Search engine advertising (SEA) is a branch of online marketing and, together with SEO, a discipline of search engine marketing. In SEA, advertisements in the form of text or images are posted on search engines such as Google or Bing. The advertisements then appear prominently in the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). The posting of advertisements within the framework of SEA belongs to the main source of income for search engine providers.

SEM vs. SEA vs. SEO

The terms SEO, SEA, and SEM are mainly used less selectively. The following description will try to compare and contrast these marketing terminologies.


  • Search engine marketing, abbreviated: SEM
  • Combination of SEA and SEO, branch of online marketing


  • Search engine advertising, abbreviated: SEA
  • Posting of ads in the form of a text or images on search results pages or other websites
  • Ad booking in the SERPs based on bids on keywords for which the ads are placed
  • Good ranking can be achieved through optimization of text ads and offers
  • Clear control of advertisement measures with calculable success
  • Means to increase traffic or improve the brand
  • Can be part of a temporary marketing campaign
  • Many possibilities for targeting or retargeting
  • It can be part of remarketing
  • Acknowledged as advertising


  • Search engine optimization, abbreviated: SEO
  • Includes measures to optimize websites for crawling and indexing by search engines using on-page and off-page optimization.
  • Good rankings can be achieved through optimization of the website onpage and off-page factors
  • No decisive guarantee that optimization measures will lead to better positions for certain keywords
  • Branding is more of a secondary part of an SEO strategy
  • SEO is often long-term
  • Targeting can only be done through tests, evaluations, and estimations that lead to the adaptation of the content or seeding
  • Rather “invisible” for the user

Objectives of Search Engine Ad:

Search engine advertising is usually a part of a marketing or branding strategy. One of the primary objectives of SEA is to increase the click-through rate since the number of clicks on a website can quickly be increased through the posting of advertisement space. In addition, the Conversion Rate is particularly important for the SEA, as it ultimately determines how high the advertising costs are, and thus the ROAS.

At the same time, search engine advertising can also be used to generate advertising pressure through page impressions from display campaigns. For the most part, advertisements are used by customers in the e-commerce industry since SEA is aimed at persuading the user to buy. Thus, one of the main objectives is to increase conversions in the form of sales.

However, newsletter subscriptions, downloads, or reviews, and leads, can be manipulated through search engine optimization. The scope of the SEA measures is thereby always dependent on the amount of invested advertising budget as well as the actual search volume of research keywords.

Google AdWords:

Google Adwords is a product of Alphabet Inc. that offers marketers a wide range of advertisement opportunities in the SEA field. The principle of placing ads through AdWords is based on auction. Advertisers bid on specific keywords or they pay for clicks and impressions on display advertisements. Factors, such as the quality of the landing page, quality of the ad text, as well as relevance of the keywords and positive history of the AdWords account, play a crucial role in the final placement of text ads or banners. Banners or text ads posted through Google AdWords are always regarded as advertising. The following forms of advertising are possible using Google AdWords:

  • Classic text ads: An advertiser selects keywords with which his/her text ads will be displayed on a prominent position in the This entails creating the so-called campaigns that, in turn, consist of ad groups. Every ad group is categorized into advertisements based on the selected keywords. If a user searches for one of these keywords, the corresponding AdWords advertisement is displayed.
  • Product listing ads: With the so-called Shopping Ads (former Product Listing Ads), Google AdWords offers the possibility to place product ads that are directly created from a product file generated by the customer. The modulation is done by specifying the Structured Data in the data feed.
  • Display ads: These are ads in the form of images or text that are placed on platforms belonging to the Google advertisement network. Registration for this network can be done through the Google AdSense platform.

Google AdWords offers the possibility to combine different forms of advertisement of SEA. Simultaneous placement of PLA, text ads, and display ads is, therefore, possible. The AdWords platform is one of the most used SEA tools in the world.

  • Video ads: Advertisers in the Google AdWords program can also place ads on YouTube. Text or video ads are available for this purpose.
  • Gmail-Ads: If you use Google AdWords, you can also book ads in Gmail Payment is made via CPM or Cost-per-Click.
  • With the AdWords Express program, Google offers small companies the possibility to use SEA without having to create their own The thereby required files are automatically generated by Google. The advertiser only provides his/her advertising budget.

Bing / Yahoo ads:

Together with Yahoo, Bing also offers its own SEA platform. Bing / Yahoo ads]] function in a similar way to Google AdWords. However, due to Google’s market dominance, Google AdWords is the platform that is mostly used for SEA in Germany and Europe. Nevertheless, a comprehensive SEM strategy should also include possibilities to advertise on Bing and Yahoo. This applies, for example, to the USA, where Bing has a significantly larger market share than in Germany.

Other SEA platforms:

Besides the major search engine providers, almost all larger search engines offer their own advertising programs. SEA, through specialized search engines, can also be advantageous depending on the targeting. As an alternative to purchasing ads from Google AdWords, for example, Amazon product ads can also be placed on the Amazon platform.

For example, if a website also wants to be successful in Russia, SEA for Yandex, etc. should also be taken into consideration. If an online shop wants to advertise vehicle parts to specific target groups, it also has the option to place its ads on different car comparison portals.

Posting models:

In SEA, posting ads is done based on different provisions:

  • CPC (cost per click): Here, the advertiser specifies how much he/she is willing to pay per click.
  • CPA (cost per acquisition): The advertiser specifies how much he/she is willing to pay per conversion achieved through the advertising measures.
  • CPM (cost per thousand): The advertiser specifies how much he/she is willing to pay per 1,000 impressions of his/her adverstiments.
  • Cost per call: Here, certain advertisement portals offer the possibility to specify how much an advertiser is willing to pay per visit, Google AdWords, for example.
  • Cost per lead: Depending on the web portal, costs for leads such as subscribing to a newsletter or downloading a PDF can also be agreed upon.