What is SEM?

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Many people are still asking in the current market, what is SEM? And is it something I should be utilising? SEM simply stands for Search Engine Marketing – that is, the process of gaining more traffic on your website using paid strategies to appear on search engine results pages. 
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SEM Platforms and placements

An SEM platform is just the search engine which allows you to place an ad that appears when you have searched a topic, most successfully Google. Your ad then appears on the search engine results pages (SERPS), and how high up this list depends on your ad rank which we will describe below.
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Where you get placed

When a customer types in a search request, a process occurs which is described as an ‘ad auction’, determining where your ad gets placed within the SERPS. This is based on a number of factors, but has been boiled down to a formula:
Max CPC Bid x Quality Score = Ad Rank
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SEM Keywords

When you set up your SEM campaign, it is necessary to identify the keywords you want to target or even avoid. These keywords are crucial for ensuring your ad is relevant and therefore successful. For example, if you target the words ‘ceiling fan’, your ad will show when the user has typed in that search. These keywords are often split into groups:

Broad Match Keywords

This targets any word or phrase which is related, including synonyms, misspelling, and anything similar.

Phrase Match Keywords

This targets an exact few words, but includes extra words added before or after, such as the best ceiling fan, or find me a ceiling fan.

Exact Match Keywords

This targets the same intent of the user, accepting misspellings, shortened versions and reordered words to gain results that match the exact search, like ceiling fans or cieling fan.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords, as suggested by the name, are words that show what you do not want. These include all of the above types, aimed at getting rid of searches that may be tangentially related, but do not fit with your ads intent or that of your campaign.

SEM Targeting

Once you have used your keywords to target which searches will produce your ad, you can take it a step further with SEM targeting. This allows you to further specify and narrow down the parameters to ensure your ad is being seen by the right people, at the right time.
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Conclusion

SEM is a paid process through which you can gain more clicks by appearing higher in the results pages of a search engine. It is different from SEO, which is not paid but rather uses organic methods to again try and gain a higher rank and appear more often in SERPS. You can better your chances in the ‘Ad Auction’ which determines how high you are through many factors, like how much you are willing to pay per click and your historical performance, and improve your keywords to make your strategy more impactful. By correctly using and utilising SEM you can improve the traffic on your site and convert that into more sales with the right targeting. SEM is an effective marketing strategy within the Search Marketing umbrella, and if you have any further questions about SEM, and whether or not it is right for your brand, please don’t hesitate to ask us for more information and guidance.
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