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seo vs sem

SEO or SEM: Which Should You Prioritize?

When you hear digital marketing, two of the terms you would come across would be SEO or SEM. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) may sound alike but serve different purposes that both aid in digital marketing. 

Any digital marketing professional should know the difference the same way a business owner should know what kind of digital marketing strategy to apply for his business. Here’s what you need to know about SEO and SEM and which you should use for your business.  

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization is when a search engine “crawls” content to see how effective it is in attracting traffic. Things such as website titles, keywords, and tags will be inspected so that the search engine is able to rank them in their capacity to attract organic traffic. Ranking the websites will rely on various factors, some of which are: having great quality content with good link building and keywords, if the user experience of the site can meet the end goals of the site visitors, and link patterns among sites of authority. 

Google is the primary target search engine, amassing 79% of search traffic results across the globe as searched by NetMarketShare. Other search engines in the running are Bing, Yahoo!, and Baidu, but Google takes the market lead. With 66,000 searches per second on Google, SEO becomes such a timely strategy to capitalize on. 

There are two types of SEO activities, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. The former talks about the optimization practices done such as updating the tags, publishing new content, or improving page speed while the latter talks about sharing your profile, outreach, and optimizing social media profiles. Some of the activities related to SEO include: optimizing key titles and descriptions, keyword research and analysis, content creation and optimization, and site and server optimization. 

SEO when done right, can bring in a good amount of traffic and strike up conversations with potential clients and can bring you better brand credibility to search engines that you are a valuable resource. This is a practice that is geared for the long term as changes require longer periods of monitoring, meaning if you are a relatively new site it is likely that Google would ignore you in favor of more established ones at the start. 

Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing is an umbrella term for paid search advertising. This has a lot to do with having the right keywords and strategy to be able to appear at the top of search engines. It includes some popular SEM strategies such as: Pay-per-Click (PPC) ads, display advertising, shopping advertising, and remarketing. PPC is the most popular type of SEM and what comes to mind for most people when it is brought up. 

There are many activities that fall under SEM which includes: targeted (paid) ad campaigns, writing ad copy, making sure the ad falls into budget, and making use of indicators and metrics such as cost-per-click (CPC) or click-through-ratio (CTR). 

While SEO is more for brand credibility, SEM is great for brand recognition most especially if you are at the top of the searches. With SEM it is easy to see your ROI because you are getting the results that you paid for, and you are able to monitor the traffic and create campaigns based on that information. SEM requires extra knowledge especially with tools such as Google AdSense. 

Which Is the One for You? 

While SEO gets organic traffic, SEM gets paid traffic through ads, which makes both actually complementary as they both rely on traffic and are accessed by queries on search engines when they try to look for something. Given the consumer pattern that most customers search online before buying, a combination of both strategies can give you the best results with visibility you need in the long term. 

A website should be SEO-friendly so SEM can have a greater chance of working. Having good SEO foundations is always a good start in letting the search engines know you are a credible site.

However, if your site is fairly new, focusing on SEM would be a better choice as SEO rank building does take time. It is still important though to keep in mind that although SEO is a long-term investment, consistently working on your SEO for a long period of time will make it even harder for your competitors to outrank you organically in the long term. 

So which strategy is the right one for you? The answer really depends on your marketing goals. Do you want to drive leads and sales or generate brand awareness? A finely tuned campaign made to address your marketing goals will be of great help in getting started on digital marketing. Not sure where to begin with SEO and SEM? Leave it to the experts in digital campaigns, leave a message and let’s discuss how we can unlock all your digital marketing possibilities. 

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