What is Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising.

Search engine marketing, promoting websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results

Search Marketing 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.

Yes, we know that can be confusing — but that’s how things have evolved. Our article, Does SEM = SEO + CPC Still Add Up?, explains the evolution in more depth.

For those who want to learn more about either SEO or SEM, see our guides below:


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