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Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)


Search engine marketing is the process of gaining traffic and visibility from search engines through both paid and unpaid efforts. It encompasses:

  • SEO: Earning traffic through unpaid or free listings
  • SEM: Buying traffic through paid search listings

Originally called “search engine marketing,” the shorter phrase “search marketing” is now often used as the umbrella term over SEO and SEM. The longer phrase “search engine marketing” — or SEM — is now typically used to describe paid search activities.

SEM is the process of gaining traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. It is also called paid search and sometimes referred to as CPC (cost-per-click) or PPC (pay-per-click) marketing, because most search ads are sold on a CPC / PPC basis.

SEM is short for “search engine marketing,” which once was used as an umbrella term to encompass both SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search activities. However, over time, many adopted the SEM acronym to refer solely to paid search.

Social Media Marketing

Here at Search Engine Land, we generally use SEM and/or paid search to refer to paid listings, with the longer term of search marketing used to encompass both SEO and SEM.