Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is a form of Internet Marketing that seeks to promote websites by

increasing their visibility in the Search Engine result pages (SERPs). According to the Search Engine

Marketing Professionals Organization, SEM methods include: Search Engine Optimization (or SEO), paid

placement, and paid inclusion.[1] Other sources, including the New York Times, define SEM as the

practice of buying paid search listings with the goal of obtaining better free search listings.[2][3]

Market structure

In 2006, North American advertisers spent US$9.4 billion on search engine marketing, a 62% increase over

the prior year and a 750% increase over the 2002 year. The largest SEM vendors are Google AdWords,

Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter.[1] As of 2006, SEM was growing much faster than

traditional advertising. [2]


As the number of sites on the Web increased in the mid-to-late 90s, search engines started appearing to

help people find information quickly. Search engines developed business models to finance their

services, such as pay per click programs offered by Open Text [4] in 1996 and then Goto.com [5] in 1998.

Goto.com later changed its name [6] to Overture in 2001, and was purchased by Yahoo! in 2003, and now

offers paid search opportunities for advertisers through Yahoo! Search Marketing. Google also began to

offer advertisements on search results pages in 2000 through the Google AdWords program. By 2007 pay-

per-click programs proved to be primary money-makers [7] for search engines.

Search Engine Optimization consultants expanded their offerings to help businesses learn about and use

the advertising opportunites offered by search engines, and new agencies focusing primarily upon

marketing and advertising through search engines emerged. The term "Search Engine Marketing" was

proposed by Danny Sullivan in 2001 [8] to cover the spectrum of activities involved in performing SEO,

managing paid listings at the search engines, submitting sites to directories, and developing online

marketing strategies for businesses, organizations, and individuals. In 2007 Search Engine Marketing is

stronger than ever [9] with SEM Budgets up 750% as shown with stats dating back to 2002 vs 2006.

Ethical questions

Paid search advertising hasn't been without controversy, and issues around how many search engines

present advertising on their pages of search result sets have been the target of a series of studies and

reports [10] [11] [12] by Consumer Reports WebWatch, from Consumers Union. The FTC also issued a letter

[13] in 2002 about the importance of disclosure of paid advertising on search engines, in response to a

complaint from Commercial Alert, a consumer advocacy group with ties to Ralph Nader.

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