Because of their popularity and widespread use, search engines have become something of a gateway to marketing success. Over 70% of the enterprise purchase decisions made in the United States start with research on a search engine. For consumer purchases, the figure is even higher: nearly 9 out of every 10 consumers use search engines to get information before making a purchase.
For modern marketers, the popularity of search engines makes them an important place to get a website seen. However, some small business marketers are confused about the differences between SEO and SEM. The SEO/SEM relationship is a unique one that must be understood before either of these tactics can be utilized successfully.
SEO/SEM: What’s the Difference?
SEO refers to search engine optimization, while SEM refers to search engine marketing. The easiest way to understand the difference between these two concepts is to think of SEO as a subset of SEM. Marketers who engage in SEO are using SEM, but using SEM does not necessarily mean using SEO.
To further explain the difference, understand that search engine marketing refers to both SEO tactics, which attempt to drive up organic traffic by improving page ranking, and paid advertising tactics, where a marketer gets paid advertising space on a search engine.
Even after you know why SEO and SEM are different, you still need to understand why you need both kinds of marketing for success.
Blending SEM and SEO Successfully
One of the other big differences between SEO and other types of SEM is the time that it takes to ramp up page traffic. With sufficient resources devoted to PPC advertising, there is a good chance that you can receive a significant jump in traffic weeks or even days after starting the campaign.
On the other hand, search engine optimization takes longer to build up, because it is more natural. It can take your business months or even years for your SEO efforts to pay off fully, and you’ll need to be constantly tweaking your SEO tactics throughout that entire time period in order to find the most success.
This difference is the key to understanding how to blend SEO/SEM. SEO is important because it improves your natural page ranking, which helps you build trust with your prospect base. SEM is important because it allows you to quickly bring traffic into your page for some of your most relevant keywords.
Which is Best?
Naturally, many small business marketers will want to know whether they should use SEO or other types of SEM. The answer to this question is that both types of marketing hold value for your business. Paid SEM tactics are excellent for quickly drawing traffic to a page, such as to help build anticipation for a new product release or major update. SEO tactics are valuable for building trust amongst your prospect base and gaining visibility from people who are the most likely to be looking for what you have to offer. By experimenting with varying degrees of both kinds of marketing, you can determine which mixture is best for your company to attain success in the all-important search engine arena.