Graphic that says PPC or SEM and has a check mark above SEMIn the beginning (circa 2000 for the digital world), there was pay-per-click (PPC), and it ruled the online world, so much so that all of search engine marketing (SEM) was known simply as PPC. That was primarily because in the infancy of online marketing all that could be bought were clicks, so the way people paid for their ads was connected to number of clicks.

Fast-forward 18 years — that’s several generations of time in the digital realm — and the online marketing world is a dramatically different place. Now we can pay for impressions, conversions, and much more besides clicks. So much is different now that it’s time to ditch PPC as a describer of paid SEM efforts.

So much is different now that it’s time to ditch PPC as a describer of paid SEM efforts.

Related: SEO vs. SEM: What’s the difference?

Let’s ditch umbrella term PPC

Today, search campaigns may see impressions as the key performance indicator (KPI) and not clicks. Or, maybe clicks are meaningless, but conversions on the site are everything. Luckily, Google and Bing have come to understand this and allowed for payment options to accomplish just that. Instead of only paying per click on a search ad, we can now pay for the impressions earned or conversions tracked.

Starting to see how PPC doesn’t fully encompass all paid search engine marketing efforts? Think about cellphones. At first, they were all about using a wireless, cellular network to make telephone calls, hence cell + phone. But now, cellphones do so much that people rarely use them to actually make phone calls. Now smartphones are just becoming “mobile,” as in “mobile advertising.”

Just like one part of the device (phone) was the name in the beginning, one form of payment, PPC, is no longer the paid media tactic. Instead, PPC is now one of several ways to pay for something, known as a “bidding strategy,” in the online marketing world. It’s a part of some tactics but not the whole shebang.

Out with the old, in with the new

At Two Rivers Marketing, we’ve done away with using PPC as a synonym for SEM efforts. We feel it’s important to not box such an important media tactic into a corner of only paying per click. Our clients have seen great success when we’ve recommended using the cost-per-thousand-impressions or cost-per-conversion bidding systems.

Let’s retire PPC as a tactic and keep the umbrella term of SEM instead.

Have questions about online marketing? Contact us. Our digital marketing pros are always happy to talk about pixels, algorithms, clicks, conversions, and all things internet.

Resources
Search Engine Land. “What is SEM and paid search marketing?”
Ultimate. “What is the difference between PPC and SEM?”
MaxRoy.com. “SEM = SEO + PPC: Definition and distinction of the terms.”
Google Ads Help. “Understanding bidding basics.”

About Hope Waggoner

Hope Waggoner, a Drake University grad, plans and executes search, display, social, and video advertising. When she isn’t buying media placements, she enjoys watching “The West Wing” and attending happy hours. For all your media questions, reach out to Hope anytime at hopew@2rm.com.