Search marketing, the umbrella term to describe marketing strategies using paid and organic techniques to gain visitors and traffic from search engines.

Heavily used gateways to information on the internet, search engines use complicated algorithms to process information and rank results. The marketing bit comes in when you’d like your business to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). Getting in front of potential customers searching keywords related to your brand, products or services is one of the best ways to attract customers. After all, they’re already searching for you.

There are tons of different factors involved in getting real estate on the first page but marketing strategies typically fall into two camps. Paid search, strategies based on bidding and optimizing quality scores for keywords in ad auctions. Paid search involves purchasing ads from platforms such as Google, Amazon or Bing, most often in a pay-per-click advertising (PPC) model. The other camp is organic search strategies. Organic strategies commonly called SEO, search engine optimization, involve making content more appealing to search engines in order to rank higher for targeted keywords.

Digital marketers tend to be extra obnoxious about our alphabet soup acronyms. I don’t know why. We just can’t get enough of them.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM, or search engine marketing, is the process of using paid strategies to increase visibility and capture traffic from the paid listings in search engine results. The term “search engine marketing” used to be the umbrella term to include both SEO and PPC strategies. Now, it usually refers to paid efforts only. I guess paid search marketers got jealous of SEOs having a cooler acronym so they commandeered SEM to refer to paid search efforts.

SEM search engine marketing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving content according to search ranking factors in order to increase visibility and traffic from organic listings. Organic listings are not part of ad actions and ranking can’t be purchased from search engines. Instead, organic results are indexed and displayed by algorithms, with hundreds of ranking signals, according to how reverent the page is to the search term.

SEO Search Engine Optimization