Search Engine Marketing: What Every Online Business Needs to Know

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The world of online marketing has been growing at an accelerated pace, and many techniques have emerged to help businesses promote themselves on the web. These techniques have evolved with time and become more efficient in terms of performance and costs.

One of the many techniques employed in online marketing is SEM – search engine marketing. The objective of SEM is to increase the visibility of websites among SERPs (search engine results pages). SEM is an umbrella term that encompasses different processes for increasing websites’ visibility, such as SEO (search engine optimization) and paid display advertising on search engines.

The techniques SEM uses can be classified into four different categories. They include:

1. Keywords

There are three steps that search engine experts have to look into to be able to increase search engine visibility:

i. Indexability

Whenever a search is requested by a user, search engines scan through their indices. Some websites are not included on indices for certain reasons such as violation of the rules laid down by Google, Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines. There are plenty of ways that websites can get banned from the indices of search engines. They include:

Duplicate Content

One of the criteria search engines use to rank websites is the originality of their content. Hence, if your website contains content that has been copied word-to-word from another website, it is likely that it will be banned sooner or later. Also, make sure that no other website copies content from your site, otherwise both of you will have to face the consequent reaction from search engines.


Another practice that early SEO experts used to employ to increase visibility in SERPs was cloaking, and some still do — only to find out that their website no longer appears among other search engine results any longer. Cloaking involves the hiding of keywords and links (that increase the visibility of websites) behind CSS layers, matching the color of the text to that of the background.


The higher the density of keywords in a website, the higher it is likely to appear among search result pages. However, content too dense with keywords ruins the website visitor’s experience. Since it is a search engine’s role to recommend users to particular websites, they’re responsible when a person lands on a keyword-ridden page. Hence, search engines now penalize websites if they go overboard with keywords. Although they don’t entirely ban them from them their indices, they lower the websites’ ranking among other results. The maximum keyword density should be 5%.

ii. Finding Keywords

Once SEO experts confirm the presence of their websites on search engines’ indices, they find out which keywords people are likely to use to get to their website. Different people from diverse geographical locations and with varying demographic backgrounds may use various keywords while searching for the same thing.

iii. Inserting Keywords

Once keywords have been identified, SEO experts pass them on to content developers, who create or edit content on the website to incorporate keywords.

2. Website Saturation

Another factor that contributes to visibility of websites is the number of its webpages present on search engines’ indices. The more webpages that are indexed, the more saturated the website’s presence will be.

3. Website Popularity

Website popularity refers to the number of backlinks a site has. Technically, a backlink is a node on any other website, web page, directory, etc, that directly leads readers to the website in question.

SEM experts first measure a website’s popularity and saturation. Some of the tools they use to do so include Search Engine Saturation, Marketleap’s Link Popularity, Top 10 Google Analysis and Link Popularity. Once they find out about a website’s current status, they know exactly how much effort to put into the case.

4. Back-end Tools

Back-end tools include HTML validators and web analytics tools. They help SEM experts find data related to the visitors of a website. This data could include their geographic location, IP address, the browsers they use, sources that referred them the website in question, and the amount of time they spent on the website and other web pages they visited before and after hitting the site.

Back-end tools can either be as simple as traffic counters or log files that experts use. Three popular tools that search engine marketing experts use to find in-depth information about the visitors of websites include:

  • NetiQ’s Web Trends
  • Web Side Story’s Hitbox, a tag-based analytic program
  • TeaLeaf RealiTea, a tool that focuses on transactions

5. WhoIs

WhoIs another tool SEM experts use to find out the identity of people behind certain websites. This information can be obtained only to the extent to which the owners may have allowed their website hosting services to make information available about them. Legitimate sites do not have any issue sharing their basic information with people on the internet. In fact, they make themselves available so that they can be contacted easily.


Often people get confused between the terms SEO and SEM. As mentioned earlier, SEM is a superset of SEO. SEM incorporates all the tools used by experts to increase visibility of websites among search engine results, including search retargeting, paid search advertisements on search engines and organic search engine optimization. However, the term SEM is often used to denote PPC (pay per click) ads. Hence, it is important that the definition of the term search engine marketing first be clarified by those discussing its different aspects.


Travis BanksTravis Banks
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Travis works for HostPapa, a green web hosting company serving over 100,000 customers around the world.

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