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SEM and SEO: Understanding the Difference and When to Employ Each Digital Marketing Tactic

As the owner of a digital marketing agency whose primary focus is to serve as an SEO company (a firm that helps organizations be found on Google and rank as high as possible in search engine results listings for desirable terms in appropriate geographies), I have a great passion for helping both for-profits and non-profits determine when they need to employ SEO tactics, when they need to employ SEM tactics, and when they need to employ both.

What is SEO?

So what is SEO? SEO is the acronym for “search engine optimization.” In general, when someone employs the term SEO, they are referring to non-paid-advertising tactics that are executed to support a listing with a link to an organization’s website appearing on the first two pages of Google or other search engine results for search terms that are relevant to the products, services, and solutions to problems that their organization offers. Sometimes, SEO will be modified by the terms “organic” or “technical” to indicate a large variety and number of tactics that can be implemented to support an organization ranking well “organically” in search engine results. These include, but are not limited to:

  • incorporation of high-volume search terms, known as keywords, in website content and behind-the-scenes website tags, known as meta tags
  • establishment of a Google My Business profile to support ranking well in “local search”
  • saving image/photos with file names relevant to an organization’s products, services and solutions that Google or other search engines can crawl/index

While SEO does not involve paying for advertising, there are manpower costs related to implementing one-time and ongoing organic/technical tactics, and depending on your organization’s staffing level and digital marketing expertise, you may need to hire an SEO agency, such as Results Communications & Research.

What is SEM?

SEM is the acronym for “search engine marketing” and refers to ads such as the one below that appear in the top or bottom four spots on a search engine results listing page, in Google Shopping Ads, or on other Google properties or marketing opportunities. Sometimes, you’ll hear the following terms used in lieu of SEM:

  • paid search
  • paid SEO
  • online advertising
  • search advertising
  • Google Ads or Google Search Ads (this is advertising bought related to ranking well specifically in Google’s search engine for relevant terms; you can also purchase such ads from Bing and Yahoo)
  • search text ads
  • text ads
  • PPC (pay-per-click) advertising

Organizations often employ search ads/paid search when:

  • They are in a very competitive environment, i.e., other organizations are running paid ads – causing up to four ads to appear in search engine results for desirable terms before organic search/unpaid results listings
  • They’ve only recently implemented tactics on their entire website or on a specific page of their site to rank well organically for relevant terms, and can’t wait for such tactics to impact ranking results
  • Their website or specific site pages aren’t optimized to rank well in search engine results
  • Competitor sites or other pages of an organization’s own website rank above the site page that an organization wishes to rank well for certain terms

Are There Times When It Doesn’t Make Sense to Invest in SEO or SEM?

In general, implementing technical/organic SEO tactics is a best practice. That said, the only way to know if an organization’s target audiences are actively searching to identify someone offering the services, products, and solutions that the organization offers is to conduct keyword research.

If keyword research reveals that, at least for the time-being, individuals are NOT conducting searches, relevant to an organization, then less time and money should be spent in optimizing a website to rank well organically in search results. And, it wouldn’t make any sense to invest in paid search advertising/SEM since there wouldn’t be many appropriate searchers to whom to serve up ads. In the aforementioned case, you’ll want to employ marketing tactics, such as Google Display advertising or social media advertising where you put the idea in target audiences’ heads vs. waiting for them to search for someone like you. We discussed this aforementioned strategy of creating awareness of the benefits and features of a particular product, service, or solution, known as push marketing, in our blog post “Why Keyword Research Informs So Much More Than SEO.”

As Greater Boston SEO experts, we are always here to help you identify whether SEO, SEM, or both, are the right marketing tactics for your particular organization. We assist clients in making these decisions regularly, so that they maximize marketing budgets, as well as internal marketing team’s time. And, while we never guarantee results since there are so many variables at play, we’ve helped clients, throughout the U.S., who’ve engaged our SEO agency for SEO services, appear in the top two pages of Google Search results for certain terms — when they previously hadn’t — or move from page 1 to page 2 through both SEO and SEM tactics. So, please reach out for a complimentary discussion if you need help capitalizing on SEO and SEM opportunities.

Search Engine Optimization, SEM, SEO, social media, technical SEO, Uncategorized

Why SEO Is Not A One and Done Marketing Activity

Even if Google didn’t regularly change its algorithm that determines which organizations’ listings it serves up on the first two pages of search results, and even if new competitors haven’t entered your marketplace or existing competitors haven’t up’d their SEO game, your organization still needs to regularly revisit your SEO strategy and tactics. By regularly, I mean, at least quarterly.

My digital marketing agency is often engaged to implement activities related to keyword research and planning (such as employment of appropriate keywords in website content and behind-the-scenes website tags). While keyword research and planning is a large, complex, and time-consuming activity that doesn’t need to be revisited monthly or quarterly, there are a number of SEO review and audit type activities that should. I won’t repeat those activities in this post because I’ve already outlined them in the recent blog posts shared below, but I hope you’ll take the time to read or re-read these past posts. They outline easy tasks you can and should complete to make sure you are up-to-SEO-speed and that potential issues with your website aren’t impacting your SEO, or that tactics that you are or aren’t employing related to your social media presence, aren’t harming how your organization ranks in search engine results in some way.

Don’t have the time or capacity to complete the above monthly or quarterly SEO activities? My team is always here to help! E-mail or call us for information about the services we can provide related to quarterly SEO reviews.

 

 

online advertising, organic SEO, paid search, SEM, SEO, technical SEO, Uncategorized

CAPITALIZE ON SUMMER’S LULL TO GO AFTER LOW-HANGING SEO FRUIT

I’m sure there are exceptions to this, depending on how staff summer vacations are scheduled and the nature of services you offer and the time of year those you serve tend to use them, but in general, summer seems to be a slower time for many organizations. So along with blueberry & strawberry picking during the lazy, hazy days of summer, why not consider reaching out and snagging some low-hanging fruit related to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

Search Engine Optimization is all about making sure your organization’s website is well-positioned to rank high in search engine results listings for those terms most used by your target audience(s) to identify an organization that offers your services. There’s two broad categories of SEO tactics an organization can implement to improve how high up in results listings they appear for desired search terms: paid search (ads that appear at the top of Google, Bing, and other search engine results) and technical (non-paid activities you can undertake to improve where you come up in non-advertising/organic results).

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Detailed below are technical-SEO-tactic low-hanging fruit/SEO best practices to pick away at this summer. They’re presented in the order of what I believe to be the criticalness for addressing.

#1 – Make Visitors Feel Secure

  • If your site’s address is still an https:// vs. https:// one (insecure vs. secure), you are very likely being ranked lower in search engine results than your competitors and this issue is expected to worsen. Visitors don’t like visiting sites that aren’t secure and search engines don’t like to send searchers to such sites. Your website host or developer/designer should be able to install an SSL security certificate to convert your site from an insecure one to a secure one.

#2 – Think About the Company You Keep

  • If for whatever reason, a good amount of your site’s traffic is being driven by links (known as backlinks) found on sites that are considered “spammy,” this will also negatively impact where and how frequently search engines will share a listing that points to your website for terms relevant to your organization. Sometimes, many non-reputable organizations may be sending traffic to an organization’s site without your webmaster even knowing it. Read how to check for that issue and how to address it.

#3 – Mend Those Broken Relationships

  • Broken links, i.e., links on your site to another page of your site (internal link) or to the page of another organization’s site (external link) that don’t work and provide visitors with a “404” error message will cause search engines to “ding” you as far as results rankings go. Ideally, you should conduct an audit quarterly – not just during the slower days of summer – by clicking on all your site links to see if they still work.

#4 – Capitalize On Effective Relationships

  • Think about what highly respected organizations might be willing to post a link to your site from theirs since links from other credible organizations greatly improve your search engine results rankings. Reach out to those organizations this summer to ask them if they’d consider adding a link.

#5 – Plan for the Fall

  • Even if your site provides a good user experience and contains beneficial, comprehensive info., to succeed at SEO, you need to regularly update it with fresh content. Search engines reward organizations who do so. If you don’t already have a blog on your site, speak with your internal webmaster or external developer/designer about adding one (assuming you believe there are one or several internal or external individuals who can provide content). If you have a blog, but  aren’t posting regularly to it or aren’t good about “tagging” it to be found by search engines, think about how you could improve this come fall.
  • If you don’t have a “responsive” site, one that responds to the device accessing it – particularly mobile phones – speak to the individuals mentioned above about how you can address that issue in fall 2019.

And, speaking of fall, stay tuned for a late summer/early fall 411 piece that provides additional technical tactics for you to consider & pursue.