Every time you search for something on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, or any other search engine, your computer scans through the most relevant results based on the keywords you input. For example, when you search “wineries near Ithaca, NY,” a search engine result page (SERP) is generated with a list of websites for local vineyards you can easily visit.

This is called search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO. SEO is the practice of increasing traffic and exposure to your website through organic search results. So, with the previous example, searching “wineries” brings up every website that has the keyword “winery,” as well as “Ithaca, NY,” and so on.

Often times when searching, you might see advertisements that relate to your search. This is called search engine marketing, or SEM. SEM uses paid strategies to appear in search, using specific campaigns to target the best keywords.

SEO and SEM seem relatively similar, but there are actually numerous differences to take into account for your business. Some businesses benefit more with solely organic searches, whereas others choose to pay for advertisements to increase traffic.

Search Engine Optimization

When first creating a website for your business, it is important to optimize each individual page to target specific keywords based on your content. Although ensuring keywords are incorporated into your website is crucial, it is also vital to remember your website is for the user, not the search engine.

Do not try to deceive your users or use tricks to increase your search engine rankings. It’s good to ask yourself, “Does this help my users?” If the answer is no, then exclude it. This is also a rule of thumb with automatically generated content since it is primarily less beneficial than curating your own content.

Both SEO and SEM require knowing your target audience so you are able to create valuable content related to your brand. Once the correct target audience is determined, traffic to your website will increase based on potential searches.

Search Engine Marketing

SEM comes into play when your business chooses to pay for additional advertising. Google Ads is an extremely beneficial tool for businesses market through search engines and analyze the impact of their advertisements.

Although SEM is great for getting your business out there, research has shown that only 2.8% of consumers click on paid ads. That being said, SEO generates about twenty times more traffic than SEM. Despite having a lower engagement rate, SEM is an important tool for many businesses in specific situations.

When deciding whether to use SEO or SEM, there are several things to take into consideration. Consider your competition and analyze how they’re performing. If there is a significant amount of competition for your target keywords, consider using SEM to boost your business above the others.

If your business knows the target audience and there is little competition for the chosen keywords, SEO is a better choice. Additionally, if your customers research information for days and consider their options, use SEO, as customers don’t have an immediate need to buy your product or engage with your company. If there is a short customer buying cycle, where customers immediately buy or engage, SEM is more beneficial.

Once your company becomes well-established on the web, SEM is less necessary. SEM is great for businesses with little to no online presence; however, when your business already has online authority, SEO is more beneficial.

So, Which is Best?

There is no clear answer as to whether SEO or SEM is more beneficial for your business.

With a well-developed business, SEO is great to use to increase traffic for your company’s website. Inputting important keywords, determining a target audience, and assessing each page of your website is crucial for SEO to function optimally.

If you’re just starting a business or have a lot of competition in the same sector, SEM is for you. With pay-per-click advertisements, customers are able to see your business first, getting your name out there, but you only pay for the advertisement if it is clicked on. When several other businesses are using the same keywords, SEM helps to put your brand above the others.

Overall, a basic understanding of SEO and SEM is necessary for your business to thrive. Many companies hire external SEO/SEM specialists, but given the numerous tools available online, it’s quite simple to increase your businesses’ traffic yourself or with the help of Communiqué!

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