The Difference Between SEO and SEM
9th Jun, 2020
Anyone who has a business, no matter how big or small, new or established, will have a website if they are serious about marketing their brand.
Unfortunately, you could have the best, most well-thought-out, and user-friendly website. But if your site does not intelligently make use of SEO and SEM, it is unlikely that it will be effective in gaining traffic and, ultimately, more sales and profits.
The concepts of SEO and SEM are certainly not new and many people will have heard of these terms being used.
While you may have a vague understanding of what these terms entail, it is important to understand exactly what they mean and how they can benefit you and your business.
Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing
Generally speaking, SEO (or search engine optimisation) refers to your organic search strategy. SEM (or search engine marketing) involves your paid search strategy.
Both SEO and SEM work harmoniously for you and, when used and leveraged optimally, they can gain fantastic digital marketing results for your website.
In the past, experts believed that SEO was simply a component of SEM and that it worked with both organic and paid strategies.
Both concepts have now since evolved and SEM is today only concerned with a paid search.
So what is SEO?
SEO is the process of optimising your website for search engines best practice standards so that it becomes more visible to the various searches done on the particular search engine.
Digital marketing experts know that SEO strategies should continuously evolve to keep up with Google’s algorithms which are also constantly changing.
It is estimated that Google has about 6000 algorithm updates per year. A high-quality SEO campaign consists of both on-page and off-page activities to gain more organic traffic.
What is On-Page SEO?
The on-page component of your SEO strategy is concerned with high-quality content and page SEO by using strategic keywords. This content should be tailored to your target audience which helps in your long term reputation and authority. It also assists with more organic traffic and ultimately more conversions.
Page URLs should be formatted well and be uncomplicated and you must ensure that pages have quick load speeds. Metadata, meta descriptions, page titles, image ALT tags, and heading tags should also be optimised.
What is Off-page SEO?
Off-Page SEO largely refers to the practice of SEO that increases the opportunity for your website to rank, but it happens off your website.
These aspects include social media sharing and social citations, including whether the content on your website is engaging on SM channels.
It also includes link building. Link building is the practice of having other relevant websites link to your website content. These are also known as outbound links.
In the long term, organic SEO will cost you far less and also has the added benefit of helping to establish your search credibility with the main search engines.
However, it is vital that you continuously create interesting, relevant, and high-quality content that can be shared on social media. This will help ensure that you always have website content that is well worth searching for.
What is SEM?
Search Engine Marketing is the process of buying ad space on a search engine listings page. This can be done via search ads or display ads/ banner ads (in either text or image format). These can also be in the form of shopping adverts, e.g. Google shop adverts.
Your SEM strategy will help you to feature higher in search engine results pages as you pay for advertisements (e.g. Google ads). Such ads are commonly known as PPC (or pay-per-click) advertisements.
These allow you to reach potential customers with interesting and relevant copy that uses strategic keywords to match search queries.
A PPC ad will feature in main SERPs (search engine results pages) alongside organic SEO listings and help you to increase your visibility.
PPC campaigns should, therefore, be a part of every marketing strategy.
Google ads are the most popular but you could also consider other search engines for advertising. These include Yahoo or Bing and, whichever search engine you choose, always ensure that you have an ad budget, know who your target audience is and formulate ad copy that is relevant and has strategic keyword variations.
Other factors to consider with your SEM include monitoring various metrics such as click-through rates, impressions, clicks, and the average cost for every click.
Of course, there are other factors to consider for an effective paid search advertisement campaign, but if you keep the above in mind, you should be well on your way to achieving good results.
The importance of having your SEO and SEM strategies working together:
With a good SEM campaign, you will be successful in gaining increased site traffic with the purchase of paid advertisements on the main search engines.
SEO, on the other hand, results in gaining increased website traffic with the use of free, natural, and organic search results. Either way, SEO or SEM should never be used exclusively or without the other, if you would like to achieve great results.
If you would like to make the most out of your website's marketing opportunities, you should work on both SEO and SEM as part of your marketing campaign.
Working in tandem with SEO, SEM can help new businesses to quickly establish a meaningful, online impression that can go a long way in advertising your service offering or product.
This immediate and effective visibility ensures that you feature higher up in search engine queries and also work to increase your organic SEO credibility.
If you have relevant and well-optimised website content that your potential clients enjoy reading, it is only natural that your SEM will be successful in the same way.
This is because search optimised content, together with web pages and landing pages that make use of strategic keywords, set the pace and go a long way in increasing your site's visibility.
SEO and PPC work well together but we recommend not relying entirely on your PPC campaign over the long term as this will have a detrimental effect on your organic SEO. As mentioned, exciting content is key and will encourage your website visitors to engage with you.
At the end of the day, your digital marketing strategy should be built around your brand’s unique needs while focusing on what makes your business different and how you wish to reach your target audience.
Of course, there is no hard and fast rule and everything depends on several factors.
When you have a deeper understanding of what you are trying to achieve in terms of your online marketing, you will naturally know how to plan your SEO, PPC, and SEM tactics to obtain the best results.