Does your marketing strategy include search optimization? If not, your business is invisible to people searching online. That’s a big mistake, especially when you consider that there are tens of thousands of searches on Google every second of every day.
Search optimization helps search engines understand your website. The engine then determines if your site is helpful to users. Successful search optimization puts you at the top of search results. It drives traffic to your website. It builds brand awareness and grows your business.
But, the first step is a clear grasp of the terminology. It’s hard to plan if you don’t know the differences and similarities between SEM and SEO. SEO uses an organic strategy to appear in search results. SEM is a paid strategy. It’s best to separate the categories for a clear marketing plan.
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) uses organic tactics to appear in search engine results. There’s no payment for placement. When a brand appears at the top of search results in an unpaid position, it builds trust with consumers. The search engine puts the company first because it’s content is the best match for the search query.
For that to happen, the information must be reliable, authoritative and valuable. There are many ways your brand can use SEO to increase search rank. The best are the following white-hat SEO techniques:
• On-Page SEO
On-page SEO attracts search engines with specific keywords on every website page. The keywords appear in product descriptions, educational information and blog posts. On-page SEO informs search engines. The search engine ranks the page based its content. Relevant content ranks higher.
Brands optimize search results with keyword research. They find and use specific keywords for their products and services. The right keywords drive qualified traffic from search results to the website.
• Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO connects to other quality websites. This connection increases a brand’s reputation and authority. Techniques used for this are link-building and profiles in local directories. When quality websites link to a brand site, it tells search engines the brand is trustworthy.
• Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to techniques used on parts of the website that aren’t content. Site architecture, speed and structured data affect search rankings. Making a site mobile-friendly is essential for higher ranking. Technical SEO makes the website experience good for visitors and search engine crawlers.
What Is SEM?
Search engine marketing (SEM) uses paid tactics to appear higher in search results. A paid strategy includes a budget, creating ads and paying for placement. Many people refer to SEM as paid search or pay-per-click marketing. Google Ads is the search engine provider often used for SEM strategy.
When a brand employs SEM, the first step is to find the best keywords for their products and services. This can include industry-specific terms. When someone searches those keywords, they see paid ads above the organic results. The ads are pay-per-click because each time someone clicks on the ad there is a charge. SEM serves your ads to people already searching for your products and services.
Understanding The Differences: SEO vs. SEM
• Targeting Your Audience
SEM lets you choose distinct demographic filters like age, location and income. These parameters determine who sees your ads. SEM shows your ads to your target audience. You can’t specify who sees your search results with SEO.
• Cost For Clicks
The advertiser pays each time someone clicks on an SEM result. You must include pay-per-click costs in your SEM budget. There is no charge when a user clicks on an SEO result.
Paid SEM results look different from organic results. There is an icon next to the listing that says AD. A row of SEM image ads includes a “SPONSORED” tag. The icons reveal paid placements. SEM results have ad extensions with extra links, phone numbers and callouts. Featured snippets may appear with SEO results.
• Immediate Impact
When you use SEM paid placement, your audience sees your ads right away. Once a campaign launches, the ads appear. You can turn the ads on or off as needed. Want to increase visibility for a promotion? Turn on the ads. When the promotion ends, stop showing them.
SEO builds over a period of time. Your brand starts to rank months after creating content and implementing a strategy.
• Long-Term Value
While SEO takes longer to rank, it adds long-term value to your brand. SEO has lasting results that grow over time. The first two or three organic search results get the most click-throughs. Lower organic search results are often ignored.
SEM only works when you use it. When you turn off your ads, the strategy ends. But, if your organic search results are low, SEM puts you in front of consumers.
• A/B Testing
If you want to test an idea or promotion, use SEM. You can turn SEM paid ads on and off as needed. Try an ad. If it doesn’t work, turn it off. After you revise the copy, change demographics or build a new landing page, turn the ad on again.
SEO vs. SEM: What Are The Goals?
• Get Your Company In Search Results
The goal of each strategy is to place your brand at the top of search results. This shows your brand to people searching for terms related to your business.
• Drive Traffic To Your Website
Both SEO and SEM try to increase click-through-rates. The goal is to drive traffic to your website where visitors become customers.
• Use Keyword Research
Keyword research is essential for both strategies. Identify which keywords perform well, reach your audience and fit your budget. Research your competition and the keywords they use.
• Identify Your Target Audience
Successful SEO and SEM rely on knowing your target audience. Pinpoint the wants, needs and habits of your buyers, then create content and ads that offer value to them.
Which Strategy Is Best For Your Brand?
There’s no one answer when weighing SEO versus SEM. The right approach depends on your business goals.
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