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What Is the Difference Between Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization?

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Most people researching how to drive more traffic to their website have heard of search engine optimization (SEO). However, fewer people are familiar with search engine marketing (SEM). Today, we’re discussing the difference between these two traffic driving techniques to help you decide which is right for you SEO vs SEM or whether you will benefit the most from employing both techniques.

SEM vs. SEO, What Is the Difference Between Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization?  

Search engine marketing is a technique used to drive visibility and traffic through both paid searches and organic searches. In contrast, search engine optimization is a technique used to drive traffic to a webpage solely through organic search results. So how can search engine optimization vs search engine marketing be compared?

What SEO Entails

Google’s algorithm considers over 200 ranking signals, but they all fall under one of four major subcategories: 

  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO 
  • Technical SEO
  • User Interaction Signals

On-page SEO involves optimizing your website around long-tail keywords that you want to rank for. Off-page SEO primarily entails earning high-quality backlinks to your webpages. Technical SEO involves indexing your website so it is easily read by search engines and the user experience is good. User interaction signals involve achieving low bounce rates.

What SEM Entails

SEM entails both SEO, which was discussed in further detail above, and paying for people to view your webpage. Regardless of the search engine you’re using, you have to bid on a keyword of your choice. Then, your ad will be visible on the first page of the search engine when people search for the keyword you bid on or a similar search query.

If you bid the highest on a given keyword, your ad will appear above the ads of companies that bid lower. You are charged the amount you bid when someone clicks on the ad.

Quality Score

Quality Score is an essential component of the Google Ads metric. Essentially, the higher the Quality Score, the more relevant your ad is to someone searching for a given keyword. If you’re advertising the “best running shoe for treadmill running”, your ad isn’t very relevant to someone searching for information about “barefoot trail running.”

On the other hand, if you’re advertising the “best chicken cacciatore recipe” and someone is searching for “chicken and red wine recipes,” your ad is much more relevant. Therefore, it will have a much higher Quality Score. If your ad is highly relevant, you’ll get a discount on the price per click.

Compelling Copy

The more compelling your ad copy is, the better your CTR (clickthrough rate) will be. Your clickthrough rate is the division of the number of times your ad was shown by the number of times it was viewed. For instance, if your ad was shown 20 times, and 10 people clicked on it, the CTR would be 0.5 (50%).

The higher your CTR is, the higher your Quality Score is. Therefore, you will save money on every click. There is also a greater chance that your ad viewers will purchase your product.

How Long Does it Take to See Results? 

It usually takes quite a while to see results from SEO. This is particularly true if you’re website only has a few backlinks because it is new. As a matter of fact, a recent analysis found that, on average, it takes two years to rank on Google’s front page. Also, you should be aware that most of the web pages on the first page of Google are at least three years old.

However, you can get to the first page of Google for a given keyword if you use SEO best practices and target long-tail keywords. On the other hand, you can easily expect to see the results of SEM within hours of launching a PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaign. Nevertheless, it may take a few months of analyzing test results and tweaking campaigns to achieve the ROI you’re looking for.

Who Should Use Only SEO

Those With a Limited Advertising Budget

You should only focus on SEO if you have a limited advertising budget. There is a common misconception that SEO is free website traffic, but this is untrue.  What is true is that once you reach the front page of Google, you can benefit from organic traffic without paying a cent.

However, Google may change its guidelines for ranking websites in the future. In that case, you may need to pay a writer to rewrite the content to adhere to Google’s new SERP (search engine performance ranking) guidelines. You may also need to pay a web developer to implement the SEO best practices to adhere to Google’s new algorithm. A surprising amount of website source coding is important for ranking on Google’s front page.

Those Who Have Time On Their Side

If you’re not trying to drive traffic to advertise a product that is launching in a few months, you may not need PPC advertising. Remember, it is possible to reach Google’s front page within a few months. However, it is much more likely that it will take you six to 12 months if not a couple of years.

This technique is not ideal for people who need to see a return on investment quickly. If you have a limited advertising budget, and you need to see a solid return on your investment quickly, we strongly recommend hiring a content marketing company to manage your SEM for you. It will take a while to see the benefits from SEO, but you can confidently expect to see the benefits from PPC quickly.

Those Who Are Good at Link Building

One of the keys to successful SEO is link building. Essentially, link building entails another website linking back to your website. Be advised, it is not adequate to have a lot of backlinks to your website. Rather, Google’s algorithm assesses the quality of your backlink. In other words, you need to be backlinked by an authoritative site in your industry.

For instance, if you are backlinked by an authoritative site about barefoot running, but you sell home security monitoring systems, the backlink will be worth less than if a home security monitoring system manufacturer’s website linked to your site. Additionally, it is important that the link is editorially placed. Put another way, someone should link to your site in an article or blog post. The link will be worth less if you post a comment with a hyperlink to your site.

Those Who Can Rank for Informational Keywords

Informational keywords, such as “how to change guitar strings” or “what is medical coding” have a very high search volume. While this type of query does not result in an impressive conversion rate, ranking on Google’s first page can still benefit your website significantly. Therefore, SEO is more appropriate for you if you are confident you can write impressive articles that include long-tail informational keywords.

Who Should Use SEM

Those Who Have a Large Advertising Budget

You should use SEM if you have a solid advertising budget. As noted above, SEO is free once the upfront costs are paid. If you choose to implement SEM (SEO and PPC), you need to have a healthy advertising budget that can cover the upfront cost of SEO and the ongoing cost of PPC advertising.

Once you stop paying for clicks, your views cease. There is only a slim chance that people who viewed your paid ad the first time will remember and return to your site.

Those Who Can Manage an Adwords Account

Investing in SEM is a good idea for your small business if you have someone who can manage an Adwords account. You may think you can handle this on top of all the other hats you’re wearing as a small business owner. However, it is much more challenging and time-consuming than it may seem at face value. A PPC campaign involves a lot more than bidding on keywords and watching the traffic roll in.

Someone has to decide which keywords will be targeted based on Google’s metrics regarding search term volume. Someone has to write the ads. Someone has to evaluate conversion rates, Quality Score, and return on investment to ensure the ads are worth the cost. Managing an Adwords account is where a digital marketing company can make a huge difference.

Those Who Can Launch and Test Landing Pages

Search engine marketing may also be right for your small business if you can launch and test landing pages. Ideally, you should have a unique landing page for each PPC ad. At the very least, you need a targeted landing page for each ad group.

If you want to get the most out of pay-per-click advertising, you need to be able to launch a multitude of unique web pages. Also, you need to be able to run A/B tests to identify the best-performing ads. If this sounds like too much of a time investment, a digital marketing company can help with this, too.

Too frequently, SEO and SEM are misunderstood as being the same thing or are considered as completely separate channels that cannot be used together.

It’s crucial that you comprehend Search Engine Marketing vs SEO and the functions of each of these as part of your larger marketing plan and determine how to combine the two of them to boost success and get a competitive edge.

SEO involves using best practices to generate traffic to web pages only through organic search results. Since SEM focuses on both organic and paid traffic, SEO is one component of SEM. The other component of SEM is PPC advertising. If you need help driving traffic to your website, we can help. Contact Anthem Software today to schedule a free consultation and discover how our software can help you maximize your ROI.

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