look at the relevance between linking websites in order to keep websites from cheating the system.

Why is SEO important for website marketing?
99% of internet users utilize search engines to find what they are seeking. 50% of those users either find what they are looking for or abandon their search after page 1 of search results. 80% do the same after page 3 of search results. This is why it is important to make a website SEO friendly. If search engines cannot find or read a website they cannot index the website in its database. Without being at the very least indexed a website will never show up in the free listings of a search engine. Being indexed alone is not enough however. Good SEO allows a website to make its case to search engines as to why it is the most important regarding specific keywords. Search engines rank websites for specific keywords in order of what they feel is important.

How does SEO lower long term online marketing costs?
SEO allows a website to communicate its importance regarding specific keywords or topics to search engines. Effective SEO can help a website to rank highly in the free (organic) listings of search engines. With 99% of internet users utilizing search engines, high rankings in search engines can bring a tremendous amount of free traffic to a website. Free traffic is just that: FREE.

What kind of results can I expect from SEO?
It is typical to begin receiving results within 6 months from the time of SEO implementation. In some circumstances SEO may take longer than 6 months to take effect. Keep in mind these first results are only the beginning. Website rankings for organic listings rise slowly in search engines not quickly. It is a long term but necessary solution if a business is planning on being in operation for the long term. SEO is also not a cut and dry or guaranteed practice. It is impossible for any SEO expert to guarantee a number 1 ranking in a search engine’s natural listings. Following best practices is crucial to SEO. Using tactics that search engines deem to be malicious can get a website banned from those search engines. Be wise in choosing an SEO expert.

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