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S...E...What? SEO versus SEM

SEO — A Definition:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of trying to get the best visibility (highest ranking) in search engine's organic (aka natural) search results. Remember, there is no "how-to" guide for SEO; it is very purposefully kept mysterious.

SEO is, by nature, a slow process. That keeps "black hat" SEO techniques from polluting the relevance of organic results overnight. There are no black and white answers when it comes to SEO. What works well in one instance may work poorly in another.

SEM — A Definition:

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of increasing visibility in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) through engaging Search Engines in paid advertising. Money is paid by the advertising website to search engine to secure placement in the Paid SERP Listing.

According to Digital Strategy Consulting, $1,341,300,000 was spent on Google AdWords in 2013...by just the 25 companies with the largest AdWords spends! By the way, 20% of those top 25 spenders were appliance, electronics and/or furniture retailers.

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is a very common SEM strategy and includes programs like Google AdWords. With PPC, businesses bid on placement for certain keywords. The company with the highest bid for any given word shows up first in the paid advertisement area, the company with the second highest bid shows up second and so on. However, companies are not actually charged that amount until and unless their ad is actually clicked on by the person doing the search.

What Do They Look Like To Your Customers:
Search engines are required to distinguish which Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) listing are organic (aka natural) - the results of good SEO - and which listings are paid advertisements (the result of SEM). As Google becomes an extension of our daily lives, many consumers are fully aware of the difference between these two types of results

google search results

Which Is Better?

Now that you know the definitions, which one is more important? It's really a matter of opinion, but we liken the difference to these metaphors:

ASEO is like serving a customer so well that they take it upon themselves to recommend you to five of their closest friends

BSEM is like paying a customer $10 to refer you to someone they know

B is a lot more expensive than A, but at the same time, it's a lot easier to accomplish. But which do you think the friends are more likely to trust? And which scenario will you earn a bigger return from?

If you are able to achieve awesome SEO performance, that performance is going to continually grow and improve, resulting in even better SEO performances and a bigger and bigger return. In contrast, the value of SEM is limited to only the time you are paying for it. Once you stop, all benefit ceases as well.

Many web surfers trust the organic SERPs more than the Paid SERPs and are more likely to click on them as result.

SEM is not a bad thing! It can be very effective in the right circumstances. Our suggestion is to always start by achieving the very best SEO performance possible before looking at additional SEM opportunities.

Did You Know?

Did you know Google recently changed their search algorithm?

Having a mobile friendly site is now helping retailers rank higher in SEO organic search results listings. Find out if your site has been effected by the change by visiting our April 21, 2015 article.