It’s hard to picture clearly a time before Google, a time before having instant access to anything you wanted to search. A new pair of sneakers? Check. The distance between Jupiter and the Earth? Check. Movies, music, games, anything you want, at the tip of your fingers. Search engines are at the center of the internet, a sort of worldwide web headquarters. And as such, they are responsible for being the starting point of 80% of users’ product research. Search engines are the veins, and knowing how to harness these channels is becoming increasingly important. And this is exactly where SEO and SEM practices come in.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital content marketing practice, it is used to ramp up the amount and quality of organic search drive traffic to any website. The main objective of this strategy is to improve the position of your website in the organic ranking of Google, Bing, Yahoo, or Baidu.
Whenever you look up any term in a search engine and click on the unpaid results in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) you are engaging in organic search results. Google’s SERPS are divided into 2 categories: Paid ads, at the top and bottom of the page, and the rest are organic results. This last category is 100% what SEO is all about. We will be using Google as a prime example, since it is, by far, the most popular in the world.
SEO is basically the practice of generating on-page and off-page strategies that increase the organic traffic to a website, improving the ranking of a said site in the SERPS. The goal is to appear on the first page, on the top results. This can happen due to many reasons, the mechanisms and marketing strategy relies on search engines’ “spiders” crawling through all of the content they can find online, indexing and analyzing it. Google then can understand what the content is about, and help match it to users’ queries.
SEO is used to shorten that gap so users can find, and engage more easily with your content, in order to drive high-quality organic website traffic, without paying for ads.
What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a little more inclusive, it is used to describe any tactic that helps your website get attention on search engines results pages and increases your traffic. And many of the tactics and methods include paid actions, like PPC, Digital asset optimization, Contextual Advertising, Paid Inclusion. It can also appear on Google-specific platforms, like Google My Business, Google Shopping, and of course Google Ads. It also encompasses SEO and search marketing campaigns.
If SEM includes SEO, why are we making a differentiation? Because even if they can be part of a grander marketing strategy, they both are extremely important and use different methods in order to drive up traffic and rankings. SEO focuses on organic results without paying for them, and SEM goes beyond getting traffic and gaining visibility with paid methods. The goals are aligned.
What are the Different Types of SEO/SEM?
Google is constantly changing its policies and algorithms to improve the user’s experience. And that’s what effective SEO campaigns target, the intent and the will of the person searching a term. Only a few years ago, a SEO campaign could use spam-based tactics to rise through the ranks, and since this went against the intent of the user, the mechanism that validates quality content has been changed. As well as how the spider’s crawling pages function, an overabundance of low-quality backlinks could make your site a popular one 10 years ago, but now it can manage to get your web flagged as a poor quality one. Barring it from being indexed, effectively cutting out of the results.
Taking this into account, SEO and SEM strategies boils down to providing search engines with what they need to generate the best possible user experience.
SEO actions can be divided into 3 main groups:
- On-page SEO creates an optimized site that targets keywords in order to appeal to search engines and users. They do this by using keyword research, image optimization, content, meta tags.
- Off-page SEO manages to build up a web’s authority and reputation via high-quality content and links to other respectable sites. Some of the techniques used in this regard are link building, directory profiles, forums, or local listings.
- Technical SEO is not content-related. It has to do with the backend architecture of the website, these aspects need to be optimized as well, in order to present the most crawlable and user-friendly option. Some of the techniques used deal with site speed, crawlability, indexing, UX, data structure, security, and mobile-friendliness.
These tactics can show search engines that your site passes the quality tests and is thus capable of providing the best user experience to its users. What Google and others look for in sites is that they reach their standards of relevancy (close relation to a query), authority (accurate and trustworthy content), and usefulness (deemed useful for users).
Some of the most efficient SEM tactics include pay-per-click actions:
- Bidding: Select specific keywords that will summon your Ad each time a term is searched. Then paying the appropriate amount when getting a click in a said ad.
- Quality Score: This is calculated by evaluating the click-through rate (CTR), overall landing page quality, and Google Ad account score. A high-quality score can get discounts per click.
- Ad Copy: This is a vital factor in any sort of digital marketing strategy, great quality ad copy is engaging, interesting, and compelling. It is the key to a successful PPC action, it increases CTR, quality score, and profitability.
- Accounting management: No SEM strategy or campaign can be efficient or successful without data. A good SEM manager will need access to every single piece of gathered data, from the whole Google spectrum of tools, like the Google ads account, Google Analytics, or Google Search Console; and from any other information gathering feature.
While SEO growth takes time, SEM actions and PPC ad campaigns can be done instantly. Since some of the deeper aspects of how search engine rankings work can be hard to understand, the people who do know how SEO and SEM work together have the sharpest tool in the shed. Just look at the cheeky rebuttal brought forth by one of the SEO giants in the market.
SEO vs SEM? No. Save Your Money
The main takeaway from these digital marketing techniques is that, as digital marketing as a whole, they work better in a continuous and well-thought strategy. You can have a successful SEO campaign, but it will take a lot of time and effort; you can have a well-lined SEM action, but organic traffic is the main driver in Google’s current algorithm. Complementing these efforts is the most successful path to increased profitability and a long-lasting surge in conversion rates.
A harmonious approach, using both of these techniques, can position your brand or business in the top SERPs for your target audience and potential customers, and in regards to terms related to the company’s niche, industry, or vertical market. This will increase your web pages’ traffic and help you gain visibility in your target audience.
Keyword research is a big part of SEO strategy and SEM actions, it sums up the needs of the target audience and will help you flesh out what they are looking for, what they need, and how you can help with that.
This is the distinct marker for SEO and SEM strategies, the target audience is an active participant in the equation, if the content proposed by the business is lackluster or low quality the target will simply move on. These types of methods require a person actively looking for something, and you need to propose the best answer to their query. Let’s see what they can manage when using complementary:
Acquire long term ROI and rapid results
Using both at the same time you can achieve results while also investing in the long-term benefits of SEO. Paid search terms generate rapid results, you can have ads shown to your target audience within hours of giving the green light. SEO campaigns take a longer time, it can take at least 6 months before seeing any uplift of traffic and conversion rates, and you need to take into account that any drive in ROI will take from 8 months to a year.
You can use SEM actions to drive up traffic swiftly while creating a strong and lasting SEO foundation.
Using SEM Campaigns as relevant keyword test for SEO
Since SEM delivers fast results you can use it as a template for evaluating the efficiency of certain keywords used in camping. These data analyses can provide a testing field for the ongoing SEO content, focusing on the most profitable terms and long-tail keywords in past campaigns, and siphoning them into the growth of the organic traffic base.
Paid search as research for producing content
By using A/B testing in the Ad copy in PPC campaigns you can know for sure which gets the most CTR, which meta descriptions are the most engaging, and which headings are the most popular.
You can also apply this to landing pages, creating a great one takes time and money, it is an investment. You can evaluate the separate popular concepts with the previously mentioned methods, and apply them to a landing page, this can drive up conversion rates, and avoid any major mistakes.
Reduce paid search keyword bids when SEO results show up
Correct budgeting is the staple of any profitable business. Every cent counts, and sharing the data and reporting on both sides of the divide can help you to better allocate and manage your costs and spending. This is the true value of using SEM and SEO together.
SEM action’s reports can be very beneficial, their keywords might have a high cost per click, high conversion rates, and a low return on Ad Spend. SEO can tell you where your site ranks high organically. With this information you can see where you have SEM spending that overlaps with organically generated traffic, thus allowing you to lower spending in the correct areas.
How to Invest in Both SEO and SEM
Investing in both SEO and SEM at the same time is worth it, this way you can create a streamlined and effective digital marketing strategy. Most of the people that turn away from SEO campaigns do so because of the long-term investment, even when it’s not a paid ad output. Some businesses need to hire digital marketing agencies to jump-start their SEO presence, content creators in a variety of media, copywriters, content managers, social media ads, etc. Outsourcing these efforts can be steep for some companies, and the marketing department may not get the green light for such a budget, especially when results will only start showing up in a year’s time.
Some may believe their budget is better allocated in PPC ads that deliver fast results. But this won’t be enough to earn the best and most profitable terms in the SERPs, and once you do the results are exponential (and are maintained even if you stop paying). SEO can produce revenue long after you stop paying for search ads.
Knowing what strategies are the most profitable is a by-prodcut of Business Intelligence. Using data and knowledge to boost conversions and increase the bottom line is what businesses need, at COR we want to help them do so. With our profit estimation and forecast features, you can really see the value your actions will have in the long run. And how to best manage your budget in order to generate growth and long-lasting development, take a step in the right direction, and request a demo today.