SEO Written by 0

It may look and sound identical, but even identical twins are unique from each other. Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are usually confused for one another. Being among the top 5 most important and effective digital marketing strategies, SEO and SEM are alike and different in many ways.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Simply put, SEO is a way of increasing your website traffic through organic means. SEO is the reason why you get the suggestions on the first page of search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. If you are more observant of the search results, you will probably see the first consequence or results labeled as “Ad,” anything below that is products of SEO.

Those brands on top of the list after the ads are working hard on improving their websites’ tags and descriptions by making it concise, informative, relevant, and most of all, search engine friendly. That’s the technical part of SEO, but it also has a creative side. Content is vital for SEO efforts to be successful.

Relevant and timely content done and made available on your brand’s website will greatly help you make it to the top – in time. It does not happen in an instant with SEO. Your content needs to be highly visible and establish reliability, and there is no better way to share links than through other websites or blogs and social media.

SEO is like word of mouth in traditional marketing. When you are repeatedly mentioned, you become a top of mind brand. In the digital world, when links to your content or website are frequently shared, you gain traffic, the search engines recognize your relevance, and you become part of their recommendations.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

With the fast-evolving digital marketing world, search engine marketing (SEM) was once the umbrella term for both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search. Currently, it is now referred to as a term specifically for paid search. SEM just like SEO aims to drive traffic to the brand’s website leading to awareness, following, and purchase. But SEM, just like all businesses entails monetary investment.

Similar to traditional marketing, brands who advertise on TV decide on what products or services they want to advertise, how and what they will say as a sales pitch, and which channel they want their ad to appear on. In SEM, brands buy ad spaces, preferably the topmost, in search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. As mentioned earlier, the text ads on the topmost of the search results, labeled as “Ad” are products of SEM.

But SEM is not just about paying a spot in the search results; it also requires creativity and SEO experience. Imagine capturing your audience with only a single line on your ad? SEM is also about timing. If you are promoting a seasonal product or a limited-time promo, you cannot wait for your SEO efforts to materialize unless you are already on the top of the search results.

SEM makes people who don’t know about your brand curious about your brand; those who have heard about your brand will remember your brand, and those who already follow your brand and are your customers will be more confident about your brand – all of which lead to conversion.

SEO versus SEM

Both search engine optimization and search engine marketing as digital marketing strategies have their share for Pros and Cons. SEO, although it takes months before your efforts spell success, creates lasting results for your brand. The success of your SEO efforts takes some time to be noticed, and with the ever-changing search algorithms, you need to regularly and consistently update the keywords you want your brand to be associated with.

If you are starting, focusing on SEO is the best step for you. Optimize your website with targeted and relevant keywords, make it search friendly, beef up with quality content and find ways to promote your website or content through link-sharing. SEO works for those who have time but do not have the budget for paid search or SEM.

SEO is not cheap if you will break down the costs like salaries for your SEO expert and content writers x the duration of your efforts and the bottom line here is, how much is your conversion?

SEM, on the other hand, can be associated with the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. Your 20% time and money spent can lead to 80% conversion. Studies show that regarding return on investment (ROI), SEM will likely give your 500% more than SEO. But there is an underlying factor for you what you have paid for in SEM to succeed. Guess what, it is SEO. SEO is the foundation of your SEM campaigns. SEM will work best for you if you have established the basic tools that you want your clients to see – your website, content, social media platforms, etc.

When should you use the money to promote your brand?

  •         If you just launched a website, want to promote it and drive traffic
  •         If you’re going to generate leads that you can use for future campaigns like email and social media marketing
  •         If you have an urgent, limited-time, seasonal announcement or promotion
  •         If you want to translate high traffic to high conversion

You need SEM for your business during the most important launches and campaigns and at the back-end, you still should be working on your SEO efforts as SEM is not sustainable long-term, budget-wise although you only pay for every click (cost per click).

SEM is a tool to build trust with your prospects. Being on top of the search results and labeled as “Ad” adds value to your level of importance as a brand. In a magazine or a newspaper, it does not matter to the readers whether your ad is on the first or second page. You have an advertisement ad, period.

The Verdict

You cannot say a product is good if nobody knows about it, this is what SEM solves. Similarly, a well-promoted merchandise shelf that is empty is as useless, that is what SEO addresses. I guess it is evident you need both SEO and SEM for your business but in the fast-evolving world, where people require answers in an instant for their short attention span, providing them solutions through paid search or SEM before they even scroll down is where you want your business to be.

Usman Raza is a marketing specialist at Crawford and O’Brien and Co-Founder of Usman Digital Media. Aside from doing dental SEO and helping dentists get new patients, when not working there is a 99% chance he is praying with his family. Follow him on Facebook @usmanraza40 and Twitter @usmanintrotech.

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