Search Engine Marketing Defined

Search Engine Marketing Defined
What’s the Difference?


As my thinking is, when hearing Search Engine Marketing Defined, or SEM, would be
(and once was) a useful way to summarize and classify both the paid and non-paid initiatives
that go into Digital Marketing via search engines. That would mean both the pay-per-click advertisements, or PPC ads, and the organic search initiatives commonly referred to as
search engine optimization, or SEO, would fall under that SEM blanket term. And thus,
helps us with using the phrase Search Engine Marketing Defined …

SEM would be the category of Marketing through search engines. The paid (PPC) and
non-paid (SEO) channels of SEM would both fall under it in terms of hierarchy. And, even
when you consider the literal terminology in coordination with this idea of SEO and PPC
falling under that SEM blanket, it almost makes sense. But, much like the English language,
pop culture, and the Cleveland Browns, it simply can’t work the way it’s supposed to. There
will always be exceptions to the rule (like the conundrums above).

So, when discussing Search Engine Marketing Defined, the search industry shapes itself,
adopting the term SEM, or SEO, or PPC, to fit strictly into the paid search sphere. It surely
appears that this is here to stay, too.


Search Engine Marketing Defined


PPC is SEM. That is, pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the same as
search engine marketing (SEM), or at least a vital part of it.

SEO is none of those things.

What likely evolved over time, considering defining search engine Marketing, due to the multiple potentially confusing Digital Marketing acronyms, as well as the need to define specific paid
initiatives outside of Google paid search, brought two heavily used cost-driven Marketing terms
to mean the same thing (leading to even more potential confusion from newbies). I’ve always
tried to make sense of the literal meaning of things, too, especially acronyms. But from there,
it’s easy to get even more lost in the idea.

While the breakdown of the abbreviation PPC is spot on — regardless if it’s called PPC, CPC,
paid search, search ads – we know it is referring to paid search marketing, typically through
search engines like Google and Bing. Other terms and tactics used in Digital Marketing
initiatives – especially those tied to search marketing tactics (both paid and organic) –
may not be so simple and clearly defined, though.


SEO SEM and PPC Marketing

Search Engine Marketing Defined


We know SEO is search engine optimization.

But, to echo the sentiments of search pioneer Mike Grehan, when we are defining search
engine Marketing, that never did make much sense. Marketers aren’t optimizing search engines;
we’re optimizing content and websites for search engines (secondly, right after optimizing them
for humans) so they can better understand, access, and relay our property to the masses. Again, acronyms don’t always make sense. So, naturally, this is a bit illogical. Just like other things in life
that don’t always add up, there are some acronyms that will never make sense either. Like Humvee, which doesn’t stand for any words that start with U or E in them. (It stands for High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, and was spawned from the original acronym, HMMWV.)

We’ve also determined that PPC marketing is (at least now) the same as, or a very large part of,

Both are paid initiatives.
They need a budget.
– It makes a lot of money for search engines
like Google and other advertising platforms.


But, while Wikipedia defines SEM as “a form of Internet Marketing that involves the promotion
of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) mostly through
paid advertising,” it’s not so quick to call them the same thing. In fact, pay-per-click Marketing
has its own separate Wikipedia page than the topic of search engine Marketing (despite there
being plenty of discrepancies and confusion throughout the page). The bottom line is this:

SEO is not a component of SEM


And, while PPC is typically the largest and most demanding component of SEM,
both PPC and SEM are paid initiatives that offer real-time data, ROI, and protected
data that can only be accessed by advertisers of certain platforms.


Why Search Engine Marketing

Defined Matters


The most important reason for clarification around, considering Search Engine Marketing defined,
these important terms and abbreviations is consistency. Too many novice Marketers, or Marketers
who aren’t specialists in maximizing value through search, have adopted these industry definitions
and crossed them, combined them, confused them, and used them in a way that only further diluted their true meaning.

And even well-seasoned Marketers who simply didn’t agree with or possibly even completely
understand the terms themselves help contribute to the turning tide as well. Conferences have set
up entire segments of their educational offering around the SEM naming convention when referring
to strictly paid Marketing efforts, but those efforts aren’t strictly done through search engines. SEM,
at least from this perspective, includes PPC ads on search engines but also on third-party platforms
like Amazon and YouTube, as well as industry-focused platforms like Houzz, or Thumbtack, or Yelp.
It also includes display ads and remarketing efforts. And, as the opportunity to advertise on Social
Media continues to grow, it will include paid advertising on those networks, too.

Keeping the definitions and their usage consistent is going to be the best way to keep the
information organized in a way that makes sense for Marketers. It also helps us as Marketers to
convey our thoughts and ideas to clients, our peers, or a friend who is curious about what exactly
it is we do for a living. And that helps us when we state “Search Engine Marketing defined”.


Using the Marketing Right Terms

for the Right People & Setting


When discussing Digital Marketing – specifically search Marketing – and how it pertains to a brand
or message, it’s important for Marketers to use language that is digestible for clients and potential
clients. 8 of 10 times, non-marketers already don’t know the difference between incredibly different
key terms. Like SEO and PPC (or SEM), when speaking to someone outside of the search
Marketing community, these terms need to be clearly defined at least once, and typically more
than once, throughout the conversation. We all have those new-business pitch stories where a
client goes on throughout years of his or her life thinking SEO is responsible for paid search ads
or that paid search ads were achieved through organic optimizations.

First, the terms must be understood on a level playing field.
Hopefully, this post helps do that.


We now agree that:

– SEM and PPC refer to paid initiatives through search and other advertising platforms.
– While SEO is the organic effort that goes into Marketing through search engines.

Secondly, we must always consider who the audience is and the level of knowledge it has when
it comes to Digital Marketing, particularly search Marketing, while also ensuring we detail:

What each term means, how it works, and how it relates to the audience’s goals.

Lastly, and most importantly, we must never assume someone on the other end of our conversation knows what we are referring to when we use important industry terms like SEO, PPC, or SEM. We
must be concise and explain exactly what we are talking about. Ensure the group partaking in the
conversation agrees. On a bad day, someone else in the room may disagree and tell us we are
wrong. On a good day, though, we’ll get a room full of people all on the same page who are able
to move forward and correctly use consistent terminology for some of the most important practices
in Digital Marketing today.


Final Thoughts on

Search Engine Marketing Defined


I give credit to Sam Hollingsworth, who wrote this article. I thought it was great to put it out there
again. He specializes in general SEO, content strategy, and Social Media. And this information is
crucial to know and learn for any Small Business Owner. I also would inject, that a Business Owner
needs to hear things like this in simple and easy to digest terms and explanations. So, it can also
be portrayed as “there will be additional costs, if you wanted to directly market through “ads” …
And, instead of focusing on “getting found”, or more organic exposure, you can focus or filter
your Marketing efforts by using “Paid ads” on the networks …

As usual, your budget, how much you invest back into your business
for growth, and whatever you are willing to do to get the job done.




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