SEM is the technique of placing any website in the first few pages of an Internet search engine after a strategically defined set of keywords are typed-in.
SEM leads to an increase in hits by the targeted traffic to any website, thus resulting in greater visibility.
In the past, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad used the SEM technique to market its Post Graduate Programme for Executives, while the Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneshwar also used SEM to generate interest in one of its online programmes last year.
Other major SEM users in India are Amity University, Rai University, IMS coaching centre, Career Launcher and Whistling Woods International. In general, Indian institutes are just waking up to SEM. International players have been using SEM for quite a while now.
In India, of the top 50 education institutes, 10 spend on using SEM. Abroad, virtually every university uses this technique.
For instance, U21 Global, one of the largest online universities in Asia uses the SEM company, Pinstorm to reach out to students in India and the rest of the world. Pinstorm's other major clients are Whizlabs, INSEAD, National University of Singapore and Thomson Education.
"A lot of international universities are targeting Indian students. U21 Global is a huge player in this area for which we do work in 11 countries. Career Launcher is also one of the major advertisers through the web," says Pinstorm founder Mahesh Murthy.
"SEM helps the advertiser capture targeted traffic and offers a much better return on investment compared to other ad campaigns ," says Suresh Reddy, founder Ybrant Technologies.
Ybrant technologies has partnered Integrate Media in Mumbai to enter the Indian SEM market.
So, with the Internet enabling marketeers reach a wider range of students, online presence has become a must for the institutes.
"Today, the entire decision making process on where and what to study, starts online. Not only students, but parents also search on the net for higher education options," says Murthy.
Besides contributing towards brand-building exercises, SEM gives the institutes an option to publicise their non-performing or lesser-known programmes through SEM. IIM-A, for instance, advertised its Post Graduate programme for executives using SEM. The programme has now become a popular one among working executives.
An advantage of SEM to international institutes, however, is that they do not need a physical presence in India.
The cost of SEM varies from course to course and is different for bulk advertising (read a bouquet of courses). XIM-B for instance, paid around Rs 4 lakh (Rs 4,00,000) to advertise for one of its courses. Advertising for more than one course can cost up to Rs 8 lakh (Rs 8,00,000) or more.
Overseas institutes spend in excess of $20,000-$25,000 (Rs 8 lakh-10 lakh) in India per month to leverage the SEM advantage.