If you’re new to the world of online business, weighing up the pros and cons of SEO and SEM to determine a clear winner for your brand, can be tough.
Both new and established businesses alike often face difficult decisions on where to invest the funds of their marketing budget. For some, it’s all about throwing cash at influencers. For others, the more profitable path lies with boosting their products on Instagram.
However, regardless of your industry or sector, doing your best to reach the top of the search engine results is a must. If you think of Google as the librarian of the internet, then logically you need to submit at least one book for audiences to read. Especially if you want to compete with the millions of other authors who consider themselves to be experts within your field.
Thankfully, brands have two avenues to choose – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of assuming that these represent the same thing. While they are vastly different concepts, the end goal is the same. Enabling your business to get in front of the right types of audiences via search engines.
The Key Difference Between SEO And SEM
There are a lot of acronyms to navigate in the world of digital marketing, and SEO and SEM are often regarded as two of the most complex. However, once you understand their key points of difference, navigating the process gets a lot easier.
Let’s start with the basics. Search marketing is a term used by industry professionals to describe any advertising tactic. This helps a brand get the right attention by appearing at the top of search engine results pages, otherwise known as SERPs. By doing so, the content published should result in higher brand visibility online, which can generate high quality web traffic.
However, there’s two very different ways to get to the top of the search engine results page. SEO uses organic strategies, while SEM uses paid strategies. Still confused? Okay, let’s break it down further.
Google and Bing, Bots and Blogs
For the uninitiated, all the major search engines like Google and Bing use SEO as a way to categorise the millions of web pages published on the internet. Every day, thousands of ‘bots’ crawl cyberspace to see what’s new, what they consider to be ‘good’ content, and how to appropriately categorise this content. These bots allocate your content particular parameters, such as keywords, search intent and overall quality in order to deliver the best possible search results to queries from users around the world.
Common examples of web content that is purposefully written for SEO include blogs, landing pages, product pages and even the alt text used by screen reader software . When well written, content with properly optimised SEO will continue to generate the clicks for years at a time before it ever needs any maintenance. Put simply, SEO is everywhere, and without it, the internet wouldn’t function as it does.
However, using this form of marketing strategy never yields instant results. As infuriating as it may be, unfortunately there are just too many variables to issue a clear-cut timeframe on how long SEO takes to work. This can include things such as the age and authority of your domain, the type of content you’re posting, the keywords you’re targeting, how often you’re posting, and ultimately the overall quality of your content.
Some studies have suggested that the process can even take as long as six months. As such, it’s at this point that many brands and businesses grow frustrated with the SEO long game, and turn their attention towards SEM.
SEM is a ‘Pay Per Click’ (PPC) style of marketing mostly associated with Google Ads, including text ads, display ads and YouTube ads. Many brands view this avenue as a shortcut towards getting to the top of the results page. SEM is also known by many other names, such as paid ads, or PPC advertising.
In a nutshell, users pay every time an audience member clicks on a link that directs them to the user’s website or social media platform. It’s a popular form of paid advertising as it gives users the opportunity to be noticed by a wider audience online, and has the potential to yield instant results. At the same time, SEM still allows brands to target highly specific demographics like age, gender, location, and other interests or behaviours.
Arguably the godfather of all PPC forms of digital advertising, Google Ads – formerly known as Google Adwords – has been around for a long time, has pioneered changes to SEM systems and functions, and still reports some of the highest return on investment of any paid media format. Brands essentially ‘bid’ to show ads, service offerings, product listings, or videos to web users, and can place ads in the results of search engines like Google and Bing, mobile apps, and videos that receive commissions from allowing Google Ads to be present on their own separate platforms.
With this tactic, brands conduct keyword research and create campaigns that target the best keywords for their industry, products, or services. When users search for those keywords, they see the custom ads at the top or bottom of SERPs. The brand is then charged each time a user clicks on the ad. However, some keywords are more in demand than others and command enormous ‘auction’ rates for each bid, so doing your research is crucial.
Don’t Ignore SEO!
Even if you do opt for an SEM marketing strategy, it’s still important to remember that you can’t ignore SEO entirely. Above all, your website still needs to be optimised. The landing pages connected to your paid search ads need to contain relevant keywords, as this will ensure that you are getting the most out of your SEM campaign. Ultimately, the power of SEO and SEM work best when fused together.
If your brand needs some guidance to harness the power of both SEO and SEM in the most effective way, get in touch with us today and see how we work our magic.