SEM and SEO are two different approaches to search optimization and are essential to your marketing strategy for increasing website traffic, grabbing your audience’s attention, and growing your business.
Without the proper knowledge of the differences between SEM and SEO, search optimization can be difficult to manage for your business. While these terms may sound the same, they are separate techniques for improving your search visibility.
At Higher Images, we’ve put together a guide on the differences between the two techniques and how you can effectively use them to boost your brand.
Before we can dive into SEM vs. SEO, we need to understand the terminology that comes with this type of marketing. Search marketing is defined as any tactic that is used to help brands attract attention by improving their visibility in search engine results pages. This includes the efforts made to increase ranking and to improve search visibility to drive more traffic to a company’s website or specific pages on the site.
Within search marketing, the two main categories are SEM and SEO. SEM utilizes paid strategies to appear in search results, whereas SEO uses organic strategies to appear in search results. To create a clear marketing plan, it is crucial to treat SEM and SEO as separate strategies.
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and refers to the part of search marketing that utilizes paid tactics that are used to gain more visibility in search engine results. A paid SEM strategy typically includes the activities completed to set up and optimize your ads, as well as budgeting that is used to pay for ad placement.
SEM is also referred to paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. The most commonly used SEM search provider is Google Ads. With SEM, research is conducted to find the best keywords for your business. Campaigns are then created targeting the top keywords for your products, services, or industry.
When users search for those specific keywords, they will see your custom ads at the top or bottom of the search engine results. Each time a user clicks on the ad, the company is charged, hence the name pay-per-click.
SEO stands for search engine optimization and is a search marketing strategy that uses organic tactics to improve search engine result visibility. When you use SEO, you don’t pay for ad placement on search engine result pages. An array of tactics are used to prompt the search engines to show your content near the top of the search results because the content is valuable and authoritative.
There are hundreds of SEO tactics that can be used to help you increase your search rankings, and they are often separated into three categories:
The best SEO strategy combines all three types of SEO to create the best results.
SEM and SEO do share some similarities. Both SEM and SEO:
Now that you understand their similarities, let’s take a look at the differences between SEM and SEO:
Since your SEM results are paid placement ads, you will be charged each time a user clicks on the result. When a user clicks on an SEO search result, you will not be charged.
Your paid ads that are placed through your SEM techniques will often be identified as an ad with an icon that says “Ad” next to the placement. Search results that appear due to organic SEO tactics are not marked as ads.
SEM and SEO results appear differently in searches. With your SEM search results, ad extensions may be included, which can include callouts, phone numbers, or additional links. On the other hand, SEO search results will typically appear with a featured snippet.
With the paid SEM ads, you have the ability to place your results in front of your target audience in just a few clicks. When the campaign is launched, you will immediately start showing your ads in the search results. SEO tactics take time and can sometimes take months of implementing SEO strategies before your company begins to build rankings on search engines.
SEO tactics grow and build up over time for lasting results. SEM, on the other hand, only works as long as you pay for the results to show up.
To determine whether SEM or SEO is right for your brand, consider the following factors:
For brands that have been in business for a while, you may already know what your customers want and the best avenues for reaching them. If so, we recommended that you start a long-term SEO strategy to give your brand value over time.
If you are new to the industry or are unsure how customers will respond to your products, services, or content, then an SEM campaign would be your best bet. This will allow you to test the waters with your ideas and offerings.
When developing an effective marketing strategy, it is crucial to look at your competitors to see what they are doing to maintain their edge. Look at how they are performing in search marketing to help your brand determine the best way to compete with them.
Start by researching the keywords they are organically ranking for and consider a plan to top their search engine results page placements. You will also want to research the paid terms that are using to drive traffic to the websites. Look for any gaps that you can take advantage of and any areas where you will struggle to compete with them in organic and paid search.
Before considering an SEM strategy for your brand, you will want to consider how much you will need to spend to show up in the paid results. The cost-per-click for specific keywords will vary based on your competition. If you find the cost-per-click is low, then SEM may be a great strategy for you. Higher costs may indicate it’s best to focus on SEO.
If you’ve just opened your business, it can take time to see results with SEO. You may want to consider SEM strategies first to reap the benefits of ad placement while building your SEO.
With so many factors to consider, there is no simple answer when choosing between SEM and SEO. At Higher Images, our team is well versed in the ins and outs of SEM and SEO, so for more insight on what is best for your company’s marketing strategy, contact us today! *