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Search Engine Marketing - SEM

SEM, SEO, PPC, CPC, are all acronyms we use in our industry to describe some of the ways in which you market online. The umbrella term is search engine marketing - SEM, a form of Internet marketing that, when successful, increases your visibility and positioning on the search engine results pages.

The SEM - SEO relationship

SEO, is a key type of search engine marketing services offered by Searchlight Interactive in which you optimize your pages for the search engines using valid SEO techniques to improve your organic (non-paid) rankings. That's SEO, often called the natural or organic component of SEM.

Paid placement or paid inclusion

The paid side of SEM (also known as pay per click or cost per click advertising), is basically paying for position among the search engine results pages.

We would prefer that you not spend your search marketing money on paid advertising. Really!

Ranking well in the organic results is much more desirable and lasting, and generally, much cheaper in the long run.

Unfortunately, SEO alone cannot always produce the desired results in terms of traffic and search engine rankings. This is especially true if you are in a highly competitive market. Some examples of highly competitive markets online:

  1. consumer electronics
  2. pharmaceutical industry (think Viagra)
  3. search engine optimization (that's us)
  4. real estate
  5. travel
  6. adult sites
  7. media (DVDs, CDs, etc.)
  8. telephony/cell providers
  9. gambing, etc.

If you want to be a contender in an ultra-competitive market, it is nearly impossible to reach high rankings for top search terms organically. Some businesses spend millions of dollars annually to maintain top organic rankings and pay even more for online advertising. So depending on your niche, it can be hard to compete in the organic results for top keywords without a cost per click component.

Fortunately for small businesses, all hope is not lost. There are many ways to drive quality traffic to your site with a relatively modest budget and often outrank your competition with the big marketing budget.

Pay Per Click advertising often offers this opportunity, but also can help boost your natural rankings on the SERPs. As such, a good strategy is to weave in a PPC ad campaign when performing SEO work.

Viral marketing/Local search

Two other forms of Internet marketing that can influence search engine rankings are viral marketing and local search. While they are not always a form of search engine marketing, they certainly are most of the time. Depending on the geographic scope of your business, whether you serve local, regional, national or international communities, local search optimization can be a powerful SEM technique. Currently, local search results are weighted higher than non-local results by both Google and Yahoo, and optimizing your site for the local market can reap big rewards.

Depending on your goals/objectives and target audience(s), a viral marketing campaign can be used to help build awareness and building awareness online generally results in more links to your site, which in turn increases your organic search engine rankings.

Pay per call & mobile search

In the last couple of years, a new twist on PPC campaigns has emerged. "Pay per call" services, mainly presented as part of online yellow page directories and networks, enable searchers to click and have an instant call back from the business of interest. Only when the call has been completed are you charged. Pay per call is most useful to businesses that receive a lot of questions from potential customers or that have no or limited Internet presence.

There are also countless verticals within search such as mobile search, where not only have the search engines created specific search interfaces for mobile devices, but the telephony providers, device manufacturers, and third-party developers are all jockeying for market share. At this point, certain businesses such as travel/lodging, recreation and restaurants, etc. may find enough of an audience to make mobile search advertising worth a look.


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