What Is SEM?

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder

January 7, 2016 | 5 Min Read

Article updated on July 8, 2022

What is SEM?  

SEM is an acronym for the phrase “Search Engine Marketing”. Also known as “paid search,” it’s the strategic process of purchasing ads on search engines like Google to drive highly targeted traffic to a specific website or online digital property. Call us and learn more about SEM HERE.

What does paid search look like in 2019?

As of 2014 almost half of all digital marketing spend was allocated to digital search with 31% being spent on paid search. In the same year, it was projected that there would be a growth of 16% per year in total online advertising spend. What that means for small, medium or enterprise sized businesses is that paid search is becoming an essential marketing strategy as the digital landscape evolves. 85% of retailers understand that paid search and SEO strategies are the most effective ways to acquire customers. Furthermore, SEM is now the most used marketing tactic with 66% of B2B marketers reporting that it’s part of their marketing strategies. Search Engine Market Share Here’s some food for thought, Google currently holds 63.8% of total search engine market share. What that means for businesses looking to stay competitive in 2016 is that implementing a paid search program into their online strategy can add a powerful traffic and revenue channel that can help a business grow. SEM Glossary


Refers to the term “click-through rate.” Represented as a percentage, it’s the rate at which a target audience engages with an ad by clicking on it. This metric is important because it helps PPC campaign managers and businesses measure the success of an ad.


Is an acronym for the term “cost per action.” It means advertisers pay for the desired action from an online advertisement. Some examples of desired actions are:
  • Filling out a landing page or contact form
  • Newsletter Registration
  • Website Registration
  • A Purchase
  • A Click


Means Pay-Per-Click (also known and CPC or Cost-Per-Click). This is the amount the advertiser pays whenever a consumer clicks on one of its ads.


Refers to Cost Per Thousand. This SEM billing model charges an advertiser every time one of its ads is displayed to a target audience regardless of whether or not the person click on it. The billing rate is usually billed for every 1000 times an ad is displayed.


SEM is at it’s most effective when combined with SEO. A Sound digital marketing strategy uses each to compliment and inform the other. SEM has a faster effect driving paid traffic immediately. SEO is slower to take effect but is longer lasting and builds strong consumer trust and loyalty. Learn more about SEO and get more out of your website.



Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt

CEO & Founder

Aaron Levenstadt completed his degree in Statistical & Data Science at Stanford University. That focus has given him an unparalleled data-driven approach to search engine digital marketing. Prior to founding Pedestal Search, Aaron worked at Google at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View California. At Google he worked on the Organic Search, Paid Search and Google Analytics products, which equipped him with extensive knowledge of the mechanisms driving Google’s algorithm and other internet search engines.