What is the difference between SEO and SEM, and how can they benefit you?

The point of going into business for yourself is to create a sustainable income to support your lifestyle, right? One of the biggest challenges when running a company is getting your name out there and making people aware of your products and services. You want them to understand how you can improve their everyday life. A wide variety of traditional and digital marketing techniques exist, but the key is finding the most effective strategy for your business.

With the exponential growth of eCommerce, especially since the beginning of 2020, an online presence with a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is essential to the growth of your business. You may be familiar with search engines since you use them every day for personal and business use, but how can you get them to work for you?

We will analyze the differences between Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and explain how each one can help you fill your schedule with new appointments immediately and for years to come.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, better known as SEO, is a combination of actions that will help to drive website traffic, increasing how you rank organically when someone performs a search. It can be a tricky process because there is no single specific tactic that automatically grows online visibility.

When done correctly, the rise in traffic created by SEO leads to increased conversions and a significantly higher ROI, which is the ultimate goal for any business.

Search engines — like Bing, Yahoo, and Google — offer solutions to their users in the form of a list of websites that can answer their inquiries. SEO is the science of persuading them that you are the best recommendation they can make.

Three things will help search engines view you as the best fit for their users:

  • Ensure the search engine understands who you are and what you offer.
  • Convince them that you are the most reliable selection for their users.
  • Make it easy for your content to be delivered.

There are tried and true methods that will help you optimize your website so that Google and every other search engine value your content. Four essential parts of SEO exist to keep you high in the rankings, and they include:

  • Technical SEO
    • This focuses on making sure that the looks and speed of your website are efficient. Proper structure and operation enhance the user’s experience, keeping them on your site longer.
    • Part of the process includes:
      • Making sure it is mobile-friendly
      • Fixing any broken internal and outbound links
      • Making sure there is no duplicate or meager content
      • Removing any crawl errors
      • Ensuring that it is HTTPS-secure
      • Carefully formatting the URLs
      • Optimizing your XML sitemap
      • Optimizing the robots.txt file
      • Adding structured data to your page
  • On-Page SEO
    • A search engine recognizes that the information on your website is relevant when the page contains the same keywords as those in the search query, so using the keyword in the first 100 words or so is essential, as is its repetition.
    • On-page SEO includes adding context in the content to help search engines understand the data, such as:
      • Meta tag optimization
      • Image alt tags
      • H1 tags
      • Title
  • Content
    • The information found in your website, or content, is one of Google’s primary ranking factors. The Google search engine market share holds steadily between 85% and 90%, meaning most people use them.
    • You must offer information for which people are looking. It would help if you implemented a specific strategy beyond simple copy writing. Creating relevant content can be done by adhering to some of the following ideas:
      • Know your audience and write with them in mind.
      • Readers decide within seconds if your site has information that applies to them, so keep the most relevant information in the beginning to draw them in. Supporting points can then follow.
      • Keep your sentences short and straightforward. 35 words or less is ideal. Focus on using commonly used nouns and verbs instead of monosyllabic ones (see what I did there?) that a reader may have to look up. Also, use adjectives sparingly.
      • Write in an active instead of a passive voice.
      • Use real examples to which people can relate instead of blind claims.
      • Mix up your word choice.
      • Include “white space” or space surrounding paragraphs and images. Use bulleted lists so that the reader can scan through the text more easily.
  • Off-Page SEO
    • Off-Page SEO includes all the activities you and anyone else do away from the website to boost its rankings.
    • When a search engine perceives that a site is trusted by users, they will rank it higher and connect it to other high authority sites. This reliability typically comes from building links, PR, and more. Even the mention of your page on another site without a link lends to SEO building.
    • People sharing your site over social media is also part of off-page SEO, as well as leaving comments on other posts or even writing guest posts elsewhere.

Using SEO alone will not be as effective as when you use it in conjunction with SEM.

What is SEM?

While SEO consists of the time involved in creating a consistent message, Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, consists of paid campaigns that increase the visibility of your website.

An SEM strategy involves everything from coordinating and optimizing paid ads to analyzing competitor insights to place your product or service where your target audience will find you. One of the most common SEM practices is Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC), where you are charged every time someone clicks on the ad. Ad campaigns include products such as:

  • Search ads
  • Shopping ads
  • Display ads
  • Gmail ads
  • YouTube ads

One of the best benefits of using paid ads is that you will see results immediately, while it may take months to see measurable outcomes with SEO. The exposure will stop when you stop paying for the ads. SEO and SEM work together beautifully to create a digital marketing strategy that drives traffic, visibility, and conversions.

Why should SEO and SEM tactics be used together?

To adequately answer this question, we must look at how SEO and SEM are alike and how they differ. The decision isn’t which one of these you should use but how you can use them together. SEM will be most effective when you also employ a sound SEO strategy.

So, how are they similar?

  • They both improve your website’s visibility.
  • They provide the ability to optimize continuously.
  • They both help you understand your audience better with analytics.
  • They produce quality traffic.

And how do they differ?

  • SEM is immediate, whereas SEO takes time.
  • You pay for every click or impression with SEM.
  • You only have so much control over SEO but can control the layout of ads in SEM.
  • Users can see the difference between unpaid and paid advertising.
  • SEM only adds value as long as you are paying, while SEO continues to work long after it has been set up.
  • SEM can be tested and refined with alterations, such as ad copy revision and changes to the landing page.

What are the benefits of using SEO and SEM together?

When deciding on a digital marketing strategy, the best approach is to use these two tactics together. They are symbiotic and will help your business grow. How do they make that happen?

  • You can use results after analyzing the data from your SEM to amplify how you use your SEO. You are essentially testing the ideas that you want to use for your SEO. Things that you can analyze to boost your SEO include:
    • Expected conversion rates
    • Keyword performance
    • Traffic estimates vs. performance
  • Create remarketing campaigns based on the results of your SEO efforts so that you can increase your brand awareness.
    • Remarketing targets those who previously visited but didn’t convert with display ads, search ads, and more.
  • Combining the above two steps will help you be prevalent on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by becoming visible in organic listings and ad space.

How can competitor information help you grow?

Many businesses make the mistake of not paying attention to what marketing tactics their competition is using successfully. When you keep an eye on their process, you can find a way to get ahead. Discover what paid ads they are using, as well as how they are ranking organically to determine your best direction.

Here at HourGlass Media, we have helped over 3,000 small to medium-sized businesses discover the benefits of multi-channel marketing. We are a digital marketing agency established 15 years ago to create real results. We sit with each client and listen to their view of their future so that we can develop a comprehensive plan to help them reach their objectives. We know that each industry and customer’s needs are unique, so we design programs accordingly.


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