Most of us have heard both of these terms used throughout many articles on internet marketing. But do you know the difference between the two? Take a look at the definition of both SEM and SEO and how the techniques, and results, differ.
SEM – Search Engine Marketing
According to Wikipedia, SEM is defined as “a form of internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion.”
While it can encompass a rather broad context, it is generally agreed that the single most defining factor of SEM is its use of unnatural, paid techniques to optimise a site.
Such techniques include paid directory listings, search engine advertising (banner ads, sponsored links, etc.), and pay per click campaigns.
There are many advantages to running an SEM campaign. Traffic that is paid for is somewhat predictable. It allows a business owner to forecast sales volume based on prior performance and budget for advertising expenses.
Search engine marketing reaches a large number of consumers, and they are usually part of a pre-qualified, targeted audience. The search engine company that you advertise with will offer their own form of promotion to boost your click through rate, and receive more revenue from you.
Increased inbound links and visitor traffic aids in reaching the top of SERPs. The design and content of advertising is nearly limitless, allowing the marketer to be creative and change material often. The conversion rates are usually higher.
Of course, running an SEM campaign can be quite costly, particularly if you are paying for click-throughs on the most popular keywords. Some consumers tend to shy away from companies that utilise certain techniques, such as sponsored listings, seeing them as spammers.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation
Wikipedia defines SEO thusly: “the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.”
In other words, a business can cater to search engines by performing tasks known to increase their rankings without paying for outright advertising.
Search engine optimisation includes such things as posting comments on blogs to create inbound links, listing complementary sites for external links, including meta tags on website pages, bookmarking content, and a host of other organic methods to increase position on SERPs.
Perhaps the greatest advantage to SEO is that it costs nothing but time. Consumers generally think of organic SEO more favourably, seeing it as an unbiased form of promotion. The result of increased organic traffic will be steady, and not affected by the duration of a paid campaign. Maintenance of a website that is already optimised is minimal.
Disadvantages include little control of SEO rankings and links. Marketers need to be careful to comply with the rules of search engine companies. Often it is hard to determine exactly what type of marketing to do, and how effective each technique truly is. Some business owners find it difficult to strike a balance between appealing to search engine bots and human visitors alike.
The bottom line is that there can be no truly effective SEM campaign without at least some basic SEO. SEM may reach more targeted prospective customers, but SEO is the practise that will ultimately drive traffic, rankings, and conversions for the long run.