Search Engine Marketing Versus SEO

Before getting into the nitty gritty of search engine marketing versus search engine optimization, we first need to understand that using these two terms interchangeably is a mistake that is made far too often. Understandable if you have done so yourself, given how they can be confusing.

Here is an attempt to help you understand the difference between the two so you can make an informed choice with regard to what suits your business best, thereby improving performance and visibility when it comes to search.

Let us first understand what a search marketing is.

For businesses that want to engage customers online, they need to have a search optimization strategy in place. It is the basic step towards a brand marketing strategy. So, search marketing is essentially the effort put by a brand in getting consumer attention. This is done through frequently appearing on the search engine result pages whenever people search for a particular product.

Based on how good your site is, you will be given a rank and will appear either at the top or bottom of a list. So, each brand tries to get higher ranking so that their search visibility is increased and there can be more driving of traffic towards their specific websites. Within search marketing itself, you will find two categories you can pick from.

The first being SEM (Search Engine Marketing) that is mostly paid and the second is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which is organic in nature. Both are strategies to appearing on the search results.

Understanding Search Engine Optimization

Optimization of content with the intent of it being discovered using a search engine’s organic method of getting results is called search engine optimization. Here, brands and their sites cannot pay for them to be placed on the top to increase visibility. Various tactics are instead used by sites in order to obtain high ranking which will automatically and organically place them on the top.

Google is one example of a search engine that takes into consideration multiple factors to rank pages. These factors change from time to time in terms of priority and intensity and there is no way of saying what it is at any given time but they can be roughly categorized into three groups.

On-page search engine optimization is where each single page is optimized by targeting specific keywords that are appealing to search engines. Several strategies such as content creation, keyword optimization and research are done to reap the benefits of this strategy so that search engines can grasp what content a page contains thereby increasing the chances of that page receiving a higher rank.

Technical search engine optimization is for elements that are not content that websites contain. These are the technical aspects of the website that support its structure and operations in terms of performance and usage. This is to do with the speed of the website, whether it is mobile-friendly, load time, indexing, site layout and architecture, security among many other components. This ensures that the user experience is smooth and enjoyable which is a huge plus-point to search engines. It is an important criterion that determines a site’s overall ranking.

Off-page search engine optimization is more to do with a site’s overall reputation and the authority it holds with respect to its connection to other premium and well-known websites. So, the techniques that come under this is backlinks of high quality, link building, directories and local listings from other websites.

If one brand’s website is linked to several other reputable websites, then this is a positive sign to search engines because it means that this website is reliable and trustworthy which will eventually show in its ranking.

The bottom line is, a strong search engine optimization plan is an amalgamation of the above three types instead of just one because all three combined is a powerful internet presence for any brand and search engine alike.

Comparing SEO to SEM

The main difference you can observe is the payment aspect and the general difference between the two. SEO is organic, SEM is not. In terms of how search engine marketing will work for your brand, here is a snapshot:
• SEM searches will appear with a label that says ‘Ad’ whereas SEO will not have this accompaniment.
• SEM searches are basically results that have advertisement extensions whereas SEOs will have a small description accompanying the page title. SEM does not have this.
• If users click on an SEM link that appears on their search result, then you (the brand) will have to pay every time it happens. This is not the case with SEO.
• The concept of target audience applies to SEM and not SEO. SEO results can pop up to anybody and everybody.
• Purchasing SEM means that your link is out to display instantaneously. A few clicks and the audience will be able to view your ad. You even have the scope of increasing your visibility and turn it off according to your convenience.
• If your website is still in the testing phase, then SEM is the better choice. You have full control over who can access it and how many times.
• Since it is a paid shindig, SEM only lasts as long as you continue paying for it. The organic SEO way goes on till your website is doing well and it only gets better with time.
• In terms of click rate, SEM unfortunately falls behind because SEO beats it.

So, what’s the best option for you between SEM and SEO?

Here are a few considerations for you to take while deciding which is the way for your brand. A good starting point would be to see what your competition is doing and what their search engine marketing strategy seems to be. If you see that they are doing well in either SEO or SEM, it will be best if you tried it out for your brand too.

It also pays to do research and to have a good understanding of what customers like, that way, you can figure out the ideal way to reach them. The length of your product’s buying cycle also matters in this aspect. If it’s a short cycle, then SEM ads are better. But, keep in mind the financial aspects as well. Will your brand be able to afford the cost-per-click prices? This is wholly dependent on how old or new your business is and how it is doing.

Category: SEO & SEM
Keywords: search engine optimization, SEO, search engine marketing, SEM, brands, customers, performance, visibility
Tags: SEO, SEM, Search engines

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About the Author: Wilson Phillips

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