Search Marketing is perhaps the most important method for brands to gain visibility. It enables you to drive traffic to your website, attract new customers, and grow your business. There are two main approaches to search optimization; SEM and SEO. Understanding the difference between these two strategies will help you to communicate more effectively to your audience.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) uses organic strategies to help you gain visibility in SERPs. You don’t have to pay for placement; instead, you apply several strategies that boost your website to appear near the top of SERPs. There are a plethora of techniques that can be used, but they are often grouped into the following categories:
This includes the optimization of keywords, title, meta tags, image alt, and so on. These elements enable the search engine to read the page and therefore give it a higher ranking.
This includes backlinking, local listing, and directory profiles. When many third-party websites link your site, it shows that your website is credible and reputable, which increases your ranking.
Technical SEO includes optimizing the other parts of your website. This technique doesn’t care for content; instead, it focuses on backend structure, speed, indexing, security, crawlability, and so on. Technical SEO helps search rankings by improving the user experience.
This is one of the most important elements because you will have a hard time ranking in top spots without good and relevant content.
Most importantly, a good SEO strategy involves using all of the above techniques.
SEO is the art and science of persuading search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem. — Jason Barnard
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) requires you to set up an ad and pay for its placement. It is a strategy that is often referred to as pay-per-click (PPC). This strategy involves using Google Ads (or equivalent) to create campaigns.
Google Ads has different campaign formats available, and all of them help you reach your target audience. Available formats include:
- Search Ads
- Youtube Ads
- Display Ads
- Shopping Ads
SEM vs. SEO
Their overlapping functions include:
- Improving search rankings.
- Driving website traffic.
- Targeting relevant keywords.
- Require optimization
On the other hand, their differences include:
- SEM works with ad extensions, while SEO appears as organic results.
- SEM is paid, and SEO is free.
- SEM appears for a target audience; however, SEO appears for everyone.
- While SEM brings immediate results, SEO takes time.
Both SEO and SEM help businesses become more visible by appearing on search engine results pages (SERPs). One of the key differences is that SEM uses paid strategies to help you rank higher in the results, whereas SEO uses organic strategies to do the same thing.
Additionally, SEO provides more value over time because it’s organic, yields more permanent results, and has a higher click-through rate if your site appears on top. Meanwhile, SEM can bring immediate results and target a more relevant audience, making it perfect for testing new strategies or driving traffic during slow periods.
There is no formula to help you decide which is better. You have to take a look at your business, where it is now, where you want it to be, and then consider what strategy is more feasible for you. There is nothing that suggests these two are mutually exclusive. In fact, many people recommend using both of them as part of a larger marketing strategy.