SEO vs SEM: Which One is Best for Your Business?

SEO vs SEM: Which One is Best for Your Business?

The terms “search engine optimization” and “search engine marketing” are often used interchangeably. But there’s a difference between SEO and SEM you should be aware of when determining how to plan your online engagement strategy. Determining how SEO and SEM will fit into your digital marketing plan is the first step you’ll need to take when looking to connect with customers looking for what you have to offer. Clearly understanding your options can also boost your ROI and brand visibility. So, let’s get into the SEO vs SEM debate!

SEO vs SEM – The Basics

The main purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) is to earn a desirable placement on search engine results pages so that people looking for what you have to offer will be able to find you online. In addition to keywords, SEO is a process that involves:

  • Keywords placed throughout content in meta descriptions and title tags
  • Ensuring that your webpages display at an acceptable speed to minimize your bounce rate (people who come to your site but don’t stay)
  • Strategically using both internal and external links

Search engine marketing (SEM) is very similar to SEO in that techniques are similar. SEM refers to using paid search results to drive traffic to your website. With SEM, you’ll need to pay attention to things such as:

  • Click-through rates
  • Cost per click
  • Bidding on keywords that you’ll use in your ads
  • Keywords your competitors are using to target the same consumers

Local SEO and Paid Local

Google assumes local intent with searches and displays results based on the searchers detected location. Local SEO can be natural in that your content is optimized for a specific location or paid. With paid local search, you’re delivering your message in a way that’s more visible since paid results (the ones marked “ad”) show up above organic results on Google. Your visibility with any form of local search can be improved by:

  • Having updated and consistent NAP (business name, address, phone number) information
  • Claiming your business on Google’s My Business (also gets you a Google Maps listing)
  • Submitting your business information to niche directories likely to be used by searchers within your targeted geographic area

What the Difference Between SEO and SEM Means for Your Business

With organic search, you’re competing with every other business going after the same audience. SEM involves the placement of ads on other websites (display ads) or on search engine results pages (network ads). The most common type of paid search is what’s done with Google AdWords, referred to as pay-per-click (PPC). Every time a searcher clicks on your link, you pay. The tradeoff is that you’ll get back your investment if the majority of those clicks lead to conversions.

Organic SEO is a slower process, but it can be effective for building a brand by creating loyalty by producing relevant, useful content and encouraging ongoing interactions, especially with social media. In reality, Organic and paid search overlap, so one isn’t entirely independent of the other.

As for the final verdict on SEO vs SEM, while you can certainly build your brand with organic search alone, it’s a process that will involve a lot of work. Paid search can be effective as well, but it can also get expensive, which can quickly stretch your budget. Successfully building a brand often involves using both organic and paid forms of engagement. What’s right for your business will depend on:

  • Your short-term and long-term digital marketing goals
  • Your available budget
  • How well you understand your target audience
  • How much time and effort you want to invest

So, what’s the lesson to be learned here? First of all, it really doesn’t have to choice of one or the other when it comes to SEO vs SEM. Ultimately, you’ll want to find a happy medium with efforts that will effectively and consistently drive traffic to your website and build brand trust and loyalty. Relying on paid search exclusively may be too costly for you, but combining organic SEO with the strategic launch of carefully planned campaigns targeted to the right audience could produce better results without blowing your budget. Contact Lucid Advertising today to learn how you may benefit from the right combination of SEO and SEM strategies.

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