SEM stands for ‘search engine marketing’ (sometimes shortened to ‘search marketing’, for those of you in a desperate hurry). It is the process of gaining traffic from, or visibility on, search engines.

Search Marketing is an umbrella term that covers two broad areas:

  • Gaining traffic through ‘free’ SEO efforts – what we refer to as ‘organic’ or ‘on page’ search
  • Gaining traffic through paid search advertising – what we refer to as ‘pay per click’ advertising

Editorial / Organic / Natural Listings:  Any good search engine, such as Google or Bing, has editorial or organic or natural listings. These are listings that appear without anyone paying for them. They are provided as a core product of that search engine, in the same way that a newspaper has a core product of writing stories about topics it believes are of interest to its readers, rather than to its advertisers.

Paid Search / CPC / PPC Listings: Search engines also have paid search ads, sometimes referred to as CPC or PPC listings. Those acronyms come from the way advertisers are charged for these ads, on a Cost-Per-Click or Pay-Per-Click basis. If you pay, you get listed. When you stop paying, your listing goes away. Similar to newspapers, these ads typically appear alongside — but separate from — editorial content. They’re also not supposed to influence the editorial coverage (long pause).