With the evolution of web marketing, the language we use as marketeers has also undergone a sea change. Often, we use the terms SEO and SEM interchangeably without understanding that while there are similarities, each is a different form of web marketing online. Search engine optimization/SEO has been thought of as free web marketing while Search Engine Marketing/SEM is paid.
- SEO: Traffic for Free
Search engine optimization is the process of getting traffic from free, natural, organic or editorial search results on search engines. The discipline and industry of SEO is evolving with Google’s ever changing algorithms. SEO is made of on-page and off-page activities as two main pillars.
- On-Page SEO
This includes meta data, including page title tag, meta description, image ALT tag and heading tags while incorporating target keywords. A well-written and optimized page copy incorporates key target words. Web marketing SEO also encompasses well-formatted, simple pages and URLs with unique, searched for and distinct keywords. Optimized page speed and social-sharing integration within the content is another facet of SEO.
- Off-Page SEO
This includes link building to attract and obtain quality inbound links or back-links. This makes up the majority of off-page SEO, social signals such as increasing traffic social media sharing to a website. Attracting attention from social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg are important too.
SEO is for coming up with valuable, quality content. This includes blog articles and web page copies that the target audiences find helpful. Across time, this results in increased organic traffic to the website, more chances for inbound links, and more conversions.
Pay attention to on and off page strategies. This works to ensure the landing pages, blogs, articles and web copy are optimized for search.
- Search Engine Marketing/SEM
SEM involves earning search visibility through paid ads on search engines. While ads are referred to as pay-per-click ads, there are additional terms used for paid search or SEM activities such as cost-per-click ads and paid search ads.
Google AdWords is the most popular platform for hosting ads currently, though there are many aspects needed for successful SEM such as launching ad campaigns with specific audiences and geographies in mind. Creating ad groups comprising target keyword variations is important. Write relevant ad copies using selective keywords. Setting an ad budget and monitoring metrics such as impressions, clicks, click-through rates and average CPC forms part of the ad campaign.
- SEO Versus SEM
There are so many intricacies in maintaining and launching an effective paid search ad campaign. So, which is better, SEO or SEM?
High-quality SEO is essential for high-quality SEM. SEO serves as a base for SEM through well optimised content that prospects and customers find useful. Sans the landing pages, web pages and blog content for search, SEM efforts fall flat due to lack of quality and visibility in the SERPs is extremely difficulty. Organic SEO is less costlier in the long term, as one establishes search credibility with continuous creation of social media usage and quality, exceptional content.
SEO and SEM are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. SEO refers to increasing the site visitors by snaring high search engine rankings. SEM is counted as a Web marketing strategy that increases the visibility of a site through ads. SEM and SEO as well as other search marketing tactics can be used for effective web marketing. Search engine marketing includes components of paid search such as SMM and PPC.
There are many types of situations where PPC makes more sense than SEO. If one launches a site, one wants immediate visibility. Creating a PPC campaign takes less time than SEO. Organic SEO takes longer to display results. In the end, it will be more expensive and one needs to establish a search credibility that cannot be established with PPC.
It is important to evaluate specific needs, but understanding the differences and how to maintain the momentum is equally critical. SEO is a complex strategy that improves page ranking in organic search engine results. The goal is to get a top ranking placement in search results, so internet users would opt for it. The higher a website’s ranking organically is, the more likely it is to be visited. SEO is a strategy which is multi-level so there are many activities that need to be implemented to businesses, if the page has to rank high.
SEM, like SEO aims to get clients. The only difference is the use of paid listings that increase traffic and exposure to the site. It gives the opportunity to opt for PPC which serves to promote services or products. Ads in an effective SEM campaign is shown to interested customers looking for goods. The better one targets, the cheaper SEM becomes.
The main difference between SEO and SEM is essentially the cost; successful SEO does not have to be paid, while SEM actions need money. Organic listings are free, while Google AdWords ads are not.
SEO is also a longer term strategy. It can take weeks or even months for the page to appear high on results. SEM campaigns work faster and results in the short term are effective. SEO requires skill and knowledge. It is a complex process that needs experience and patience. It is not that SEM is easy, but it is easier than SEO. PPC ads bring faster and easier results; however, they do not tie customers to the company.
- SEM or SEO?
Each of these forms of web marketing have their own pitfalls and promises. Adopt both and you’ll get the best of both worlds. Effective SEO is critical for building online web presence. SEM, on the other hand, is an invaluable tool for driving specific customers to the products looked for. SEO and SEM go hand in hand. These two terms are not used interchangeably, though.
SEM needs to be a worthwhile investment for businesses. But having an SEO strategy in place is also beneficial. Invest time and money into performing keyword research and optimizing the website before making big investments in paid ads.
SEO covers more bases than SEM. SEO drives search, social traffic and referral. If your business can handle the budget concerns, the best results can be obtained by pairing both these strategies for web marketing.