By David Glenn | Small Business

    The internet has managed to change the world in ways that many would never have thought possible. One such area that has rapidly evolved since the early 90s is marketing. As more and more people began to spend time online, it became apparent that not only was there money to be made by the savvy advertisers who could find ways to take advantage of this this new resource, but also that marketing would soon give way to an entirely different entity altogether. Digital marketing is one of the fastest growing industries in business, and has become a necessity for all businesses, big or small.

    Today, search engine marketing (SEM) is growing much more quickly than conventional advertising techniques, relying on natural, organic search engine results in addition to paid advertising placement to influence internet users.

    Specifically, SEM relies on practices such as search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) to draw increased traffic to websites. But although SEM may depend upon these different techniques, it is still something entirely different and separate from them.

    See, search engines allow internet users to quickly and easily sift through the millions of terabytes of data available on the World Wide Web. This makes the internet manageable, but even more importantly for marketing firms, it creates one of the only opportunities for companies to connect with users directly.

    Of the billions of internet user in the world today, 88% shop online. Others will regularly research potential purchases online before buying anything in a store. Online review sites offer (ostensibly) unbiased opinions for customers to take into account before committing. For example, those who wish to research home automation providers will want to check out Vivint reviews, or read personal accounts from FrontPoint clients. Whatever the intent, the search engine remains the first stop for the modern shopper.

    Thus, search engine marketing is really the drive to make sure that your company’s site is ranked highly on the search engine’s return page. The closer to the number-one spot that it is, the more likely Internet users will notice and click on it.

    To reach this goal, companies will often choose to either invest their time in social media, SEO practices, or to use PPC (and may occasionally utilize both). SEO involves creating relevant and authoritative content on your site that will utilize a search engine’s natural algorithms to place the site higher on the results page. Although this method is technically free, it does require substantial time and effort to achieve results. Additionally, whereas certain marketing firms in the past have relied on unethical “Black Hat” SEO techniques to illegally boost their ranking, new search engine updates are making it ever more difficult to accomplish these goals through “cheating.”

    PPC, on the other hand, is a quicker—if also much more expensive—alternative to SEO. Those with large marketing budgets may choose to use PPC to give their web traffic a quick boost. PPC results are often held separate from the more common organic results (which may be featured in banners that include the words sponsored links or some variation). PPC requires advertisers to pay web publishers a set amount for every click that the advertisement receives.

    Certain organizations may also use SEM for purposes other than sales. Companies that wish to attract new employees may rely upon SEM to find potential hires that are better suited to the business’ specific philosophy. This helps to reduce employee turnover rates, and broadens the hiring pool.

    SEM marketing has become a must for most modern businesses. SEM specialists are available for hire to help struggling companies decide upon the best ways to utilize SEO, PPC, and other techniques to increase traffic and drive sales. Although this may seem like an unnecessary expense, it’s important to recognize that having wonderful products and an impressive website don’t amount to much if users are never able to locate it.

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