Getting to grips with paid marketing can involve a very steep learning curve, and whether you’re using Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) it can be all too easy to burn through your entire budget in a few hours without getting anything to show for it.

So if you’re new to paid marketing, check out our (very) basic introduction to find cut through the jargon and get a better idea of how it all works.

Types of paid marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

This is essential about purchasing ad space on search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) for your website. However, the term can also refer to PPC/CPC, which we’ll talk about later.

Also called ‘Paid Inclusion’, it involves paying the search engine company to display a small advertisement alongside traditional search results. It is usually possible to target specific types of users or searches, making these ads more efficient than more general ones.

This differs from PPC, as the ads are not presented as search results at all.

Paid Social Advertising

Paid social advertising is basically the same as SEM, but instead of your ads appearing on search engine results they appear on the user’s social media feed – Twitter, Facebook, etc. Sometimes these are legitimate social media content – posts, tweets or what have you – from your company, and other times thy are blatantly ads or even ‘clickbait’.

It isn’t technically SEM, but it should be a part of your SEM strategy nonetheless. As today many businesses see their primary markets spending more time on social media than in front of the television, the ability to target them with ads can be extremely effective.

Pay Per Click (PPC) and Cost Per Click (CPC)

This includes services like Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Yahoo: Search Ads. This system involves the search engine company inserting ‘sponsored search results’ at the top of a user’s search.

These are usually highly targeted, and search engines like Google will typically only show each user a handful of these sponsored results before the list of ‘organic results’. As implied by the name, you do not generally pay to have your ad displayed, but rather you pay every time a searcher clicks one of your sponsored results.

The actual amount you pay for each click can vary widely, depending on the demand for the search terms you selected.

Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPI or CPM)

This isn’t so much a way of advertising and more a way of assessing the effectiveness of advertising. CPI is the cost per individual ‘impression’ – essentially how much you actually paid every time someone viewed the ad. CPM is the same thing scaled up – it is the actual cost to you of 1000 viewings of your ad or message. In this case, the ‘M’ stands for ‘mille’, Latin for 1000.

The most important thing to remember about SEM is that it is both highly targeted – t specific search phrases, browser histories or personal details – and highly competitive. You can reach as narrow or as wide a segment of your market as you like, but you’ll be bidding against your competition for the privilege. So think tactically!