SEM means search engine marketing

SEM: paid search listing that will appear on search engines results pages.

Google is the PPC market leader through its Google Adwords network. In addition to providing PPC results on all Google searches, Adwords also provides paid results on the properties of AOL and, the # 4 and # 5 search engines used in the United States. Adwords also divides its network into a number of other partners, including other search engines and most major Internet service provider sites.

Microsoft is the other major player in the paid search of Bing Ads, which provides all paid search listings on Bing and other Microsoft-owned search engines. Through its partnership with Yahoo, Bing Adsalso provides all paid search listings on Yahoo properties. There are additional level 3 PPC networks, but they offer minimal overall traffic.

SEM is the most important area for your general search engine needs, as it fairs are much more measurable than SEO and provides a means to protect your brand while improving your site's traffic and conversion goals.

Short explanation:

Search engine marketing is, shortly explained, the digital marketing process which involves website promotions on search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo), primarily through paid advertising.

Is it like SEO, but results shown on SEM are affected by the bid (the amount of money the advertisers pay).

More exactly, SEM allows internet users to advertise their websites/products/services through search engines by using paid promotions and each time a user clicks on an advert, the advertisers are charged by these search engines.

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More academic research on the topic:

The search for information online is a ubiquitous and critically important activity in electronic commerce (Gefen and Straub 2000).

Search engines occupy a prominent place in the online world; More than half of all visitors to websites now come from a search engine instead of through a direct link from another website (Introna and Nissenbaum 2000, Telang et al., 2004).

Along with the growing importance of searches, search engines perform more important functions as critical links between companies that use the Internet to create their images and their target customers (Wu et al., 2005).

The company's spending on search engine marketing is growing faster than spending on other online advertising media and analysts estimate that spending on search engine marketing will soon capture a large portion of the online advertising pie (Garside 2007), the most important sector for e-commerce activities (McCoy et al., 2007).

A stream of research within the domain of information systems considers how information display formats can influence users' decisions and behaviors (for example, Benbasat and Dexter1985, Jarvenpaa and Dickson 1988, Kumar and Benbasat2004, Tan and Benbasat 1990, Zhang 1998).
In turn, e-commerce studies have examined how the information display format could influence consumers' online shopping behaviors (eg, Hogue and Lohse 1999, Hong et al 2004, Jiang and Benbasat 2007). ).
Despite the importance of information display formats, a specific aspect related to the order of the search engine results pages on the behavior of users has received significant attention (Evans 2007).
Professional literature reveals that the display order of search engine results could help shape brand perceptions (eg Drèze and Zufryden 2004; Hansell 2005).
Therefore, by expanding the research on the influence of the display format in the SI, this study points to another route, namely the order of viewing the search engine results, through which the display format could be significant for e-commerce companies. From the perspective of web providers, the application Search engines as powerful e-commerce tools can be extended, from extending public relations functions (New MediaAge 2007) to helping companies sell to a global audience (Lalisan 2007) , to promote small local stores at low cost (O'Connell 2007), and to build brands (average 2007).
In this study, we focus on a specific aspect of search engine marketing, the order of viewing search results and examine whether web providers, especially those that are relatively unknown, can differentiate their brand offerings by optimizing the order to display your websites in the search. Results pages of the engine (SERPs).
Despite the growing importance and growing popularity of search engines, attention related to search engine effectiveness is largely focused on the number of clicks generated (Kittsand LeBlanc 2004), although there is ample evidence to suggest that Some advertisers (eg, cosmetics manufacturers, beverage producers) are more interested in the brand impact of search results than the actual clicks on their websites (Economist 2006).
Some industry observers even claim that search results can help raise awareness, regardless of whether people click on them (Hansell 2005).
If search engines can help shape the perceptions of the brand of Internet users simply by exposing consumers to search results, they have profound implications for companies that want exposure through the so-called "door to Internet "(Laffey 2007). However, until now, companies have relied mainly on click metrics, a measurement tool riddled with fraud (Bannan 2007).
The question of whether search engine results really influence the perceptions of the brand of Internet users also remains unresolved (Thurow 2006), despite preliminary evidence in industry reports (Internet Advertising Bureau 2004).

especially for relatively unknown brands or new online stores (O'Connell 2007). To this end, we investigate how the order of viewing SERPs can affect the recognition and perception of unknown brands by Internet users. By delineating the underlying cognitive mechanisms through which the effects of the display order appear in the brand evaluations in the SERPs, we contribute to the growing field of research in the roles of search engines in electronic commerce (Jansen and Molina2006; Jansen and Resnick 2006).
From a managerial perspective, our finding provides credible support for the prevailing view that the Internet can level the playing field for companies (Saban and Rau 2005) through search marketing efforts, large or small.

We structure the rest of this article as follows: We start by presenting search engine marketing and then we get predictions about how search engine result rankings can affect the perceptions of Internet users of an unknown brand when considering three key variables of theoretical and substantive interest:
(1) Scheme of Internet users on the results of the search engines,
(2) search skills of Internet users, and
(3) the activation of the classification scheme of the search engine when Internet users are prepared to search for marks using a particular product attribute. We report the results of two controlled experiments that test the developed hypotheses and conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings.

Search engine marketing in electronic commerce

The search represents one of the most important activities for Internet users (Pavlou and Fygensen 2006).

An overwhelming majority of users search for information about goods and services on a regular basis and more than half of Internet traffic starts with a search engine (Nielsen // NetRatings 2006). Although the exact algorithms used differ among the search engines, the main players in the field (for example, Google) classify and display the results of the search taking into account the similarity of the content of a website with the query of the users, as well as the absolute "authority" of the site (Gori and Witten 2005), which is often related to the number of high quality websites that link to the focal site in the search engine.

In an electronic commerce environment, two types of analysis of marketing activities are carried out through search engines.
First, in search engine advertising, companies pay to show links to their websites in the "sponsored section" of a search engine search page.
Second, in search engine optimization, companies strive to boost their website rankings in organic search results (that is, no payment is made to the search engine) through a variety of search engines. techniques (for example, changing the structure of the sites) or hiring external consultants will develop specific techniques that will make search engines index their sites in higher positions (Delaney 2006). Search engine marketing originally employed a direct response model, but web designers recognize that search results can also have brand implications (Wasserman 2006). because the results offer a natural way for Internet users to collect information about brands (Browne et al., 2007).
For example, a report by the Internet Advertising Bureau (2004) demonstrates the impact of the brand on search engine results to improve brand awareness.
In an online retail environment, providers find that in addition to generating direct traffic for clicks, search engine marketing can improve their brand profiles (Jones 2006).
Many companies believe that even if a user does not click on the site link, he or Shemay get a positive brand experience.
This effect may be especially relevant for the best ranked results, because, like John in our opening scenario, the user may believe that the company must be outstanding or reliable in some way to be displayed on top of major search engines such as Google. . Yahoo, or MSN Search (Thurow 2006). Not surprisingly, industry observers argue that companies should look for organic search rankings if their objective is to obtain long-term sustainable brand impact (Noaman 2006).

Search engine marketing can also level the playing field for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with unknown brands, because recognized and "big" brands are not necessarily the first positions in SERPs (Fusco 2006). With marketing techniques or effective search engine optimization, relatively unknown brands may appear earlier than known ones. This phenomenon can occur for several reasons.
For example, companies with large brands may not have developed a coherent search engine marketing strategy due to complacency or lack of competitive surveillance in the search engine marketing scene (Fusco 2005).
In addition, these companies may not have paid sufficient attention to the structural problems of the website that may prevent a higher ranking (Fusco 2006).

Contextual effects in brand evaluations

Consumer research studies argue that brand evaluations reflect the direct experience of consumers with specific information about a brand (Simonin and Ruth 1998). However, contextual (or situational) factors can also influence such assessments, perhaps by generating constructive processing (Wilson and Hodges 1992).

According to this point of view, consumers keep in their memories an extensive database of information about previously stored attitudes.
Contextual factors can change these attitudes by influencing the types of information they consider relevant or diagnostic for the task, as well as their interpretations of that recovered information (Feldman and Lynch 1988).
The notion of constructive processing induced by context provides the conceptual basis for this research, in which the classified search engine results constitute a unique context for evaluating the brands in the list.
Studies in this field investigate a wide range of contextual factors that may affect focal brand evaluations; for example, consumers can change their evaluations of a focal brand depending on how the first and second tier brands show each other in retail stores (Buchananet al., 1999). Although previous research highlights the influence of various contextual factors on brand evaluations, no study investigates search engine platforms as a new context for online brand evaluations, although industry observers pro-claim strong similarities between the screens of retail sand shelves (Lee 2006).

Following a similar rationale used to explain the effect of the retail display format on consumer brand evaluations (Buchanan et al., 1999), we argue that Internet users hold specific beliefs about how search engines work and the meaning of the classifications of the search results; therefore, they may perceive that the display order of the search engine results indicates how the search engine classifies the results according to the search attribute.
In the following sections, we conceptualize how the order of viewing information as a key contextual factor in SERPs can influence brand evaluations and how this effect is moderated by the search skills of Internet users. We believe that this effect will probably occur through the activation of the classification scheme of the search engine of Internet users. In this regard, we also discuss how a commonly used, primed cognitive mechanism can be applied to activate the search engine scheme.

Information display format in electronic commerce

A series of investigations reveals that the way in which information is displayed can influence human decision-making processes by affecting the ease with which various decision-making processes are carried out (for example, Bettman et al., 1986; Jarvenpaa and Dickson 1988). According to Kleinmuntz and Schkade (1993), there are three fundamental characteristics of information visualization: the form of the individual information elements, the organization of the elements shown in significant groups and the sequence of the individual information elements. Among these three display characteristics, the sequence (or order) significantly influences the way in which information is processed (Hogarth and Einhorn1992; Russo and Rosen 1975).

Practical evidence also suggests that the sequence may have important implications for the processing of information.
A classic example is the lawsuit filed by other airlines against American Airlines, whose Saber reservation system allegedly presented American Airlines flights at the top of the screen. However, relatively fewer studies consider the possible effects of the sequence in the information visualization literature (Kleinmuntz and Schchade 1993), especially in an electronic commerce environment.
A notable exception is Hogue and Lohse (1999), who consider that by using an electronic directory, users are more likely to choose ads at the top of the results list than traditional paper-based directories. However, no study to date has investigated the role of the sequence in the context of the website. This study seeks to fill this gap by investigating the sequence of information screens in the SERPs.

Viewing the search engine scheme of Internet users

A schema refers to preexisting constellations of knowledge (implicit), beliefs and expectations stored in memory (Taylor and Crocker, 1981). Schemas can affect memory by acting as frames that integrate old and new knowledge (Brewer and Nakamura, 1984).
The scheme also plays an important role in shaping judgments and preferences in many areas, including SI applications (Khatri et al., 2006).
When making purchasing decisions, consumers act as if they have schemes for different brands or services, because they have beliefs, emotions, facts and interconnected perceptions stored in their memory as a unit (Batra and Homer, 2004).
For example, consumers have schemes that relate positioning to the decisions of the marketing mix (for example, "the best brands are in the best stores", Pham and Johar 1997), which guide their judgments about marketing stimuli. (Buchanan et al., 1999).

A growing list of tests suggests that Internet users may have a scheme (implicit knowledge) about the rankings of the results in the SERPs, such as that the prominence of the screen indicates the strength of the brand, as well as an outline on the significance of shelf displays for retail sale (Lee 2006). In particular, Internet users expect the most relevant sources to be included in the top of a SERP and may have been conditioned to consider the classification of the search results as indicative of the degrees of relevance to their search terms (Rowley 2004), as in our opening scenario, John was inclined to think that the results of his search for luxury hotels in the Bahamas were somehow classified along the luxury dimension. An industry survey indicates that a significant portion of Internet users believe that the companies whose websites appear at the top of the SERPs are the main companies in that field (iProspect 2006).
This type of search engine ranking scheme was also detected in a study conducted by Enquiro (2007), which indicates that when prospective car buyers were asked to search for fuel-efficient cars, Honda, as a test mark , it was perceived as more fuel. efficient when it appeared in the first position compared to when it was not shown on the first page of a Google SERP.

Although the ample evidence indicates that there is a classification scheme of search engines as implicit knowledge (Higgins and Kings 1981), any scheme must be activated in the working memory before Internet users can use it to evaluate the results of the search. search (see Brown and Dittmar 2005, McClelland and Rumelhart 1985). In a given environment, the particular and relevant schema of a person can be activated in working memory, with other unrelated schemes that are removed to the background, according to the context of the decision (McClelland and Rumel-hart, 1985).
Activation of the scheme can occur when people are exposed to a particular set of cognitive stimuli (Anderson 1996, Gilbert and Hixon 1991), one of the most effective is priming (Berkowitz and Rogers 1986).

Priming and activating the scheme

The literature on schemes suggests that individuals have various schemes about different things in everyday life (Domke et al.1998), for example, going to the dentist, arranging retail display brands, etc. Individuals do not rely on all applicable cognitive schemes to guide information processing; rather, they tend to rely on the scheme that is most accessible at the decision point (Higgings et al., 1985, Higginsand King 1981).
Since schematic knowledge is stored in people's long-term memory (Higgins and King 1981), academics (eg Tourangeau and Rasinski 1988; Zaller 1992; Zaller and Feldman 1992) have indicated that certain types of cognitive mechanisms (for example, priming) could be applied to the activata schema and bring it to short-term working memory (Wyer and Srull 1981), which then becomes accessible to guide the processing of information and the formation of judgments.
This notion about the importance of priming to activate the scheme has received broad empirical support (for example, Brown and Dittmar 2005, Garramone 1992, Smith-Janik and Teachman 2008).

In psychology, priming refers to the process of activating parts of particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task (Higgins and King, 1981).

As a cognitive stimulus, priming provides an effective cognitive mechanism that can activate the previously stored schema of a user and increase the accessibility of existing information in memory (see Mandel and Johnson 2002). This study focuses on a particularly relevant category of priming, that is, feature priming, which stipulates that a brand feature has a greater weight in the evaluations if the subject has been exposed to a premium associated with that particular characteristic (Yi). 1990), as through Exposure to the media or interpersonal influence.
In an online search context, an Internet user (for example, John from our opening scenario) could be affected by the concept of luxury after watching a series of television commercials about romantic vacations in the Bahamas.
In this case, television ads serve as a primary feature that can activate John's implicit knowledge of the meaning of search engine rankings: Hotels will be displayed according to their relative strength in terms of Printed brand attribute, your luxury.

When such schema-based expectations are violated, people engage in a constructive process to resolve the discrepancies (Meyers-Levy and Tybout 1989), such as when an unknown brand appears before known brands in SERPs (especially on the first page of results, that attracts the most attention). This information seems incongruous, since Internet users usually expect the best-known brands to show up first in the SERPs (Buchan 2006; Lee 2006).
The literature on incongruence maintains that there is little elaboration when information is consistent, while incongruence triggers cognitive elaboration (Mandler 1982), which makes incongruent information more memorable, because it stimulates attention and causes elaboration (Heckler and Childers 1992; Sujan et al., 1986).
The underlying cognitive mechanism for this phenomenon can be traced back to the theory of associated memory, which holds that human beings organize concepts as nodes in a memory network, and that associations between concepts in memory are equivalent to links between nodes in the memory network (Srull and Wyer1989).

When people find information inconsistent with the scheme that does not meet their expectations (eg, unknown brands that are displayed on the brands known in the SERP), they will try to retrieve additional information from their long-term memory to understand this information inconsistent.