While few marketing tools truly fit all businesses, paid search advertising comes close. Why? Because it allows sellers to meet buyers at the exact moment they intend to buy. When used strategically, pay-per-click (PPC) ads can equip any company with a wide range of competitive advantages—heightened exposure to target audiences, attractive placement in online search results, and even access to consumer demographics and data trends. Basically, search-engine marketing (SEM) improves both sides of business transactions: the seller gains revenue more efficiently because it targets customers strategically, and the buyer can find the seller more easily because the company has invested in its customers’ search habits.


In short, SEM (search engine marketing) is advertising that aims to show a business’s website or content above other sites on search engine result pages (SERPs). Google Adwords is the most popular SEM tool with 63% of the market share as of April 2017; the tool applies to all Google searches and requires businesses to create campaigns consisting of groups of keywords and corresponding ads. For example, Jim’s Hotdog Stand might enter keywords like “hotdogs” and “hotdog stand,” which would prompt Google to show an ad for Jim’s Hotdog Stand whenever someone searches for those keywords. The ad could contain links to Jim’s Hotdog Stand’s website, customer reviews, business locations, or even a direct call button that will only appear on mobile devices. The best structure for an AdWords campaign varies by company. Companies can also identify negative keywords and phrases like “dogs for sale,” so Jim’s Hotdog Stand won’t show up uninvited on the hunt for a new family friend.


AdWords supports various marketing objectives (awareness, lead generation, conversions)

There are a wide range of ad types to support the objectives:

  • Text
  • Banners
  • Videos – YouTube
  • Retargeting
  • Automated ad optimization
  • Visibility into performance of the best time of day, day of the week, and locations
  • Completely custom campaigns
  • Controlled bidding options

The major difference in paid search advertising compared to other channels lies in its massive potential for budget control and insight into online user intent. In SEM, the key is the customer. While other media channels target prospects who may not be seeking to buy, paid search is all about bringing business to those who are seeking to buy—and what moment is better to introduce yourself than the moment a potential customer is looking for your product or service?