Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing are two ubiquitous terms that are seen in discussions about digital marketing and are frequently confused by people who have little knowledge about this field.
SEO and SEM are frequently interchanged by experts who make it a lot harder for beginners to distinguish their differences.
SEO refers to organic search while SEM is usually focusing on paid search. Organic search refers to when a user inputs a keyword and sites show up based on the engine’s algorithm. Paid search on the other hand, is when businesses pay to advertise to appear at the top of the results most identical to others.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a targeted effort to improve a website’s authority within the SERP or the Search Engine Results Page. For example, a user types in “SEO Company Austin”, all results containing the keyword SEO Company Austin will show up. Basically, it is done to improve a website’s ranking, promote the website and improve its visibility, letting the customers have a quick response to their queries. This is accomplished by both On-page and Off-page SEO.
On-Page SEO includes all of the content that exists within website. This includes meta titles and descriptions (visible once a site shows up the search result page), URLs, sitemaps, keywords, internal and external linking and the whole site architecture.
Meanwhile, Off-Page SEO refers to all tactics that take place elsewhere, outside the website. This includes link building, social media sharing, content writing, press release distribution, forum and discussion board posting, and even content published within a social media account managed by a business.
SEO is reliable for it does not charge variable traffic cost, effectively builds brand awareness and promote overall site visibility that is generally sustainable and long-term.
However, Search Engine Optimization can be time consuming as it takes months for results to show, considering that they are harder to quantify and mostly uncontrollable.
SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, encompasses paid advertising on search engines, as well other aspects of digital marketing. Most people associate SEM with PPC (pay-per-click) and CRO (conversion rate optimization) while keeping SEO separate.
SEM basically are those pop-up ads that a user sees, tagged in applications, visible within a Facebook timeline, the side bar in Skype, or at the top of search engine results pages.
PPC advertising refers to placing ads next to search results that look nearly identical to the results that have been laid out. The advertiser will typically pay on a per click basis, but there is also cost per acquisition type of payment. The danger however, is that these ads are not usually trusted by users as they appear spammy.
The advertiser controls the content within the headline and description in their ad, as well as any extensions below it.
SEM is commended for the fastest way to reach the top search results, having maximum control over search result text and ability to easily quantify results, therefore pivoting much quicker than SEO.
However, the one of the disadvantages of SEM is that the advertiser must pay for each click. Getting through customers is also low as ad blindness is commonplace.
Choosing your route depends on the budget and the purpose of your efforts. If you are after short term goals, SEM is the way to go; if you aim for longer results, then SEO is the correct path for you.