Understanding search engine marketing

SEO. SEM. PPC. SERP? An overwhelming amount of terms get thrown around in conversations about digital marketing. But don’t let that scare you off—understanding digital marketing, and specifically Search Engine Marketing, is invaluable for your business.
Ranking high in search engine results can have a major impact on the number of qualified leads coming to your website. Here are some numbers to know:
  • 80 percent of internet sessions start with a search.
  • Up to 33 percent of people conducting a search will click on the first organic result of a Google SERP, or Search Engine Result Page.
  • Less than 10 percent of searchers advance to page 2 of results.
  • Paid search drives at least 10 percent of traffic to websites, but leads from Pay Per Click (PPC) ads convert at a higher rate than organic.
  • Google fields at least 1 trillion searches per year, and Bing handles millions more.
There are a lot of prospects looking, but most of them venture no further than the top half of the very first search page—and that’s why your ranking matters.
The basics: What is "Search"?
To understand how search works, check out this clip from my recent conversation with colleague Duane Forrester on SEO:
Here’s a real life example: let’s say you need to buy boots. But which boots? If you’re like 89 percent of would-be buyers, you go to Bing or Google to search for information about boots. When you type in, “Where can I buy boots?” what comes back is a SERP – a Search Engine Results Page.

On the SERP, there are two kinds of results: organic and paid.

How websites are ranked in organic results is based on complex algorithms, but in brief, search engines like Bing or Google are constantly looking over websites to evaluate the content each site contains. They do this so when you ask for information on boots, the search engine can provide you with the best possible places to find answers.

Got it. Then what is "Search Engine Marketing"?

Search pages are a great point of intersection on your customer’s purchase journey. They’re looking for something that you can provide, and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can get your website in front of them while they’re looking.


SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a component of SEM, but SEO is the art and science of convincing search engines that your content is so valuable, and your site will provide such a useful experience for searchers, that the search engine should list you at the top of relevant SERPs. Let’s listen to Duane break it down further: