SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.
What Is SEO?
All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads.
What Is SEM & Paid Search Marketing / Ads?
SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.
“Search Engine Marketing” was once was used as an umbrella term to encompass both SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search activities. Over time, the industry has adopted the SEM acronym to refer solely to paid search.
SEM and/or “Paid Search” generally refers to paid listings, with the longer term of search marketing used to encompass both SEO and SEM. Below are some of the most common terms also used to refer to SEM activities:
Paid search ads
Paid search advertising
PPC (pay-per-click) *
PPC (pay-per-call) – some ads, particularly those served to mobile search users, may be charged by the number of clicks that resulted in a direct call from a smartphone.
CPC (cost-per-click) *
CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) *
*Most search ads are sold on a CPC / PPC basis, but some advertising options may also be sold on a CPM basis.
Google AdWords is by many measures the most popular paid search platform used by search marketers, followed by Bing Ads, which also serves a significant portion of ads on Yahoo.
Beyond that, there are a number of “2nd tier PPC platforms” as well as PPC advertising options on the major social networks.
In addition to covering general paid search trends, you can find the most recent news about SEM and helpful tips to get started with PPC ads on the major search marketing platforms below:
Yahoo: Search Ads
Each platform offers its own getting started guides and helpful tutorials.
In 2014, Google AdWords released a new video about how AdWords PPC auctions work: