Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can be confusing concepts to differentiate and grasp. Both terms are often used interchangeably, which makes things even more problematic for those trying to decide which to use for their marketing efforts today.
And while there are similarities, there are differences between the two as well, and it’s important to understand how and why that’s the case.
SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. SEO’s primary function is to focus on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO combines both technical and creative elements needed to improve rankings, drive traffic, and in general to make sure your site is set up in a way that search engines can get to and understand.
SEM is a broader term, used to encompass different options available to use a search engine’s technology, including paid ads. SEM is often used in conjunction with researching, submitting, and positioning a website within search engines. It includes things such as SEO, Pay Per Click ads, and other search engine related services and functions that are designed to increase visibility and traffic to your website.
In the article below, we’ll discuss both the similarities and differences between SEO and SEM, and how the two strategies can work together to optimize your site.
According to Google’s Knowledge Graph, Search Engine Optimization is ‘the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine’. When it comes to optimization, both SEO and SEM can help; Search Engine Optimization is simply one of many components of Search Engine Marketing.
SEM work is done primarily on a company’s website itself. The website has to be optimized to attract the attention of the search engines. This means having quality, relevant content on it, responsive design, and the right keywords included in the content…the same keywords your customers are looking for when they search for your product or service.
There is an ongoing debate about whether SEO or SEM is a better approach to take. Some argue that organic/non-paid SEO is the best approach, and that true SEM cannot succeed without the use of organic SEO.
While SEO basics – such as the most efficient ways to build links to drive search engine rankings – have changed in recent years. Many people think “traditional SEO” is still highly valuable in generating traffic from search engines. When assessing SEO, what’s ultimately important is whether it helps drive more relevant leads, traffic, and ultimately revenue and profit for your business.
SEM’s primary goal is visibility. This happens in search engines either by getting more free traffic (SEO) or paid traffic (paid search advertising). With paid search advertising, you’re basically buying advertising space in the search engine results. You can either rank higher and get free traffic, or pay to appear in front of the searches.
The fact that SEM traffic is targeted makes it an important source of Internet traffic. Because people use search engines to find a solution to a problem or an answer to a question, searches that click on a web site from search results or via an ad are more likely to convert. This relevancy of the displayed sites and ads make SEM traffic extremely valuable to online marketers today.
People are likely searching for many things related to your business, and others may be searching for products or services that aren’t directly connected to your business. Both represent opportunities to connect and answer their questions, solve their concerns, and become a trusted resource.
What’s important to remember is that SEO and SEM are not competing services. SEO is a subset of SEM, and they both offer attractive benefits and advantages for helping you reach out to prospective customers and grow your online business. If you want to conduct business online, you’ll need to be visible in both organic and advertised links, which means you need both SEO and SEM.