A general definition of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is using paid advertising to garner more web traffic and customers. A general definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is using available techniques and methods with particular attention to website content as it relates to achieving Page Ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
So which is the better strategy for your business, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? There is no right answer for this or that is to say, no “one size fits all” choice in planning your marketing. The reason for this is there are distinct differences in each approach, however, the end result is basically the same or similar; to attract more web traffic and ultimately more customers.
SEO is something that should be incorporated into the long-term aspects of your presence on the internet. Your relevance, ability to be found, and the longevity of your business will depend on having a strong position online as it relates to your field. It should be something you should constantly strive for and keep up with by staying up to date as much as you can and using the help of professionals to assist you in doing so.
SEM should be implemented as a way to run specific campaigns or introduce products to your target audience. Pay-per-click advertising, for example, affords the ability to instantly get ads placed and seen where people will see them and lets business owners inform their public immediately of deals, specials, sales, and general company news. The time frame can be tailored right down to the day and time of day in which ads are displayed. This kind of control is invaluable for any business.
Also, if you happen to be in an intensely competitive field you may need to use paid advertising just to show up on the radar. For example, lawyers in large cities need to use paid methods as an on going aspect of their marketing, even the best SEO experts cannot ensure top page ranking at all times. There is too much at stake and too many daily searches being conducted juxtaposed against the changing nature of search engine results for paid methods to be ignored.
Here are some general pros and cons of SEO and SEM. Review them and see how they may fit into your marketing strategy and if they align with the business model you have.
- More long-term oriented
- Seen as more trusted
- Less expensive or “Free” (Barring time and professional assistance)
- Takes technical skill
- Can take a long time
- Lots of Control (Who sees ads and when)
- Measurable results
- Takes technical skill
To conclude this post it is important to reiterate that there is no one answer. You can only arm yourself with the knowledge at hand and forge ahead. It is my belief that overall, SEO holds the most weight and is of the most importance to the business owner or online marketer. In relying solely on SEM you are basically depending on a third party for your livelihood. Of course, that statement can be flipped and you could say we all in some way depend on third parties.
Just remember, using the two marketing styles in concert is a nice combination to make sure you don’t omit any potential for growth and to be where your competition may be marketing as well. Use SEM when you want specific control and want to see fast results, but use SEO in an on going effort to maintain longevity and relevance in your field.