Starting in 2014 and kicking things up a notch two years later, Google’s Keyword Planner tool began grouping volumes for similar terms. Instead of showing keyword A gets searched 100 times per month and keyword A1 gets searched 50 times per month, both would show 150. Google said the reason for this to make sure “you don’t miss out on potential customers” and to “maximize the potential for your ads to show on relevant searches.”

The key distinction is that SEM is a broader strategy which combines paid search and SEO tactics. So, if you set up a PPC advertisement, but don't take steps to optimize the ad or the website it links to, this is a standard example of paid search. However, if you optimize your site and your search content with solid keywords, then you put money behind it to boost it on targeted audience's search pages, then you're dabbling in SEM.

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