As a business owner in Dublin trying to leverage the Internet to get more sales, you know that putting up a website is not enough. You need people to find your site, which means appearing on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs).
However, getting the top spot, or even just being on page one, of SERPs won’t happen if you don’t invest in online marketing. Two of the widely used digital marketing strategies are SEM and SEO.
Often pitted against each other, these approaches can actually be used together to reach more people and maximise traffic.
But before you start spending on these strategies, it is best to have an idea of what they exactly are and how they can benefit you.
Many people get confused with these two terms. Some people even use them interchangeably. While these two strategies have certain similarities, they are very different from each other.
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. It is a digital marketing strategy that uses paid advertising, so pages would be more visible on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Search results, particularly for Google, has two types – paid search results and organic search results.
Paid search results appear at the top of the search engine results page. The word “Ad” is placed before the URL to denote a paid search result.
SEM is the strategy you should use if you want to appear on the paid search results section. One of the more popular SEM tactics is pay-per-click (PPC). In PPC advertising, website owners pay the search engines whenever one of their paid ads is clicked.
Let’s be clear:
Paid search or PPC is not the same as SEM. The main difference is that SEM includes both PPC and SEO.
You see, SEM should not just be about setting up Google AdWords campaigns. It is also about optimising the ad content by using pertinent keywords from your SEO strategy.
Simply put, the goal of SEM is to create effective PPC ads by utilising keywords that your target audience is interested in or searching for. Your SEO strategy determines these relevant keywords.
SEO means search engine optimisation. Its purpose is to increase the visibility of businesses by making them rank high on organic, non-paid search results pages. You’ll find the organic search results under the paid search results.
SEO is an ever-changing world as search engines like Google tirelessly tweak their ranking algorithm. As a result, SEO best practices are constantly evolving to keep up with these updates. This is why developing and implementing an SEO strategy is no easy feat. In fact, it should be a task that’s handled by professional SEOs to achieve your desired results.
To add, search engines take into consideration numerous factors when ranking websites. For example, Google is said to have over 200 ranking signals.
Its three core components are technical SEO, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Under each category are tactics or activities that help boost a page’s rank on SERPs.
For example, optimising page load speed is one of the critical technical SEO tactics. Meanwhile, creating and publishing high-quality content is an example of an on-page SEO strategy. To learn more about the different components of SEO, click here.
If this is your first time investing in digital marketing, you might think you can only choose one of the two. It’s understandable why you’d think this way, especially with some marketers claiming one is better than the other.
The truth is that you don’t have to choose as you can use both simultaneously. In fact, by sticking to one approach, you run the risk of being left behind considering how tough the competition is to be on the first page of SERPs.
You have to know:
While both strategies help you appear on SERPs, each one achieves this goal using different means. Moreover, how quickly results are achieved varies for each strategy.
SEM delivers results instantly, while SEO takes time.
According to reports, it takes an average of 2 years for a site or page to rank on the first page of Google’s SERPs. You can shorten this to a few months if you target long-tail keywords and employ SEO best practices. Meanwhile, with SEM, it is possible to get traffic hours after posting your ad.
The thing is that:
While it takes some time to see a return of investment with SEO, this strategy adds more value over time as it delivers lasting results. It is also more impactful since people are more likely to click on organic search results than paid ones.
Case in point:
The top entry on the organic search results page has a 28.5% click-through rate (CTR) as compared to the 10% of a paid ad.
In addition, around 53% of the traffic that website’s get comes from organic search. About 27% of it is from paid search.
It should also be noted that running SEM campaigns can be costly. Remember, you spend each time a user clicks on your ad. Hence, this strategy can only drive traffic to your site if you spend on it. When you stop paying, your traffic drops to zero.
This is not to say that getting SEO is cheaper as professional services cost a significant amount of money. However, you don’t have to spend whenever users click on your site in the organic search results. This is why it is said that SEO provides “free website traffic”.
Moreover, your website does not instantly disappear on SERPs if you stop optimising your website for a while. But it is best not to pause SEO campaigns as this can jeopardise your hard work. Your rankings may drop, and reclaiming your old position won’t be easy.
Clearly, each strategy has its strengths and weaknesses. Combining them is all about using one strategy’s strengths to make up for the other’s weaknesses.
So, how do you integrate SEM and SEO?
You can strengthen your paid campaigns with high-quality content created using organic search and content strategies. When users click on your ad, ensure that they are directed to a page that provides the answers they need.
Paid search strategies can be used to give your new or seasonal content instant attention. As mentioned earlier, it can take months to achieve your desired results with SEO. This can be problematic if you have time-sensitive promotions or launching a new site.
Similarly, SEM tactics can be helpful if you are targeting very competitive keywords. Ranking high for these keywords is difficult, especially if you are competing against well-established websites.
Given that these terms are highly relevant to your target users, you can’t ignore or abandon them. Instead, you should use these keywords for your paid campaigns to ensure that you appear on the first page of SERPs.
By integrating organic and paid search strategies, you tremendously increase your business’s potential of attracting more prospective clients.
Admittedly, employing both strategies can be costly. If you have a limited marketing budget, evaluate your needs, then pick the strategy that will help you meet your goals.
Often, SEO is the choice for startups or small businesses with minimal resources. This strategy may take months or years to gain traction, but it delivers better and long-lasting results.
Should you use SEM and SEO together? Or will one strategy suffice? Talk to our seasoned SEM and SEO specialists and find out what approach would benefit your business. Call us today on +353 (0) 1 960 9023 or leave us a message on our website to schedule a free consultation.