What is SEM? – SEM Guide (Search Engine Marketing)

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In the Internet world, the search engines have a big impact on how people interact and access the sites, this means that many people come to the websites through searches on sites like Google, Yahoo or Bing. We created this Definitive Guide for SEM you can make the most of search engines has to offer for your online business.

We’ll cover the main topics and questions for your site to be a traffic success. You will understand what is SEM, how search engines work, what are the main SEM platforms and how you can take full advantage of these traffic channels.

What is SEM?

SEM” or Search Engine Marketing  is a term with a complicated definition. There are basically two strands of thought about what the SEM covers. The first, and oldest, is that the search engine marketing deals with issues both SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which is the act of using techniques to optimize your website so that search engines find the pages of your site more easy to position and the first in the list of results as the paid search campaigns, or as some also call Sponsored Links or even PPC campaigns (pay per click).

The second, and more widespread today used by leading and most influential content creators related to SEM, is that this term refers only to traffic and related techniques to paid search campaigns such as search ads on Google AdWords in the search engine Of google. This interpretation is due to the size and complexity of the SEO , their technique, strategies and practices gained in recent years. He ended up becoming a thing of the SEM. We agree with the position that the market is taking to deal with SEM as just the process of gaining traffic to your site by purchasing paid listings on search engines , and this is how we will address the topic in this text.

The history of the SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

To really understand and master the SEM, it is important to know the story behind the search and paid listings engines. All this movement and building upon the search engines got their start with the companies point to ( companies exploiting the marketing of services or products on the Internet ) in the mid-90s in the United States.

The Birth (and the “death”) marketing in search engines (SEM)

The year 1994 was the year in which the search engines as we know, were born. In the beginning, these search engines had only organic listings  (list  of relevant responses generated by a search engine based on the search term entered by the user) and only started to have ads and paid ads  algunas years later. It was the summer of 1996 that the paid listings (paid ads in search engines) first appeared, and soon after disappeared for a few weeks on the Internet. At that time, one of the main companies that had the search engine service, Open Text, allowed people to buy paid ads appearing in search results. This was the birth of SEM. 

This service ” lists of paid ads ” did not have a good return for the company because users were not yet accustomed to the fact of having ads on their research, people were still not ready for this kind of marketing (SEM). The habit of people information consumption was different back then.

People were not used to depend on both the search engines, there were so many social networks and not so many people creating content as today. The e-mail lists and newsgroups were what dominated the Internet. Before long , the Open Text cancel programs paid ads .

The revival of the SEM and the beginning of x Google Yahoo war

Although Google earn credit for being the pioneer in the paid search market, the lists of paid ads reborn on February 21, 1998 , before Google entering the market paid search (SEM), with the launch of the company GoTo, founded by Bill Gross. The GoTo was renamed Overture and later acquired by Yahoo . Was founder Bill Gross, accompanied by CEO Jeffrey Brewe r and his team developed the idea of distributing the lists of paid ads to all the other major players in the search market, but Google and made the SEM reborn.

In 1999 the game at the top of the search engine market has a twist when Google launched its ad platform, and the main market to date, Google AdWords . The 2000s were marked by the fight between Yahoo and Google for the first place of the market and the minds of consumers. Both seekers, their companies and algorithms have evolved over the years, increasingly understand the mind of the user and the nuances of behavior and thought to be able to deliver the most relevant results possible for anyone who does a search. Currently, the global market is dominated in large part by the search engine Google , but there are other search engines that have a number high users, as the Yahoo Search , the Bing and others.

How Search Engines Work?

Search engines have two main functions: “surf” the web and create a repository , and give users websites lists ranqueadas by their level of relevance to the search. Understanding how search engines work is essential to be able to play good SEM campaigns. A good analogy to achieve with preender how search engines work is to think of the subway system in a large metropolis.

Map of subway lines illustrating how search engines work

A great line of the World Wide Web subway

Imagine that every single document (such as a web page, sometimes a PDF, JPG or some other file) is a subway stop. The search engine needs a way to navigate all the subway stops and that it uses the best route to your disposal: links

Links are the tracks that connect all the stops of the subway.

The links, subway tracks, are what allow automated robots , subway, also called “crawlers” or “spiders” able to access billions of documents, subway stops, interconnected via the web.

After browsing and find all those pages and documents, search engines decipher the code of these files and store them as small pieces of information in their massive databases to be consulted when a search is done. To accomplish the task of storing and accessing billions of pages in fractions of seconds, companies seekers invest in massive data centers and around the world.

Search engines responses machines =

Search engines are machines for answers, always think about it when developing your campaigns and SEM ads. By the time a person does a search, the search engine browses all its colossal database and does two things, returns with all results that are relevant to the user ‘s search and then ranks them according to relevance and popularity of each page.

What are relevance and popularity to the search engine?

Relevance is more than having the right keywords on your page. In the early days of the Internet, search engines did not go much further to understand the amount that a keyword is mentioned within a page, it influenced a lot like the professionals understand and made SEM. Today the algorithms have evolved a lot and go far beyond just understanding keywords. The algorithms of the search engines can understand user behavior within a site, how it interacts with the content, as well as many other factors, referred to as ranking factors .

A page load time, code optimization optimized images and well structured content are some of them. The principal of the ranking factors is the popularity . Search engines assume that the more popular a site, page or document is, the greater the value of the information contained therein. Popularity is determined by the amount of pages that are linking another.

How do paid search ads?

As stated above, the search engines are nothing more than answers machines. Within the SEM ad platforms such as Google AdWords , advertisers choose keywords that will activate your ad and take the customer to your website. Let’s take an example to understand better you get. When we search for the term ” buy video card ” on Google, we are impacted with a list of organic results on the first page, as sites to buy online video card and physical stores in the area to buy the card.

Google search for the term "buy video card"

But at the top of the search page, they were fired paid ads related to search. That is, once a user felt the will and the desire to buy a video card , went to a search engine and was behind a response, the companies announced this keyword will be the first response to address the need of user. That’s the magic of SEM, be present to those who need exactly when it needs to.

The biggest advantages of doing SEM campaigns

Now we understand what is SEM, the history of its evolution in the digital market and the mechanisms of search work. Having all this context in mind is essential to manage to extract the most of all the advantages that this technology and this type of marketing (Search Engine Marketing) has to offer for you and your online business.

Advantage # 1 – Be there when your client needs more

This with absolute certainty is the biggest advantage of doing SEM campaigns (Search Engine Marketing), be present exactly when your customer needs you more. Imagine you’re at home on a Saturday afternoon, just come from a family lunch and will start packing your home. You clean, scrub and after sweat hours your home is cleaner than ever, you left your mother proud. After all this effort, nothing better than a relaxing bath as well, is not it? You go to the bathroom, grab your towel and opens the shower registry. Only one problem, you turn, rotates and the water does not come out. Where you will find a plumber to fix the problem You run into the room, picks up her yellow phone book and scans the pages until you find a plumber you feel confidence to call your home? I think not.

You are sweaty, tired after cleaning and now angry because your bathroom has no water for bathing. All you most want is to take a relaxing bath and for that you look for in a search engine for ” plumber” and is the site of a nice man at the top of the searches, in a paid advertisement. You readily comes to your home to meet you and in less than one hour solves your problem. You are happy, clean, renovated and realize the value of being present when his client more accurate is invaluable to your business.

Advantage # 2 – Full autonomy of your marketing campaigns

To advertise in traditional media such as newspaper, television or radio, you need to contact the telecommunications companies to negotiate a space in these channels and then announce it in a pre-agreed contract period. Your ads appear, your brand is seen / heard.

Unlike traditional media, SEM you can even pause and start campaigns at any time through the ad platforms. Your product sold? The campaign is more expensive than you thought? You are not having the return you expect? No problem, just pause your campaigns and plan the next steps based on the collected data of the campaign!🙂

Advantage # 3 – In SEM, you spend as you want

One of the main reasons why small business owners and entrepreneurs made no announcements of its brands and companies was because of the high investments that were needed to promote their business. Hire an agency, develop arts, print material, all this generated a high cost for those advertised. Moreover, there were spaces packages sold by agencies in partnership with the media.

In the era of Internet and SEM, that has changed. You have full control of how much to invest . Through advertising platforms you can choose how much you are willing to invest in a click that leads to your website or even the acquisition of a customer for your company through a purchase.

Advantage # 4 – selected traffic to your goal

One of the biggest problems of the Internet and digital campaigns, spending is generating traffic to your site that is not relevant. Make SEM campaigns gives you the ability to advertise only to people looking for specific things that are directly related to your brand and the problem you will solve for that user.

If you sell computer parts , you have the ability to set your ads to be displayed only when people search for terms related to computer parts, or even just when they seek terms related to buying computer parts . You do not need to spend money showing up when people are looking for sporting goods, or simply want to know the weather forecast for tomorrow.

Advantage # 5 – audience segmentation to post

In addition to all the benefits of only spend to display your ads when a user searches for him, the main ad platforms (SEM) have several configurations targeting when creating a campaign. You can set up a campaign to be displayed with different segmentations, for example:

  • By gender (male and female)
  • By Age (ex .: 18 years to 24 years)
  • For device (ex .: only for mobile devices)
  • By region (ex .: only residents of São Paulo)

This makes your ads become much more assertive, and ensure a more cost effective for your SEM campaigns. You spend only impacting your audience.


In this article, we address what is SEM, the history of SEM, how search engines work and how ads work on them. In addition, we point the main advantages of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) for your business and how this type of marketing can benefit, and much, your online project. We hope this post has solved its main and most fundamental questions related to SEM and it can become a powerful tool that will help you and your business to succeed in expanding their business scales beyond imagined.