Acceptance of Circumstances, Being Found on Google, Google Ads, online advertising, organic SEO, paid search, pull marketing, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEM, SEO tags, technical SEO, Understanding Your Environment, website

SEO VS. SEM

Being an organization that offers both traditional and digital marketing services, but specializes in SEO and SEM, we get asked all the time by prospective and existing clients whether they need to invest in both SEO and SEM strategies. We’ll be providing an answer to that further on in our blog post. But first, we need to explain the difference between SEO and SEM.

What’s The Difference Between SEO and SEM?

SEO is the acronym for “search engine optimization.” SEO is all about employing a variety of initial/one-off/one-time tactics, as well as implementing ongoing SEO tactics, to ensure your website and other digital properties/assets — such as your Google My Business Profile, and social media profiles — rank well in search engines. And, by ranking well, we mean listings for your digital properties appear high up in search-engine results for desirable, relevant phrases that your target audience(s) enters into a search engine to find an organization like yours.

The following activities fall under the broader SEO umbrella:

  • Organic SEO tactics: these are tactics you implement on your various digital properties that you don’t pay for (except for in the cost associated with the human time and energy spent on these tactics); these tend to include activities such as writing and posting content that answers target-audiences questions and that they find helpful, and appropriately “tagging” content and “images” using meta and alt-tags (behind-the-scenes tags)
  • Technical SEO tactics: these are tactics that impact a search engine’s desire/willingness to serve your site up in search results, such as making sure your website is mobile-friendly and doesn’t have a slow load speed
  • Paid SEO tactics: unlike the two tactics outlined above where the primary cost associated with the tactics are human resource ones (either in-house marketing team or a marketing agency or marketing consultant you hire), these are tactics for which you have to pay for a media or advertising buy, in addition to the human time involved. And, as you’ll learn below, paid SEO = SEM.

SEM is the acronym for “search engine marketing.” As we mentioned above, SEM is paid SEO. Some also refer to SEM as “paid search.” It involves paying for advertising, like Google Ads or Bing Ads, so that your ad appears at the top of search-engine results for relevant, desirable search terms used by prospective customers.

When Should You Employ SEM/Paid SEO Tactics?

For many clients, we both oversee their organic SEO and their SEM/paid SEO tactics. So, why do these clients need to employ both types of tactics to appear at the top of search-engine results? These are the three key reasons.

  • The client is in a very competitive marketplace. This means there are numerous other organizations offering similar products, services and solutions in the same geography — which likely means there are numerous organizations who are employing best organic SEO tactics, too, to appear naturally at the top of search-engine results.
  • Several or many key competitors are running paid Google or Bing Ads, which means the only way the client can appear at the top of search-engine results (since those paid ads vs. organic listings will take up the first few results listings related to a particular relevant search) is by buying and running “paid search” ads themselves.
  • A page of the client’s website is being served up in search-engine results for a particular search phrase, when the client actually wants and needs a different page of their site to appear in search-engine results.

The SEO Bottom Line

So, what should you take from all of this? If you’re an organization offering products, services, and solutions in a crowded marketplace, you’ll probably want and need to employ all of the three types of tactics listed above: organic SEO, technical SEO, and paid SEO/SEM.

Reach Out To Speak With Our SEO Services Team

Our SEO team is glad to speak with you about your organization’s SEO opportunities and challenges. We can help you determine which types of SEO tactics need to be implemented in the short-term, and which make sense for the longer-term. So please reach out for a complimentary discussion with our SEO experts.

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