Search Engine Optimization vs. Search Engine Marketing


Search Engine Optimization vs. Search Engine Marketing

The Importance of SEO and SEM for Your Business

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing are two ways by which businesses can draw visitors to their websites and achieve their goals. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process by which a business gets their website to rank higher in unpaid (free) search results for specific keywords. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process by which a business gets their website to appear as paid results when someone searches for specific keywords. Both SEO and SEM are displayed on the search results page and the person searching must choose which to click on, if any. Small businesses and entrepreneurs can benefit from both SEO and SEM.

SEO Is based on increasing a domain and individual URLs’ search engine performance—how close to the top of the page a website appears when specific keywords are input through a search engine. Websites such as Google and Bing rank web pages based on their relevancy for particular search keywords, their mobile optimization, the time it takes them to load in a web browser, their organization, how long their domain has been online, and more.

SEM is done via an advertising dashboard for the specific search engine in which a business wants their paid search results to appear. Google has its AdWords service and Microsoft has Bing Ads. You can simply signup for an account, enter your business and payment information, and start running SEM ads to your existing website.

Connecting with potential customers is essential for any small business owner. It is possible to reach the vast majority of people who are interested in your products or services by both SEO and SEM. This can be especially beneficial for entrepreneurs and micro businesses finding interested customers in niche markets.

Understanding the Search Engine Market

Americans consume ever increasing amounts of time on the Internet. SEO and SEM are highly affected by the search engine market. Ninety-two percent of all online adults in the US use search engines and make up the search engine market, according to the latest Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project research. Google makes up 73% of the personal computer search market and 93% of the mobile search market.

Furthermore, this search market is broken down into percentage of searches that result in clicks on organic or unpaid (SEO) search results compared to paid (SEM) search results. According to Search Engine Journal, 70% of clicks on search results went to unpaid search results compared to 30% on paid search results. Thirty-three percent of clicks on unpaid search results go to the first result (the result at the very top).

Alternatives for SEO and SEM in the Marketing Mix

SEO and SEM make up part of a business’s marketing mix. Marketing is putting the right product or service in the right place, at the right price and promotion. Product, place, price and promotion make up the “Four P’s” of marketing. A fifth “P”—time—is also usually considered as well in the marketing mix. Trying to sell off-season things without the right promotion, such as parkas in July, is an example of a poor time variable in the marketing mix. Both SEO and SEM make up part of the promotion aspect of the marketing mix.

Alternatives to SEO and SEM for promotion include print advertisements in newspapers and magazines, display advertisements that appear on websites and smartphone apps, native content advertisements that appear alongside free content on websites and smartphone apps, radio and television ads, direct response mailings, etc.

Understanding Local and Social SEO

There are also geographic considerations for small business owners to consider with both SEO and SEM. Advertising to outside of the physical area where the business can profitably operate does not contribute to sales or the bottom line. A business not appearing in local search results on major search engines and social media platforms is easily correctable but can be costly. Both Google and Facebook offer free tools to “verify” small businesses and allow them to post contact information like website URL, physical address, email address, hours of operation and more that is then used to generate both paid and unpaid search results that include maps, additional information and ratings.

Local SEO is particularly important for small businesses that serve local customers. According to Google’s own research “50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same.” Furthermore, a whopping 18% of local searches on mobile devices lead to a sale within one day.

Is SEO or SEM Right for You?

SEO may be a good fit if:
- You have an existing website that describes your business, products or services, and how to contact you
- You are willing to invest time or resources in content creation for your website
- You want your local business to appear in unpaid search results as a business listing

SEM may be a good fit if:
- You are willing to spend money on paid search results
- You have an existing website that has a clear call-to-action for your product or service
- You have identified keywords that your business fits for search results
- You are already doing SEO

Conclusions and Next Steps

Both SEO and SEM are valuable tools for entrepreneurs and small business owners to increase sales, develop a brand name, and satisfy the promotion part of the marketing mix. An important part of the SEO and SEM process is tracking results. Good results need to be replicable and that necessitates analytics tools and return on investment (ROI) tracking with a simple profit and loss spreadsheet that attributes sales to advertisement.

Two tools that are invaluable for both SEO and SEM are Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google Analytics places a tracking code on your website that tells you how many website visitors you have each day, where on your website they went, how they got to your website, how much time they spent on your website, and some simple demographics information on your visitors. Google Search Console tells Google information about your website such as where it can find your sitemap (an index of all the public URLs on your website) and tells you what errors and warnings Google has when it indexes your website to appear in its search results. Both tools are free to use.

SEO takes times to see real results. Track progress in months and quarters, not days and weeks. First review your website structure then make sure your business’s social media profiles are up-to-date and verified with Google+ and Facebook. Create content that you think your existing and potential customers want to see and can interact with. Identify keywords that identify your business and make sure to include them in the content you create.

SEM works very quickly but needs to be carefully monitored and researched. Writing good ad copy and properly targeting the right people with your ads is important as well. Start with ad small budget (as low as $5 per day even) and figure out what works and gives you the biggest ROI. Once you can consistently and profitably drive visitors to your website with SEM and make sales from those visitors, then you can start to increase your ad budget.

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