Semalt Explains How SEO And SEM Marketing Differ From Each Other
To put it simply, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is activities aimed at improving the position of a website in free, organic search results. In turn, the term SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is currently used to describe paid methods of getting high positions in search engines. These are, of course, superficial definitions that have additionally changed over time. You can read about these changes, as well as what activities may be included in SEO and SEM, below.
SEM - historical definition
For many years, Search Engine Marketing, i.e. SEM, was defined as follows:
SEM = SEO + PPC
SEO is simply the website optimization for search engines, which we will write about later. But what is PPC or "Pay Per Click"? This is nothing more than paid activities aimed at improving the position of the page and its conversion rate. This does not mean, of course, that SEO activities are free. It only means that having the right knowledge, you can position the website on your own without paying anyone for anything. However, in the case of PPC, it is by definition impossible.
The effect of PPC activities can be seen, for example, in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), i.e. pages containing the search results of a given phrase. At the very top, there are paid results marked as "Advertising". This means that a given company, organization or institution paid for a campaign in Google Ads for the link to its offer to be placed there. What's more, results labelled "Ad" are now also at the very bottom of the search pages. They were not there before, but Google changes the SERP layout from time to time, including the position of displaying ads. Therefore, one should not get used to this pattern.
Let's go back to the erstwhile definition of SEM. It is quite intuitive - it defines holistic search engine marketing as a combination of paid activities (PPC) and those that can be done free of charge (SEO). Currently, however, it is being abandoned, basically equating SEM and PPC. In other words, today the acronym SEM mainly means running Google Ads campaigns and activities related to this form of promotion. Let's take a closer look at these types of activities, and by the way, let's define more precisely what is paid advertising on Google and other search engines.
What is SEM today?
As mentioned earlier, today's SEM is a paid activity aimed at increasing the visibility of the website in search engines. As Google is mainly used in several countries, we will focus on the Google Ads platform (previously known as Google AdWords). Contrary to appearances, it is a relatively complex issue, so in this text, we will deal with it very briefly.
Simply put, it is a system that allows you to display sponsored links both in the search results and on those pages where you can display AdSense ads.
For example, the link can be displayed in the following situations:
- The user enters the relevant keywords for which the ad has been set up. In this case, the link will appear in the search results in its natural form, possibly as a product advertisement, etc.
- The user uses the resources of a website whose owner has allowed AdSense ads to be displayed. In this situation, the ad may appear in the form of a banner, video, etc.
Of course, a lot of other factors also determine whether an ad will be shown. These are i.a. user location, language, search history, etc. In general, campaigns conducted with the help of Google Ads can be very personalized. Moreover, their costs can be easily regulated. Thanks to the possibility of setting the budget and the amount of the rate for clicking on an ad, we can control the expenses incurred in this way.
So let's assume that we have created a Google Ads campaign and it is skillfully configured. In practice, this means that:
- As long as we have the funds, sponsored links will keep appearing. Both in search results and on pages that allow AdSense ads to appear.
- With two campaigns set up equally well, the one with the higher advertising budget is likely to be more successful.
- Effects in the form of sponsored links, and consequently entering a given page, may appear relatively quickly. You will not have to wait for them for several months.
Even such a simple summary shows that SEM is an action that can bring immediate results. It's different with SEO. Now let's take a look at SEO activities and their relation to SEM.
What is SEO?
SEO covers both on-site and off-site activities. Their goal is to make the page's position in organic, i.e. standard, organic search results as high as possible. This type of action is commonly called "positioning" and we will also use this name in this text. Positioning can be done on your own, although a much better idea is to use the help of qualified specialists from the agency.
SEO is based on four types of action. Let's take a look at each of them.
Website optimization for SEO
Selection of key phrases, headers, meta tags, internal linking, and graphics optimization... And these are just a few issues that should be addressed when preparing the website to fight the competition for good search engine positions. All these practices are crucial for SEO. Moreover, their implementation is openly recommended by Google. Giving up on them basically completely eliminates any effort put into positioning.
Adequate content marketing on and off the site
The content should also be optimized. They must be of appropriate length and headings. It is also important that they are not saturated with key phrases, and at the same time contain such phrases. For this, they should necessarily be unique. The most important, however, is the subject of the texts on the website. If possible, they should answer frequently asked questions or raise the most important issues related to the topic of the page. Even if it is a website of a small, one-person business, for example, a florist, it is good to run a small blog and promote it all on social media.
On the other hand, the relevant content outside the website includes mainly articles on industry portals, sponsored texts or broadly understood outreach marketing. All this is to build a sufficiently strong link profile.
Good quality inbound links are the basis of SEO. One link from a valuable and popular domain can provide the first page in SERPs for months, especially in those industries that are not very competitive. However, obtaining such a link can be very difficult, if not impossible. What's more, the process of building the link backend is quite long and can involve considerable expenses, for example, related to creating content for industry portals or using the services of influencers.
Therefore, in order not to spend more money than necessary, it is worth using the services of professionals from an interactive agency at this point. Yes, simple website optimization can be done on your own. However, learning about good and inexpensive domains where you can link to your website is not that easy.
Website code optimization
These are activities whose main goal is to improve the speed of the website and ensure its security against external attacks. Optimization may involve code minification, HTTPS certificate implementation, prevention of errors in the website operation, etc. Also, remember about the responsive version and the AMP version of the page, as well as indexing issues and possible redirects.
Again, these are just a few code optimization issues, not the most difficult ones. After all, during this work, errors in the operation of the website may appear, related to, for example, conflicts of some plugs or scripts. Therefore, working with the website code is a very risky task when we do not have any knowledge about web development. It is definitely better to outsource this type of work to professionals.
Even such a superficial description of the most important aspects of SEO allows you to draw a few simple conclusions:
- Positioning is a long-term and time-consuming activity.
- You can make them on your own.
- If we have the know-how and a lot of luck, the costs incurred on SEO activities may be disproportionately low compared to the results obtained.
So let's compare SEO and SEM in the context of the similarities and differences between them.
SEO and SEM - similarities and differences
Positioning and PPC campaigns are actually two sides of the same coin.
- The similarities between SEO and SEM are primarily related to their purpose. It is to improve the visibility of the website, and thus attract users. The methods of increasing traffic on the site are different, but the goal is the same - a better conversion rate, and if it is possible, also greater profits from the site.
- Keywords play a very important role in both SEM and SEO activities. Whether we attract new users to the website depends on their selection, implementation, optimization and monitoring.
- SEM and positioning are processes, just like everything related to broadly understood internet marketing. Once implemented, solutions should be constantly tested, monitored and modified. Something good a year ago may turn out to be ineffective after changes made to Google's algorithms, changes in user behaviour, the emergence of a new social media, etc.
- In both types of activities, the user comes first. A website should be created and optimized with people in mind, not algorithms. If we forget this, success will be very difficult, if not impossible.
As between the two sides of the same coin, there are also some differences between SEO and SEM.
- As mentioned earlier, positioning is a long-term and time-consuming activity. Reaching the top positions in search results is not easy, but you can only do it using your own knowledge and paid tools. However, you simply have to pay for your website to appear among sponsored links.
- The effects of SEO activities may not appear until months after they start. The effects of paid actions are basically immediate. In addition, SEM campaigns are a bit easier to test and monitor than classic website positioning.
- Users may not want to click on links marked "Advertisement". This problem is unlikely to occur with organic results.
- Positioning takes months, and sometimes even years. If we want to stand out from the competition in organic search results, we have a lot of work to do not only on the content of our website but also on its quality. There is no such problem in SEM - the more we pay, the greater the chance that we will be higher.
SEO or SEM - which type of marketing activities to choose?
It may seem that the choice should be as follows:
- SEO with limited resources and unlimited time.
- SEM, when we are short of time, but have enough funds.
The problem is that in the long run, this split is simply a bad solution. Optimally conducted online marketing covers both long-term activities and the sponsored links campaign. Quick SEM effects are ideal in the event of seasonal activities, for example, promotions or sales in an online store. On the other hand, positive, long-term effects in the field of SEO are simply good in any situation.
In addition, Google Ads itself is an interesting tool for testing user behaviour on the advertised home page or subpage. Anyway, in professional hands, paid activities are a really useful tool for analytics and testing solutions implemented on a given website. And let's not forget that any legal and natural source of website traffic is good. And the cost of PPC advertising does not have to be excessively high if it is taken care of by professionals.
In addition, remember who we pay to display paid links. Google swears that organic search results are independent of paid ones. So there is no direct link between monthly fees and organic SERP rankings. At the moment, we do not have too many reasons not to believe the claims of the American giant. Nevertheless, it is worth being aware of the fact that algorithms are constantly changing. The monthly costs of Google Ads advertising are not too high - sometimes several dozen dollars are enough for the effects, both image-related and related to website traffic, to appear. If we can afford such an expense, it is rather worth it.
Therefore, if you are looking for experienced specialists who will take care of the position of your website, you've come to the right place.
At Semalt, we deal with both website development and web marketing in a broad sense. In addition, we offer a lot of interesting training. We work with both industry giants and small companies that are just building their position on the Internet.