SEO vs SEM
What is SEO and SEM and do how they work best together?
If you’re looking to hide something online, just pop it on the second page of Google search. No one ever looks there.
With over 40,000 Google searches every second around the world, it’s the first place most of us turn to for life’s big decisions and daily problem-solving. Just think about it. How many times have you Googled something today? Take for example planning a visit to your local beach. What’s the weather like? Where’s best for lunch? Is there a local bike hire? How much is parking? Where can you buy a new beach towel? Are natural sunscreens actually any better for you?
Google represents a pool of customers actively looking and ready to buy products and services just like yours. So how can you get your business in front of them and rank at the top of the listings for your relevant searches?
There are two places for your business to feature on Google: the organic search results that are listed down the page and the paid advertising placements which are marked as an ‘ad’ and sit above the organic results.
Getting to the top of the organic search results involves expert crafting of your website content and metadata known as SEO or Search Engine Optimisation, while SEM or Search Engine Marketing is a paid ad placement which can be targeted to your audience around specific keyword groups. In this post we’ll explain the difference, when each method is best and how your business should be using them together.
Why SEO is the key to getting listed on Google
There are billions of websites. Billions! So how does Google know which to offer up as solutions for what you’re searching for? It may sound a little sci-fi, but Google literally sends out digital spiders to crawl the web and look for websites that are authoritative, trusted and relevant. If the spiders like what they find, they’ll present your website closer to the top of the search listing for that particular search term. Simple! If you know how to impress spiders that is.
To rank highly for a particular search term, aka keyword, you may think it’s all about jamming loads of that keyword all over your website. Stuffing it into headings and repeating it in paragraphs so that Google couldn’t possibly miss it. But as we both know, Google’s pretty smart. Instead of putting your website at the top of the search listings, you’re more likely to be marked as spam and sent to the bottom where all naughty little websites should go.
The key to keyword integration is all about being natural and leaving tasty keyword crumbs in the right places. Like most digital marketing tactics, it’s about quality, not quantity.
Key ways to improve your website’s SEO
There are lots of ways to improve your SEO, and the dedicated team at Dilate can help you find your way. To kickstart the creative juices, here are a few ways we could optimise your website for better discovery in search:
- Keyword Analysis: Extensive keyword research is incredibly valuable as it tells us directly what information your audience is actively looking for. We can then use these insights to create timely and valuable content and even offer products and services that solve their needs.
- On Page Optimisation: How can we use metadata and body tags to help Google know what your page is about? Here we’ll use our insights from the keyword analysis to optimise for the right search terms in the right places.
- Off Page Optimisation: Gaining links to your site from other website is a sure way to tell Google you know what you’re talking about. It’s a sign of authority and credibility around that particular topic. Reaching out to guest blog, sharing your business details in online directories and creating share-worthy content are all excellent ways to build backlinks.
- Content Marketing: You heard right, the best way to optimise your website for search is to create great content in the first place. Regularly publishing articles and videos about unique and relevant topics and sharing these in social media drives more visitors to your site and builds links through satisfied readers who’ll give you a well-deserved shoutout in their blog or social pages.
So when should you get started on SEO? Likely yesterday, last month or even last year. But if you didn’t, let’s do it today!
The thing to know about SEO is that your page won’t jump to the top of Google straight away even with the most strategic sprinkle of keywords or mention from a famous blogger. SEO’s a slow burner. But it makes for the best tasting website that Google simply can’t resist.
How SEM can get you to the top faster
If you can’t wait to experience some Google fame, you’ll want to explore your options with SEM. It involves using paid advertising to help you rise through the ranks on the search results page ahead of your competitors in the blink of an eye. Also referred to as Google Adwords or PPC (Pay Per Click, a popular method to buy ads on Adwords), SEM is the fastest way to target audiences that are already looking for you via highly relevant ads created around searched for keywords. With the ability to turn SEM on and off, it can be the answer to your conversion dreams while you wait for your SEO to kick in.
Similar to SEO, SEM is an expert trade in analysing and crafting keyword groups, monitoring results and optimising for improvements. It’s a delicate balance between targeting popular keywords with high search volumes but with lower competition to ensure the cost per click isn’t too high and you don’t blow your Adwords kitty in one go. The more competitive, the more expensive, so targeting more specific or niche keywords is often a good strategy for gaining the edge. You can learn more in this post about a numbers-led SEM strategy can take the uncertainty out of your advertising campaigns.
The team at Dilate has the tools to help analyse the right keyword strategy for you. This involves not only finding the most profitable keyword groups that target your audience’s location, demographics and specific needs they’re searching for, but also analysing the SEM strategy of your competitors to look for gaps and new opportunities.
Ultimately you need both. How SEO and SEM work best together.
SEO is all about the long-term strategy, while SEM helps with short-term tactics. So when do you use which method and should they work together?
Think of it like you’re creating a garden. The biggest, most beautiful digital garden in the whole of the internet. The first thing you should plant is the trees. They take the longest to grow. With their sturdy roots, the trees form the foundation for a strong garden in the future. They’ll take a while to blossom with gorgeous leaves and tall branches, but when they do, they’ll be the key attraction for visitors to enjoy, share and have them coming back for more. These trees represent our SEO strategy.
But until that time, we can still bring people to our garden with eye-catching flowers. We can buy them from the store and pop them right in! We can also test what colours are most attractive and change them up each season. The flowers are our SEM tactics for short-term success and quick wins.
Ultimately, the most effective search strategy involves SEO and SEM working together. Here are three ways they can get all loved up:
- Learnings from SEM campaigns can provide valuable data points to feed into your SEO strategy including testing of keyword groups, effective audiences and messaging styles that best drive engagement or conversion.
- SEM will drive quality traffic to your site which will also help with your SEO ranking.
- SEM tactics require you to create valuable landing pages and effective sales funnels, providing content and user journeys that SEO can also utilise.
When should you use SEO vs SEM
The type of content and stage of your website informs what method to use when. For established websites, Dilate can help you analyse which pages currently rank well in search and identify opportunities to improve with SEO as well as boost visits to unranked pages through SEM. For brand new websites, starting to drive visitors with SEM is a great way to introduce your products and services to those may be looking for them but didn’t know you existed. That is until now with your shiny new SEM campaigns.
So whether you have an existing website that needs some love, uploading new content regularly (or should be!) or even launching a brand new site, if you’re creating content and you want to drive leads or sales from it, you need to be optimising for search with SEO for long-term success and SEM for quick wins and learnings.
Keen to get started? Perth based digital marketing agency Dilate specialises in SEO and SEM has a team of experts on hand to assist. Give us a call today on 1300 345 283.