Confused about SEO and SEM?
While both terms are used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two and how they are used. Use this information to help define SEO SEM for your business as you use them together to build successful ad campaigns, increase website traffic and search engine rankings.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) can be confusing and many people don’t know the difference. This article will:
- Define SEO SEM and their components
- Explore the similarities and differences and explain how each is used
- Tie in Google search criteria and explain how SEO SEM show up on Google’s SERP
- Weigh the pro’s and cons of SEO and SEM
- Explore how SEO and SEM work hand in hand to help businesses rank higher in searches and increase traffic
Let’s take a look…
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization, or SEO, can help to maximize the number of visitors that frequent a website by increasing the ranking organically to make the site appear higher in search engine results. When a site ranks higher, it can lead more users to a website because it will show up in search results. Businesses are always seeking out ways to rank their businesses higher to increase their web traffic and get more potential customers on their website. To help with this, search engine optimization can use codes in a website through the specific use of ALT tags, keywords, page titles, links and so much more. Google’s new artificial learning is now ranking pages to queries based on clicks on the page indicating a positive or negative user experience.
The goal of SEO is to attract users to a page and to rank higher in search results. That way when a person looks for a website, a business can have theirs show up ideally on the first or second page. The higher they can rank, the more business they will have to their sites. This can be especially helpful when you do a search that may give thousands of businesses offering similar products or services. Businesses are constantly looking for ways to rank higher in search results and SEO can help.
Search engines crawl thousands of websites every day looking for keywords and content to help give the person looking for a particular product or service the information they want. The search engine will display results that it thinks are relevant based on the search and the types of sites that the search engine has crawled and then indexed.
A search engine will rank a website based on the quality of the website’s code and usability as well as the quailty of content and how well it believes that page matches the searchers intent. It quickly reviews the content in the site to determine if it’s an appropriate match based on what a user may want in their search results.
That’s why keywords are important in developing an SEO campaign. When the content in a website has the specific keywords for a search, it can help the business to have their site found sooner online. To help businesses rank higher, every article, blog, description and landing page should be optimized to help it show up in search engine results so it can rank higher and be seen by more people.
Components of SEO
On-Page SEO components include incorporating keyword into titles, meta descriptions, headings, and alt text. These are strategic ways to add keywords. Blog posts can be optimized with keywords and links. These can help pages to load faster and when these steps are used in conjunction with social media integration, it can help with search results.
Off-Page components include natural backlinks, social sharing and social bookmarking. Sites like StumbleUpon or Reddit can help with social media sharing. These are ways that a user can find a link to an article and share it with others. Backlinks can also be shared when a site owner posts on another page and lists their business and a link to their site.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search engine marketing (SEM), is a form marketing online that uses paid advertising tactics to increase visibility on the search engine results pages (SERPS). This can be achieved through optimized and strategic ad campaigns and advertising. Search engine marketing commonly incorporates paid ads linking to blogs, videos, and articles to increase web traffic to a site.
Marketing techniques can incorporate paid advertising through Google Adwords, YouTube ads, Facebook ads and Twitter ads. This is a proactive way of drawing more traffic to a business to increase the “buzz” about products and services. Costs for paid advertising can vary and there is a host of different techniques to maximize content and increase clicks on a website.
Ideally, a business may set up a daily budget based on the number of clicks they want their ads to receive. Successful SEM ads can help a business to rank high in search results as these will target users specifically looking for a particular product or service based on keywords incorporated into the ads.
A popular way to rank higher is through Google Adwords and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Google will rank an ad by the amount spent on the specific keywords and the score the ad receives. The score is determined by the quality of the ads and the landing page triggered with a keyword that’s used in a search.
Differences between SEO and SEM
The main difference between SEO and SEM is that search engine marketing (SEM) is paid, and search engine optimization is the act of optimizing content to rank on the search engines organically. As previously indicated, SEM can include paid searches like PPC, as well as social media marketing (SMM). Never use the terms interchangeably. SEO and SEM, while working hand in hand, are not the same term. You’ll notice on Google that the paid ads have a small box that marks them as an ad.
How to use both SEO and SEM together
When done correctly, SEO and SEM complement one another well. SEO efforts will give you optimized listings and traffic through unpaid or free listings. SEM will help you to create effective and targeted advertising campaigns to help your site rank higher in searches when you buy traffic through paid search listings. Those are actually the pros of using SEO and SEM. The cons or downside to SEO and SEM are that both are only as strong as the site that’s being marketed. If a site doesn’t offer the quality that Google looks for, then the SEO and SEM efforts can lead to frustration as the ads go unnoticed and there’s no rise in traffic to a particular website. Focus on building a site that users will love and then optimize it from there.
Because advertising online continues to change, it’s important for marketers to monitor the data on their keywords and rankings. When SEO and SEM are used together, they can create successful online marketing campaigns.
Which marketing tactic is better – SEO or SEM?
Many marketers debate whether SEO or SEM is better. Marketers may tell you that search engine optimization is the best approach, but as you can tell, true search engine marketing cannot succeed without the proper use of strategic search engine optimization.
Additionally, there are many ways in which pay-per-click advertising, an element of SEM, can give a business more traffic than standard SEO methods. For example, if you are first launching a new business or a new ad campaign and you want immediate traffic and buzz, it’s a good idea to launch a pay-per-click campaign because it takes less time with SEM than it will with SEO. However, it would be unwise to strictly use pay-per-click ad campaigns as there are several great ways to utilize search engine optimization as previously indicated.
Organic SEO may take longer to show up in results, but it is also less costly. It can help to establish a search credibility that a business might not be able to readily achieve with pay-per-click ads alone.
When it comes to choosing the best tactic – SEO or SEM, it is important to evaluate the needs and budget of the business and to fully understand how to maintain your efforts and long-term business goals.