SEO and SEM – Similarities & Differences

February 05, 2014 digital marketing

If you’re a small business owner and have recently given your business a digital edge, chances are that you’ve come across the terms ‘SEO’ and ‘SEM’ pretty frequently. SEO or search engine optimization is one of those things that are designed to help your website in ranking higher in organic search results. SEM or search engine marketing includes paid listings, search engine optimization as well as other search-engine related services. The confusion begins with their similar sounding names, leading many people to believe often that these two services are one and the same thing. When you understand the definition, similarities and differences between search engine optimization and search engine marketing, you will more efficiently be able to allocate key businesses resources and funds for giving your business a holistic digital edge over its competition.

What does ‘Search Engine Optimization’ (SEO) mean?

Those tactics and strategies that are used to make a website accessible to search engines and to improve a website’s chances of being found by those search engines are referred to as SEO or search engine optimization. Every SEO strategy has a single-point goal i.e. to achieve high-ranking placements in the search results page of a search engine such as Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and more). When web users perform a search on a search engine, they are most likely to click on search results that feature on the first page, as they are viewed as most relevant and most credible. These users are rather unlikely to click through every single search results page to find information. That is why it is important for a website to rank high in order to boost traffic and increase conversion and lead generation.

SEO is a series of ‘White Hat’ techniques and best practises that are used by web content producers and webmasters to boost rankings. These practises are:

– Creating and publishing content that is relevant, useful and engaging for target consumers.
– Using appropriate keywords and the system of keyword analysis.
– Including link building activity to improve link popularity.
– Utilizing social media links on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
– Improving the navigation of a website to provide a user experience beyond par.

What does ‘Search Engine Marketing’ (SEM) mean?

When it comes to taking their businesses online, many business owners will go as far as creating a quality website and investing time, money and resources in SEO. But their efforts often fall short because they don’t follow their digital strategies through with a very important function – search engine marketing or SEM. Search engine marketing is a term that is much broader than SEO. All strategies and tactics available that use the technology of a search engine, including paid ads, are encompassed in a single category called search engine marketing. SEO, therefore forms a part of SEM. Other components of SEM are paid listings and miscellaneous search-engine related functions and services that increase traffic and exposure to a website. The acts associated with researching, submitting and positioning a website within search engines is called SEM.

SEM is more economical as it offers one to pay per click. It is also a more targeted form of marketing as your ads will only be displayed to those individuals who are actively searching for your business, service or product, resulting in a higher conversion rate.

The Difference Between SEM and SEO

SEO is a much narrower term than SEM. SEO help you rank higher in search results, whereas SEM uses these search engines to place ads about your website, your product or service in a bit t connect directly with those web users who are actively on the lookout for it, therefore offering a more targeting form of marketing.

Say someone searches for ‘designer footwear’ in Google. SEO comes in by allowing your website to rank in Google’s search results page (if what you offer is designer footwear). SEM will come in, in the form of sponsored links or paid advertising for your product (in this case, designer footwear) which is displayed above or alongside the organic search results.

What needs to be understood about SEO and SEM is that they are complimentary services, as opposed to competing services. SEM is the broad gamut and SEO is a component of this gamut. Every business owner needs a healthy mix of SEO and SEM in their digital marketing strategies if they want to be visible.

How You Can Gain from SEO and SEM

The great part is that you don’t have to choose between SEO and SEM. But to understand how many resources to allocate to each, you need to keep your desired results in mind. SEO involves lining up the sales site of your business to what search engines expect. The aim of any major search engine such as Google is to offer the most relevant content to web users, and they tend to favour sites that are easy to understand and have a clear navigation.

Due to the fact that it is comparatively more targeted, SEM traffic is considered to be the most important source of Internet traffic. SEM entails creating simple and concise advertisements that are featured on search engines. It bids on keywords that are most likely to be entered by prospective customers in search engines. Your efforts need to concentrate both on SEO and SEM, as the benefits of both include increased click-throughs and conversion rates.

The Latest and Greatest Options for Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization

The debate that lies smack bang in the middle of the SEO / SEM toss-up is paid search and organic search. Every day, there is new software out in the marketing that can allow business owners to tracks spends on both SEM-related ads and onsite SEO. There are also many SEO tricks and tactics that can be used to boost results from search engine campaigns. All these developments are focussed on keeping companies high on search results listing and the sponsored results on major engines.

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