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November 15th, 2018 | By: | Category: Digital Marketing | Marketing | Search Engine Optimization
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SEO VS SEM – What’s the Difference?

SEO companies throw a lot of terms at you.

SEO, SEM, PPC, Adwords, Display Network, CPC, CTR.

My goodness that can be a lot to take in.

MLT Group is different. We write content for business owners and employees at companies who need marketing help.

We don’t want to bog you down in jargon. Instead, we want to show you which strategies  can make the most sense for your business.

In today’s post, we’re going to break down some of these terms – mainly SEO vs SEM – so you have the type of understand you need to make a smart decision.

SEO VS SEM – What’s the Difference?

SEO and SEM and marketing channels.

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your business appear on organic search results. Organic search results are results that you don’t pay for (directly at least).

We’ll describe the techniques in a bit more depth soon, but SEO is the process of making changes to your website that make it more appealing to search engines. Also, it involves techniques used outside of your website to achieve the same goal.

Search engine marketing (SEM) includes SEO, but it encompasses other forms of marketing, most of which involve paying directly for website traffic.

There are many guides on SEM Vs SEO on the internet. Why did we decide to write one? We checked the results for the topic and noticed one key element missing.

Most companies don’t talk about the psychology of using these channels.

We understand business owners are human beings who want to see results. Not only should you know the difference between SEO and SEM, but you should also understand the type of mindset you’re going to need to have when using each channel. One favors patience. The other favors instant (but also more costly) rewards. Both work, but each has a different level of value depending on the industry and business owner.

Let’s dive into each type. By the end, you’ll know which route is best for you.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO helps your site rank well on organic search results, like these:

SEO Vs SEM Serp

How can you create a website Google loves?

You use the following techniques.

On Site SEO

On site SEO involves doing things on your website to help the search engine understand what it is about.

The first step involves researching the type of words people type into Google when looking for your product or service. This process can get complicated, but in short, it’s a combination of brainstorming and using tools that tell you how many people search for certain phrases each month,

Once you understand how people search for your type of business online, you can use that information to optimize your website.

You can optimize your website in the following ways:

  • Content – When you use the words people type into Google for your product or service — keywords — it let’s the search engine know your page is about that topic.
  • Tags – There are sections in your website’s code where you can add these keywords to help the search engines get an even better understanding of your page
  • Links – Linking to a relevant source on another page of your website or another website is valuable because search engines use links as a vote of confidence to what you reference

These are just the basics, but they’re good to know for understanding the on site process.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO helps your site perform better.

See, the search engines don’t just want to see that your site has great information. They want to know you provide a good user experience.

Why? Because search engines care most about providing great results for real human beings.

If your site loads slowly, has sloppy code, broken links, isn’t secure, and is missing important data, search engines are much less likely to rank your website.

Technical SEO can get very in-depth, but here are the cliff notes:

  • Error pages – Error pages can pop up when you delete pages without redirecting them — telling the code that people who visit the deleted page should be forwarded to a new one. This happens often and can harm your SEO
  • Broken links – Broken links – links on your site that point to broken pages – can occur for the same reasons
  • Redirect chains – We won’t get in-depth on this topic, but you want to make sure to properly forward links of broken pages to other relevant ones
  • Load speed – You don’t want a slow website, period. It harms your chances of ranking well. If your site loads slowly, work with a webmaster to fix those issues

Again, there are many more technical SEO issues we can cover, but these are the core ones to know. Once your site is optimized and performing well, you can use off-site techniques to improve your chances of ranking even more.

Off Site SEO

You need to use off site SEO techniques to increase your site’s authority.

What does authority mean?

Search engines use links to your business’s website as a ‘vote’ for it’s quality. This makes sense. If many other websites link to yours you must have useful information on it.

They also use mentions of your business that aren’t linked. These are called citations.

Combined, getting both will help your website become more authoritative. The more authoritative your website and its individual pages, the higher — on average — you will rank on search engines.

Link-Building

You could write an entire book on link-building. There are an endless amount of tactics you can use to get links to your website. For your purposes, here’s what it’s important to know.

You want to get the right links. What are the right links? The right links are links from other authoritative websites that are related to your business. 

Example, getting a link from a less authoritative but related website can and often will count more than getting a link from a more authoritative yet less related one.

We help our clients get back links by reaching out to related websites and telling them why our client’s website content makes sense to link to. That’s a simple way to explain a sometimes complex process we use.

Citations

A citation is anytime someone mentions your business online.

Someone posts a Facebook status about your company? It’s a citation.

You fill our your Yelp profile. It’s a citation

You become a member of your local chamber of commerce. You get it.

We help our clients build citations by finding relevant directories in their niche and submitting their sites for consideration.

The last two words are important.

When it comes to link building and citations, we reach out to other websites to consider linking to or citing your site. Getting the links or citations isn’t guaranteed. This is important because it’s the only way search engines can serve up good and honest results. If everyone was guaranteed these links and citations they would have no value.

This is the very small gist of the SEO process. For deeper insights you can check out these articles:

 

The ins and outs of SEO aren’t as important as the mindset you need to have a successful campaign.

SEO is a Long-Term Strategy

If someone promises you page one rankings in a short amount of time, run for the hills. 

SEO takes time.

You can start to see good results in 4 to 6 months, but you have to be able to handle the wait.

Google is slow.

If you’re not the type of person who can delay their gratification, SEO might not be the right strategy for you.

If, however, you’re a forward thinking business owner who understands quality results take time, SEO could be a good fit for you.

Organic Search Accounts for Most of the Traffic

There’s a reason why it pays to be patient and rank your website using SEO.

Organic search results – ones you don’t pay directly for – get the majority of clicks through to websites.

Here’s some data to check out:

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SEO Has a High Long-Term ROI

Once you start to rank your website for a number of different key phrases, you’ll notice your traffic can increase in leaps and bounds.

As time goes on and your site increases its authority, it reaps even more rewards.

The “rich get richer” phenomenon is present in SEO.

Imagine you get your website page to rank #1 for one keyword.

It can start to rank for a bunch of other keywords too.

This means you can have traffic coming to your site for a variety of different phrases based off one one page. That’s the power of a successful SEO campaign run over the long term.

Now that you have an understanding of SEO, let’s talk about SEM.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing includes SEO, but uses other techniques, mainly paid advertising.

Google and other search engines have platforms you can use to pay directly for advertising in a few different ways.

Here’s a breakdown of each relevant platform.

Google Adwords

Google Adwords is a platform you can use to pay for listings on search engines.

Here are some paid listings for reference:

We go into a bit more depth about PPC advertising in this guide.

Here’s the short version:

  • You use similar research to find key phrases you think your target audience uses to search for your product or service
  • You create pay per click campaigns where you set budgets for how much you’re willing to spend if someone clicks one of your ads
  • The search engine grants placements for website pages based on two factors — how much they spend and the quality of the ads and website pages themselves 

Either by yourself or working with a smart digital marketing agency, you can monitor the campaign and pretty much discover the direct ROI of your results:

  • You spend a certain amount on clicks
  • A certain number of those clicks become real leads
  • You close a certain number of those leads
  • If the profit you make from those leads is more than you spend, you’re happy

On top of Adwords, there are some other search engine marketing platforms you can use to spread your reach.

Google Display Network

The big difference between normal pay per click ads and display network ads is that display network ads appear not on search engine results pages, but other websites.

You might know them as “banner ads.”

Websites can participate in displaying these ads on their site through Google Adsense.

Other site owners participate in creasing the ads themselves through the display network.

Display network ads tend to have pretty low click throughs (do you click on them?) but they can be useful if you’re creative with them and use them to share valuable information as opposed to trying to sell with them.

Here’s a great guide on doing just that.

Now why would you want to create ads on the display network for any other reason but to sell your product or service?

You can use them to build awareness about your business so people will know, like, and trust it. This can lead to them becoming customers down the road.

This is important to remember – marketing isn’t just about selling right away.

Think of display network ads like digital billboards.

We could go in-depth about all the various forms of SEM but we aren’t going to.

The purpose here is to help you understand why and how these marketing channels work so you can choose one or both.

SEM Provides Instant Results

With SEM, you can “pay to play.”

If you want to get results now and you don’t like waiting, SEM might be your best bet.

Keep in mind, however, these instant results come with a cost.

The more competitive your industry, the more you will have to spend.

SEM Provides Great ROI Metrics

The best part of SEM is the fact that you can pretty much verify the ROI you are receiving from the money your spend. For pragmatic business owners, this could be the right route.

There’s a saying that goes, “you can’t go broke making a profit.”

If your ads are profitable and have a great margin, you can spend more money without much worry because you can rely on your money making money for you. 

Of course, this is no easy task or exact science either. SEM is anything but a “set it and forget it” strategy, which is why working with an expert often makes sense.

Conclusion

Both channels work. Both channels make sense.

It’s up to you to decide which one is best for you.

Our recommendation? Use SEM to kick off your campaign and SEO over the long haul to get consistent results.

An even better recommendation? Talk to us and figure out the best strategy. Fill out the form below

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