Search Engine Marketing (SEM): What Is It & How To Create A Great Campaign

Updated: May 28th, 2024


Social Media - (Paid)
Lead Generation
Cost Details
On average, SMBs spend $9K to $10K per month on SEM, which includes ad spend and management costs

What Is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to an advertising strategy that generates ads in search engines to position brands among the top results.

Unlike SEO, SEM strategy works through paying for keywords so that your content appears in the top position in search.

SEM can be effective in driving traffic to your website and improving conversion rates.

Search Engine Marketing Key Takeaways

  • Search Engine Marketing, when used effectively can increase sales and promote brand awareness.
  • Target your ads carefully and be sure to budget for your campaign
  • Make sure your SEM message correlates with your landing page. Otherwise, you may confuse potential customers.

Understanding How SEM Campaigns Work

Search Engine Marketing uses paid advertisements that appear on the search engine results page. Advertisers bid on keywords that searchers use on search engines when looking for products, services, or general information about a topic of interest.

SEM, popularly known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns, is different from Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEM campaign ads come in a variety of formats. The ads can be text-based, visual-based, or even product-based advertisements.

Search engine marketing offers the advertiser the opportunity to put their advertisements in front of motivated customers who search for products and ready to purchase.

The top benefits of running SEM campaigns are:

  • Increased search engine visibility which is ideal for lead generation
  • Higher chances to convert visitors to customers through better targeting techniques
  • Increased brand visibility leading to brand awareness and growth
  • Intent-based marketing creating the potential to attract prospects and drive them towards your sales funnel
  • SEM campaigns are measurable and easy to monitor

Real-world Examples of Awesome SEM Campaigns

1. Lords & Labradors

Lords & Labradors is UK's leading eCommerce site for luxury pet products. Founded in 2013, Lords & Labradors, the company today has branches in 17 countries including the USA and Australia.


Lords & Labradors noticed the demand for high-quality puppy products and kits and engaged Click Consuilt, in a bid to increase visibility and sales through their website.

Because of dedicating their efforts to SEM, Lords & Labradors has seen the following results:

  • Increased revenue by up to 36.2%
  • Increase subscribers by 37.1%
  • Organic sessions increased by 35%

2. Payoneer

Payoneer is one of the largest online payment service companies in the world. The company's objective was to introduce new services to users and increase registrations.

After a successful SEM campaign, Payoneer saw increased client growth, with the average monthly growth at a whopping 4751%.


How To Create Winning SEM Campaigns

  • Research your target market in-depth
  • Identify and use advanced targeting options
  • Create an ad campaign with related yet different ad groups
  • Experience with different ad versions to see how changes impact ads performance
  • Leverage ad extensions to improve the performance of your SEM campaigns
  • Create a stunning landing page for your users

You can create and manage SEM campaigns using different tools. Examples of tools for SEM campaigns include:

Entrepreneurs may lack enough time to learn and understand how these tools work. If that is your current position, the easiest approach for starting an SEM campaign is to hire experienced freelancers to run and manage your SEM Campaigns. You will find reliable freelancers on platforms like:

Google Adwords

Advertisers pay to display brief advertising copy, product listings, and video content within the Google ad network.

Businesses using Google Adwords:

818 successful businesses are using Google Adwords ➜

Get Google Adwords ➜


The largest freelancing website, where businesses connect with talented freelancers.

Businesses using Upwork:

582 successful businesses are using Upwork ➜

Get Upwork ➜


Makes it simpler to hire freelancers online from over 3 million professionals and get freelance jobs from thousands of projects posted on its freelancing.

Businesses using guru:

Get guru ➜

Boost Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM is a form of paid marketing, and when implemented properly, it can be a very effective way to grow your business.

We want to quickly highlight the difference between SEO and SEM:

SEM refers to businesses paying per click Google to show their ads in the results, whereas with SEO, businesses do not pay google and instead, results show up based on relevant content for a given keyword.

When getting started, you'll want to consider identifying which keywords to use. WordStreams Keyword Tool is a great tool for this.

Then, simply search for a keyword that is relevant to your business and suggestions/valuable information will populate for you.

Jay Vasantharajah, co-founder of ClientFlo walks us through how to get started with SEM and GoogleAdwords:

Case Study

"The best way to learn is honestly through experience. Create a campaign, set out a test budget, optimize, and learn the basic as you go."

There are tons of resources out there to help you learn how to effectively manage campaigns.

There are also a couple of tools that are helpful like SEMRush and Wordstream. But over the years, Google started to incorporate new features that have made many of these 3rd party tools obsolete. I myself have developed proprietary tools I used to create and manage campaigns, but they have become obsolete with new features Google has added.

Definitely become familiar with the Google Keyword Planner, really powerful tool if you know how to use it properly. It will help you discover keywords worth bidding on, different trends and insights.

As mentioned earlier, users having familiarity with your brand/company plays a huge role. For this reason I would recommend starting with a re-targetting campaign as a first step.

Consider Adwords!

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that Google Ads is still an amazing advertising platform and almost any business can generate a positive ROI from it. I strongly encourage everyone to consider it in their marketing mix for 2019. Learn to use the Google Keyword tool, test, learn, and optimize constantly for killer results.

Jay Vasantharajah, on starting PureFilters ($200,000/month) full story ➜
meet the author
Pat Walls

I'm Pat Walls and I created Starter Story - a website dedicated to helping people start businesses. We interview entrepreneurs from around the world about how they started and grew their businesses.