Internet users from all around the world use search engines every day to learn new things, consume media, and go shopping. Search engine marketing (SEM) is a powerful marketing technique that helps make it easier for companies to get discovered on the search engine results page (SERP) and reach a larger consumer base. Most people find the information they need on the first page of the SERP, and search engine marketing helps to ensure that people are seeing your ads and web pages as quickly as possible. Even if consumers don’t end up exploring a page after discovering it on the SERP, search engine marketing is still helpful for increasing brand awareness and revenue. Learn how search engine marketing can help you achieve your business goals.

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What is SEM?

If you’ve seen ads appear at the top or right of search engines, then you already know what SEM is. It is a type of marketing that involves positioning a URL or ad on the SERP to maximize traffic and increase visibility for a website. 

SEM often involves paid search, where companies pay to have their ads show up at the very top of the results page. When your ads display in these optimal, highly visible positions, your business can have an edge over your competition. Plus, most searchers only click on the first few results, which gives these premium ad spots a visual advantage to catch the attention of your future customers.

Paid search ads are typically distinguished with an “ad” designation in front of the URL. Ads may also appear as a list of product images which lead to more information about purchasing products related to the search terms that were entered. The brand is then charged when a consumer clicks on an ad, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.
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How does SEM work?

Here’s how SEM works to help your business:

  • People search online for a product or service
    They enter search terms (called keywords) into search engines like Microsoft Bing.
  • These searchers then find your ad
    If the keywords in your ad match a search, your ad appears next to or above the search results on Microsoft Bing.
  • Customers reach out to you
    With SEM, you can configure your ad so that people have the option to call you, visit your website, or go right to your door.

Check out the SEM glossary to learn some of the most commonly used terms in search engine marketing.

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Cost of search engine marketing

You control the cost of search engine marketing and pay nothing for your ad to simply appear on the search engine. Your accounts are charged if someone clicks on your ad, and only up to the amount that you agreed to for that click. That’s why SEM is also known as pay-per-click, because you only get charged for each click that your ad generates. No click? No charge.

With Microsoft Advertising, your accounts are free to set up, and billing is flexible. You choose between a prepay or post-pay option, as well as various payment methods. If you are uncertain about anything, there is free help to answer your questions before activating your campaigns. You can also pause them at any time. Remember, you’re not billed until someone clicks your ad.

SEM costs can be controlled even further with strategies in bidding and targeting.

Get started with search engine marketing tools

  • Sign up for Microsoft Advertising. Signing up is free and only takes a few minutes.
  • Get free coaching for your business’s SEM. Free coaching helps set up your first ads quickly.