SEO vs SEM
They are the two most popular acronyms in the digital world – SEO and SEM. But what are they and why are they constantly causing such a buzz?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s unpaid results;often referred to as “organic” or “earned” listings. Google (or another search engine) will trawl through your web pages, otherwise known as indexing, analysing a realm of criteria which ultimately determines how relevant your content is to a search term, and then decide where you will be placed in the rankings for that search.
SEO is hugely important as approximately 33 percent of people searching on Google will click on the first organic link on the results page, with another 18 percent clicking on the second organic link. So already we have accounted for more than 50 percent of all traffic with just two links! And 92 percent of people won’t even bother clicking to the second page of Google.
So when we begin to stack up the numbers, you can see how it’s safe to assume that SEO is imperative for your digital strategy. That being said, there is one thing to clear up in regards to the use of the term “unpaid”. It’s easy to misinterpret SEO results as something you cannot purchase (unlike SEM, which we will get to in a minute). However, this is largely untrue. Although you cannot pay Google or another search engine to rank your webpages in its organic listings, you can invest in the expertise to implement correct SEO practices for your website to make it more attractive to that search engine. This is a long-term process which requires knowledge and understanding of the search engines’ algorithms, and although highly effective, results usually take three to six months to come to fruition.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a term referring to a paid advertisement placed in priority spots online. The most common form of SEM is Google Adwords. SEM is not too dissimilar to other forms of traditional advertising; you find a publication that will attract your target market, choose where you would like your ad to be featured and complete your booking. SEM is similar – you choose the search terms your target market would be interested in and purchase a placement within Google or another search engine. Generally speaking, the higher the placement, the higher the premium.
SEM is a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising medium, meaning that as an advertiser you only pay when your customer clicks on the link. This is a phenomenal breakthrough for businesses as PPC yields a high return on investment, provides instant targeted traffic and is highly trackable. The PPC model makes it easy to work to a smaller budget, perfect for those entering the market for the first time.
Something important to know and remember about SEM is that it’s all about balance. When you embark on a SEM campaign, you’ll constantly strive for keywords that are within your price range, successfully converting and providing adequate ROI. A lot of businesses will aim to be at the top of certain keyword searches and the truth of it is, that a lot of the time it isn’t worth the investment. After close analysis, sometimes you’ll find that being second or third in some search results generates greater ROI.
SEO and SEM in action
To put all of this in perspective, see the below image to demonstrate how SEO and SEM appear differently on a Google results page. The green section indicates the SEM section (you’ll also see the little yellow ‘ad’ icon in each of these listings). The purple section illustrates SEO listings which Google have deemed the most important and relevant websites for the search term “places to visit in Sydney”.
Which is better for my business?
It’s important not to think of SEO and SEM as a choice of one or the other – they aren’t competitors. Rather, they complement each other and when executed correctly work in complete synergy. From a marketing point of view, it is advisable to implement a strategy that harnesses the success of both of these tools working in conjunction with one another. The success of one will literally promote the success of the other.
To discuss your online strategy and how your business can benefit from SEO and SEM, contact us today.