Search engine marketing is a vital tool for businesses hoping to succeed in the e-commerce world. This is even truer during important times like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

In this article, we'll tell you what it’s about, the advantages and disadvantages of investing in this type of ad campaign, the differences between SEM and SEO and some little tricks for a good paid media strategy. Keep reading!

What is Search Engine Marketing? Generating conversions

Search Engine Marketing (SEM), involves marketing actions on search engines (such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.), or search marketing. In short, it consists of advertisements on web search engines.

With an SEM strategy, a company or website pays Google to position itself through a series of keywords. To do this, we must take into account the CPC (Cost per Click) and PPC (Pay per Click).

Key Point: When you search for information on Google, you usually see two types of results:

  • Organic: these are websites that manage to appear among the first few results through a series of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques

  • Inorganics/ads: these are shown at the top, just below the search bar 

We will refer to the latter in this article. Theoretically, SEM also covers SEO, but in practice, marketers make rather large distinctions between the two terms.

What can you achieve with SEM?

What we achieve mainly with a good SEM strategy (always accompanied by a good SEO strategy) is to increase our visibility on search engines or social networks.

Main features of a good SEM strategy

  1. Showcase your brand (branding and inbound marketing)

    • Generate conversions (main goal)

    • You pay only for results

    • Scalability (you can do growth calculations)

Advantages and disadvantages of SEM

SEM positioning has many benefits and some very minor disadvantages if used as the sole strategy:


  • Investing in SEM means appearing first in the search engines for certain keywords that your user is looking for

  • It is a strategy with fast results

  • When you bid or invest in those keywords, you can forecast spend and ROI

  • Allows you to segment traffic

  • Real-time monitoring allows you to make adjustments

  • Democratization in search engines

  • Traffic is proportional to investment


  • It can generate some dependence on paid traffic

  • It's very unlikely you'll be able to do it alone, you need SEO and good content

How to define an SEM strategy?

As we said before, keep in mind that SEM on Google is paid by the CPC, meaning every time a user clicks on your ad/link in the SERP you’ll be charged a certain amount.

You must also have a clear idea and know how long you want to keep your ads running. Whether your main goal is selling, increasing your impact as a brand, getting leads … or whatever else may be your focus.

Decide on the keywords you want to invest in, the terms that fit what you offer: SEM for your business.

At the same time, you also have to determine geographic targeting(remember the local positioning, which can also be regional, national or international—always depending on your digital marketing strategy).

And of course, the ad that will be shown in the SERP: title, and a couple of lines of content in addition to the link.

  • Important! Don't make your SEM strategy in a couple of minutes and leave it. Returns on an SEM strategy may be faster than SEO (organic positioning) but you have to choose the keywords, the time and the region carefully and thoughtfully.

  • Keep in mind: When it comes to defining a good positioning strategy with ads, we can't forget about search trends (seasonal, event-driven, newsworthy trends)

  • Extra Tip! Your ads have to be very close to what the user is looking for. You must give him or her what he or she is looking for, not what you think is convenient.

And for that reason, there are several marketing analysis and help tools, some free where the numbers are subject to objectivity as well as specific tools for the Google Display network.

Combining SEO and SEM

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of using a range of techniques, including HTML code rewriting, content editing, site navigation and link campaigns - among others - in order to improve a website's position on Search Engine Results Pages for particular search terms.

It does not require media spend but it can generate great long-term results. SEO is not a matter of a month, two or even three—it takes time and effort to get good results. Mind you, when you do get them, however, they're very rewarding.

That's why our recommendation is to ALWAYS mix SEM strategy with SEO and "attack" both sides of the same “race.” If the prize were speed, then SEM would be the winner while SEO positioning would get you what’s going on in the background.

Social Ads

Finally, we cannot forget another very important part of SEM, which is advertising on social networks: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Quora, Reddit … and yes, even Pinterest.

You will have to decide what social networks you should advertise your business on; all while creating a good customer journey and positioning yourself on social media and with the type of ads indicated: video or photo content, events, or display banners… but really, the options are endless. Click here for some Facebook advertising tips.

Learn more about Clever ads and Clever ecommerce.