SEM, including PPC, is the use of paid search platforms to attract targeted traffic to your website. It requires a budget, but it can generate results very quickly. And, while PPC is often the largest and most demanding component of SEM, both PPC and SEM are payment initiatives that offer real-time data, ROI and protected data that can only be accessed by advertisers on certain platforms. SEM marketers often create their campaigns to target the highest possible search intentions by creating ad groups that focus on “brand terms” (their own brand or those of their competitors, such as “Nike tennis shoes”) or highly specific “unbranded” searches (sometimes referred to as “unbranded”) for their products or services (for example, conferences have organized entire segments of their educational offering around the SEM naming convention when referring to strictly paid marketing efforts, but those efforts are not made strictly through search engines).
Some of the most common mistakes occur when it comes to similar and related, but distinctly different, concepts of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). SEM refers to paid search marketing, while SEO is unpaid traffic (companies rank in search results based on having the most relevant content for a given keyword). Search engine marketing (SEM) is paid or unpaid digital marketing on any search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. SEM can show your ads in the results instantly, since you basically pay for the ranking on Google's search results page.
But, while Wikipedia defines SEM as “a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility on search engine result pages (SERPs) mainly through paid advertising, it's not that fast to call them exactly the same way. Search engine marketing is the practice of marketing a business using paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages (or SERPs). From a high-level point of view (and don't worry, we'll look at the details a little later), SEO is the process of improving your website to generate traffic, while SEM uses payment methods to appear in searches.