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Basic guide to Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

If your company's goal is to start generating brand awareness and obtain a higher conversion rate, your solution is SEM positioning. This type of campaign serves to increase your company's visibility within the search pages.




What is SEM?

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is the set of tools and strategies that serve and help to optimise the visibility and increase the accessibility of brands, as well as attract more traffic to websites and web pages through search engines. Including Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other search engine.

The ultimate goal of any SEM strategy is to appear in the best possible position among the search results (SERP, Search Engine Result Page) and thus direct a qualified audience to your website quickly.

There are two types of SEM strategies:



These ads do not appear in the search engine when the user has made a search. In this case, the ad is displayed in banner format in places such as websites, apps, social networks, etc. for users to click on.



Búsqueda (Search)

These ads display paid links in the list of search results of any browser. Basically, these are text ads containing keywords that users will enter into their search engines.


How does SEM work?

The operation of SEM campaigns is based on a combination of machine learning and the bidding system.


Machine learning

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence used to find patterns within large volumes of data to make predictions about future trends. With this technology, data can be simplified, valuable information about users can be obtained and their attention can be captured.

With machine learning, as SEM campaigns are launched, the algorithm learns from the preferences that users have based on the interactions or conversions they make with the ad.

Sistema de pujas

In order to get the paid advertising space at the top of the search results, advertisers bid on keywords. Basically, whoever wins the bidding will be placed first.

To make bidding work, two important things must be identified: The keywords you want to bid on and the maximum budget to pay per click on them. Once Google gets the keywords you want to bid on, your ads go to the auction phase. Remember that the ads will only appear in searches with commercial intent.

There are 5 main factors that determine the bidding system:

  • Maximum bid: The maximum amount you are willing to spend per click on your ad. 

  • Ad quality: The indicator that search engines use to determine the relevance of the ad to the user. 

  • Ad Extensions: The added information the ad provides (phone number, links to specific pages, etc.). 

  • Ad placement: The ad will rank higher in the search engine, depending on how your bid and the quality of the ad and landing page.

  • Ad context: The ad context is the part you choose where you include user information such as location or search time.


Differences between SEM and SEO

Although SEM and SEO strategies sometimes go hand in hand and work best together, each has specific objectives that make them different. Let's see what they are:


SEO is organic and SEM is paid

SEM strategies are used to increase the visibility of your website in search results. SEM is also called PPC (pay-per-click) marketing. It is a business model where advertisers pay every time someone clicks on the ad.

SEO strategies, on the other hand, encompass more than just paid marketing. It refers to organic, non-paid results that appear in search engines as a result of promoting relevant content that ranks well in search engines. 

With an effective SEO strategy, you can get traffic in the medium to long term, while SEM ads help you achieve your short-term goals.



Both SEM and SEO strategies are distinguished by their placement on search engines.

Generally, the ads that form part of an SEM strategy are published at the top or on the right-hand side and are identified as advertisements. On the other hand, the contents of an SEO strategy, the organic publications, appear in the central part of the search engine page.



What you can achieve by including SEM in your digital strategy

By including SEM in the digital strategy, it is a very effective way of attracting traffic and increasing visibility, as well as providing benefits such as generating conversions.


Increase qualified traffic to your website

The SEM strategy is very effective when it comes to attracting users' attention and generating clicks. Moreover, by being able to filter users based on the words they search for, you ensure that the traffic will be made up of people potentially interested in your product or service.

Make your brand or company known worldwide

An SEM strategy ensures that your ad is positioned at the top of the search engine, so it is a way to make your brand known. Even if the user does not click the first time, they will find your brand in the first place, and this will make them associate it with the need they have.


Generate conversions

With the SEM strategy, the aim is to bring the product or service to the user to create a need or solve an existing need. This strategy takes the advertisements to the users inserted in the search engines so that they resolve that need and end up generating the conversion.

Contextual advertising

Contextual advertising is placed in the search engine based on the relevance of the page content. This advertising identifies which websites will be most relevant to the ad through keywords. So as an advertiser you can use contextual advertising to choose where you want your ads to appear, as you choose the context.


Key concepts of your SEM strategy

To understand what SEM is and how to use it, you need to know the most important concepts to keep in mind:

  • SEM: It is the digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility and traffic of a website through search results.

  • SEO: It is the set of strategies and techniques that focus on optimising the organic positioning of a website in search engines. It is also called "free" traffic as a result of promoting relevant and useful content, well positioned in search engines.

  • SEM positioning: This is the paid positioning procedure used to reach the top positions in search engines.

  • SEM campaign: These are marketing strategies in which money is involved to position an advertisement in search engines. It encompasses all actions that accelerate the positioning in a search engine.

  • Keyword: Keywords are the terms that users enter into the search engine that will trigger ads.

  • Text ad: A type of ad that uses text to promote products or services on the search network.

  • Ad group: this is the internal structure of the campaign. These groups are made up of a list of keywords and the different ads.

  • Search Network: group of search-related websites where your ads and organic product cards can be displayed.

  • Impressions: The frequency with which an ad is displayed. An impression is counted each time an ad appears on a search results page.

  • Clicks: The number of times an area of the Google ad is clicked on, taking the user to any of the possible destinations: a web page, a call, a map, a form, etc.

  • CTR: Percentage of impacted users who have clicked on a brand's ads.

  • CPC: The value we will pay for each click users make on an ad.

  • Quality Score: The quality score is an estimate of the quality of the ads, keywords and landing pages of the ad.

  • Daily budget: The amount that is set to invest in each ad campaign per day. 

  • Landing page: The landing page is the page within the advertiser's website that the user lands on after clicking on the ad.


How to develop a SEM campaign, step-by-step

In order to develop a successful SEM campaign, certain aspects and points must be taken into account.


Keyword research

Keywords are the most important step in an SEM strategy, as they will be the terms that will activate the ads in front of those users interested in a product or service related to our offer.

In order to choose the keywords, the following aspects must be taken into account:

  • Analysis of the product or service

  • Use of keyword tools

  • Filtering and selection of words

Campaign creation

The process of creating a campaign varies depending on the platform you have chosen. However, there are some things you should keep in mind to make the process as effective as possible.

  • Define a campaign budget and maximum bids.

  • Establish ad groups. In your strategy there must be different groups of keywords that are related, these groupings will help you to generate very specific ad groups and achieve maximum relevance.

  • Optimise the design and wording of your campaign landing page. If you can have multiple pages depending on the audience and product, so much the better.

  • When creating ads, it is very important to run different creatives to compare the results obtained.

Measurement and optimization

SEM is based on the continuous optimization of campaigns once they are running. You must continuously monitor the results of the campaign in order to improve aspects such as keywords, creatives or other elements.


Recommendations for your SEM strategies

In an SEM strategy there must be some factors that must always be present, both before launching the campaign and afterwards. So we show you these recommendations so that your campaigns meet their objective.



In order to do a good segmentation, you need to know the target audience you want to reach. When choosing users, you can segment them based on their interests, the sites they visit or the content they consume. Once segmented, you can choose keywords that match the searches of these users and that will make your ads more attractive to users.


Relevant keywords and constant updating

In order to get the right audience for your brand, as mentioned above, it is very important to do keyword research. If you get your ads in front of the right audience, you will get more clicks and possibly more conversions.

  • Use keywords with commercial and transactional intent

    In terms of search intent, commercial and transactional keywords can be used. These refer to those users who have a purchase intention at the end of the search.

  • Review keyword volume and competition

Strike a balance between competitive and less competitive keywords that are very specific to your audience and thus attract mature potential customers.

  • Check the cost per click (CPC)

    This means that the most competitive words are the most expensive. So you need to research what the CPC will be so that you don't bid too low and your ad is not selected to appear.


Combine your SEM strategy with SEO

Combining the SEM strategy with the SEO strategy will ensure that the consumer experience is good from start to finish. The content that appears in the ads (SEM) must be reflected on the landing page (SEO).


Include an effective landing page

One of the main advantages of including a landing page is that the destination to which users arrive is free of distractions, as it has been created especially for the campaign.

The landing page is where users will go once they have clicked on the ad. Remember that the landing page experience is one of the factors that make up the quality score of your ads. What goes into the effectiveness of a landing page? Useful and relevant information, easy navigation, number of links on the page and user expectations.


A/B test your ads

Test your ads by changing an element such as a different call to action or modifying the size or colour to see which one works best. This way you can adjust your strategy based on the ad that worked best.


Constantly review your campaign

With SEM campaigns, daily monitoring is key because the cost of the ad. These regular reviews are not only reflected in the number of clicks you receive, but also in their quality.

  • Add negative keywords

    By adding negative keywords, you will avoid your ad appearing in irrelevant searches. 

  • Optimise your headlines

    The headline is the highlight of the ad, so it should be clear and specific about what your brand offers, it should use keywords in a natural way and it should fit the user's intent.

  • Write click-worthy descriptions

    Descriptions should contain content that will entice users to click and should not be too long. To write effective descriptions you can strategically place keywords so that users know that the ad matches what they are looking for, and always include a call to action to attract clicks.


Main platforms for SEM

For SEM to work properly, a good campaign must be created in the most important search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo.

Google Ads

It is the main SEM platform in Spain, as it is the search engine with the highest number of searches. These are some basic concepts to use this tool correctly:

  • Keywords: Keywords allow Google to know which ads are relevant for a specific user at a specific time.

  • Match types: Match types indicate to what extent the term entered by the user in the search engine must match the keyword.

  • Ads: The advertising displayed on Google is based on text ads with title, visible URL, description and extensions.

  • Video ads: Video ads on YouTube make users interact through these videos as they are easier to remember and share than textual content.

  • CPC: this is the price paid for each click on the ads.

Bing Ads (o Microsoft Advertising)

It is a very good alternative to Google Ads, as it comprises a relevant potential audience and has very good targeting and configuration options. Here's how it differs from Google Ads:

  • Negative keywords have a stricter match.

  • Bing Ads sets a minimum quantity to generate maximum bids.

  • With Bing's location options, you can choose a radius within a city or postcode.

  • Ads can be scheduled only when the local shop is open or to appear visible in 15-minute increments throughout the day.

  • Bing has image extensions that are used to display images of your products and services to increase the visibility and appeal of your ads. It also has extensions for actions that only Bing has, which is an extension that integrates a button that can be configured with different CTAs: call, purchase, reservation, etc.

  • Different time zones can be configured within the same campaign and ad groups without the need to create a campaign for each time zone.

  • It offers transparency in terms of the sites where ads appear, to the point that you can choose and filter to see which partners work best and which do not.


Yahoo Ads 

This is Yahoo's advertising platform, which allows it to reach users who use this search engine through different advertising formats:

  • Search Ads: This is the SEM format par excellence, in which ads are displayed on the search engine when users enter a specific keyword.

  • Display Ads: these ads are placed at the top, side or bottom of the website. They can also be placed in the middle of content and are also used for remarketing.

  • Sponsored Ads: Sponsored ads can appear in formats such as images, carousel and native video ads.

  • Mail Ads: these ads can be integrated in the inbox as well as through banners.

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