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  • Writer's pictureCalvin C.

SEM 101

The world of digital marketing is vast and complex. That’s why we are breaking it down into something more digestible and simple, so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Each week, we’ll cover something different and a little more advanced, as you get more accustomed and comfortable with the marketing lingo.

But let’s start off with the basics first!

There are a number of acronyms used in the world of digital marketing, SEM being one of the most common.

SEM, which stands for Search Engine Marketing, is the practice of using paid advertisements to market a business on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Advertisers will bid on keywords and phrases, so that when a user is typing in a query on Google or Bing, an ad will show up, giving the advertiser an opportunity to appear in front of the user. Once the user clicks on an ad, they should then be directed to the advertiser’s website. This is where the term pay-per-click (PPC) comes into play, which is when an advertiser pays every time an ad is being clicked on.

Now, there are a number of things the user can do once they’re on your website. They can simply come to consume content, call your business, fill out a form, or subscribe for a newsletter; it all depends what your goal is and what you want to achieve.

Simply put, SEM allows advertisers to show the right ad, to the right person, at the right time. The best part? You can track everything, so you know where your marketing dollars are going, and what you’re getting in return.

What is SEO?

We’ve covered off SEM so far (which is just the tip of the iceberg), but usually SEO is a term that comes up in conversation just as often, and the two get mixed up. So what is SEO?

SEM, as mentioned before, is the practice of using paid advertisements to market a business. SEO (Search Engine Optimization), is the practice of creating relevant content, so that businesses can earn a free spot in the SERP for a given keyword search. With SEM, you can usually pay to get ahead of the competition. But to earn a free spot, it takes a lot of time and effort. I like to think of SEM as a sprint, whereas SEO is more of a marathon.

Generally, SEO and SEM go hand in hand, which means it would be beneficial to leverage both as part of your online marketing strategy. However, it’s important to note that their strategy will vary. SEM is great for showing your ads to people who are ready to act, but what about when people are just starting out in the research phase and gathering information? That’s where SEO comes in.

Suppose someone is trying to find a new healthcare practitioner (dentist, massage therapist, optometrist, and so on), and starts Googling “reviews for dentists” or “what’s the difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist”, this person is just starting out on the research stage and would be looking for informational content. If you happen to have the right content that the user is looking for, your website may show up organically and earn you that free spot.

Now that the person has visited your website, got to know your brand, maybe they’re interested in booking an appointment in the near future. A few weeks later, they may either Google your brand if they remember, or they might just search for “dentists near me”. This would be the perfect time for your ad to show up (right time, right place, right person), because they are indicating that there’s intent to find a dentist nearby and may call to book an appointment if there’s one close by.

To wrap things up, SEO is essentially trying to attract users who are at the beginning of the customer journey, researching and looking for information, and then nurture them by providing the right information and content. Once the lead has been nurtured and turned into a warmer lead, your SEM strategy should then convert them into a customer.

This is just scratching the surface, and there are a lot more nuances to digital marketing than what we’ve covered today. Hopefully this post was able to expose you to the world of digital marketing from a high level. In the upcoming weeks, we will discuss more technical aspects of SEM/SEO to provide more insight and information.

Stay tuned!

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