Search Engine Marketing Guide for Beginners

With marketing jargon thrown around left, right and center when it comes to business, it can be easy to get confused if you’re new to the industry. But it’s worth knowing your CTRs from your SEOs from your PPCs! Marketing is an essential component of any successful business, and search engine marketing is one of the best places to start.

Here’s all you need to know about search marketing as beginners.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing is a way of increasing your internet traffic and generating more sales via search engines – either using paid ads or by optimizing your website to rank highly in the search results.

SEM generally refers to paid search marketing (or pay-per-click ads), unlikely traditional SEO (search engine optimization) which involves optimizing your website to rank for specific keywords. SEO can take a lot longer to see results, so many marketers start with SEM and focus on the SEO alongside.

Who Should Use it and Why?

Any business looking to achieve an online presence and increase their website traffic could benefit from using SEM. While there’s a lot to take in, search marketing for beginners is actually very simple, and even a very small budget can still have an impact.

As with all marketing, it’s essential that you test and analyse the results of your campaign no matter how small your budget. This will enable you to see what’s working and what’s not, and adapt your campaigns accordingly.

Key Terms:

Search marketing for beginners can feel a little overwhelming. Know your stuff before you get started with these key terms.

  • PPC: Stands for pay-per-click. These are ads in which you pay a sum every time a user clicks on your advert. Essentially, you only pay when your ad is clicked on.
  • Impressions: The number of people who have seen your ad. If you are targeting a high traffic keyword you may have thousands of impressions, although this doesn’t mean you will have lots of clicks.
  • CPC: The amount of money you pay to the advertiser or search engine when someone clicks your ad. This price will depend on how competitive your keyword is. Keywords with extremely high traffic will have a higher CPC.
  • CPM: Stands for cost-per-mile, but essentially means the cost per thousand impressions. If a marketer charges you per thousand impressions, it doesn’t matter how many people click your ad – what matters is how many people see it.
  • CTR: The click-through-rate is the number of people who clicked your ad compared to the number of people who saw it. If 10 people saw your ad and 9 clicked on it, your CTR is 90%. If 100,000 saw it and 500 clicked it, your CTR is 0.5%. The average CTR across all industries is usually just under 2%.

SEM vs Social Media Advertising

More people look for businesses on search engines, so it makes sense to focus on SEM before you move your efforts to social media advertising.

However, it’s essential to know your audience and try to work out which type of advertising might appeal to them more. Social media also allows you to deliver highly targeted ads based on what they have revealed about themselves on their profiles.

While SEM is best focused on initially, investing in both SEM and social media will pay off in the long-term.


SEM is often confused with SEO (search engine optimization). The two are not the same, as many people think, and SEO is actually more like a subcategory of SEM.

While they both have the same goal of increasing website traffic from search engines, SEO is focused solely on getting your website to rank higher in search results, which can take a lot longer to achieve. SEM, tends to have more focus on PSA (paid search advertising), which has more of an immediate impact, but costs more.

How does SEM Benefit Small Businesses?

SEM benefits small businesses for so many reasons, and it’s a great way to get your website traffic heading in the right direction.

1. Instant Traffic from Search Engines

Often small businesses just need a little boost, and paid marketing generates instant traffic. While standard SEO can take months to see even minor improvements in keywords rankings, paid ads allow you to, quite simply, buy your way to the top of the search results.

2. Quickly Generate Revenue

Startup costs are often enormous and businesses need to begin generating revenue as quick as they can. If you have a solid product and a great website but simply lack the traffic, search engine marketing help you, meaning you can quickly and easily start making sales and generating revenue.

3. SEM Is Scalable

Starting small with paid advertising is the best way to begin, but SEM is entirely scalable. Once you figure out what leads to the most clicks or conversions, you can grow your advertising efforts. Start small while you are figuring out your magic formula.

4. Targets the Right Audience

By being able to set the keywords, location and more, you are easily able to target who you want – including those who are searching for a product like yours but might not have known about your smaller company. Target the right audience, and your CTR will skyrocket.

5. Cost Effective

SEM is extremely cost effective as you can set your budget as small or large as you like. Small PPC budgets can be extremely effective providing your prioritize your goals, run A/B tests, schedule your ads at the right time and target as accurately as you can.

6. Huge Advantages Over Competition

Finally, SEM offers huge advantages for small businesses over competition. While more established businesses may rank higher on Google, you can rank higher still by paying to be featured at the top. This sets you up as a contender against the older and better known businesses.

Should you use SEM?

Whether you’re just getting started or already generating millions, search engine marketing can be used by practically any business. Smaller businesses simply need to ensure they set, and stick to, a budget, run the correct tests and know their target market inside out. Once you figure out what works, search engine marketing is an easy way to increase website traffic and start generating those initial sales.