What’s The Difference Between SEO & SEM?

SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of optimising content and websites so that search engines (Google and Bing) put your website higher up in the search results, ideally resulting in more organic traffic to your website. SEO is important so that search engines (and humans too) can better understand, access and use the website you are providing. If you are wondering what exactly SEO entails, be sure to check out our blog: SEO: What is it and what affects it?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM), sometimes referred to as PPC (Pay-per-click), is different to SEO in that you pay Google (or Bing) to be at the top of search results. You have probably seen the little “Ad” sign next to a search result at the top of the page. This inorganic way to drive traffic to your website has immediate results as opposed to SEO which may take months to see results.

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Quality Garden Supplies Ad

Should I Use SEO or SEM?

Now that you know the difference between SEO (organic) and SEM (paid), you may be asking yourself: What is the best option for my business?

Well, any business with the capacity and budget should aim to use both as they complement each other. However, if you are a small business and have limited resources, here are some things to consider when deciding which strategy you should prioritise to drive traffic:

1. What are your business goals?

If you are having a sale or offer and want instant traffic to your website then SEM is your best option.

However, if you are able to and want to prioritise the long-term growth of your business then investing time into a proper SEO strategy will bring more consistent results over a longer period of time.

Note: Decide what you can afford more. To spend more time or more money. If you can afford to spend more time then you should prioritise SEO. Conversely if you don’t have the time or staff consider investing money into SEM.

2. How much can you spend?

Of course, SEM costs money so if you have low-profit margins or a limited budget then maybe SEM is probably not for you. Conversely, if you have a big budget and can afford to experiment with SEM then you definitely should (with a well planned out strategy of course).

3. Do you have the time?

SEO is on the other hand, time costly. So if you are running your business by yourself you need to ask yourself if you have the time to invest in SEO, because if you don’t then SEM might be a short term solution while you look for support outside your business.

4. What is your site’s current traffic?

If you are currently making enough sales through your ranked keywords then this is a great opportunity to use SEM to increase your reach using different keywords. Here you will be able to track and measure using Google Analytics and learn more about your customers.

You can run your PPC campaigns analytics through Google Analytics or Google Ads, where you can see an overview of clicks, impressions, CTR, sessions, conversions, A&B testing, etc.

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Google Ads (SEM) Analysis

Conversely, if your site is new and you have no organic traffic whatsoever then it is probably a good idea to prioritise your SEO practices before you invest in paid advertising.

Why? Well, if your site is not properly optimised, even if you run paid ads you might not convert. So don’t waste your money with paid ads if your website is not user friendly and optimised for conversions.

Of course, if you have the bandwidth to combine both SEO and SEM then you definitely should. Combining both strategies will allow you to gather information from your PPC campaigns and refine your content for your SEO strategy, tailored to the correct audience. 

Additionally, using both strategies together lets you create re-marketing campaigns.

If your SEO is driving traffic but not converting then you can use SEM to bring them back to your website.

Additionally, using SEO and SEM in combination will give you more real estate on the first page of results, making it even more likely that a potential customer will click on you instead of a competitor.

Of course, using SEM and SEO alongside each other may be to consider for your business as a downside of using them side by side (same keyword targeting) may be that paid listings cannibalise your organic traffic, costing you unnecessary money.

In Summary

Hopefully by this point we’ve successfully helped you make up your mind on what SEO and SEM are and what to prioritise, but just in case it was a bit overwhelming, here is a quick overview.

SEO is the process of optimising your WEBSITE so that search engines put you higher up in search results, resulting in more organic traffic to your site. It is a more time-consuming process and results won’t show for months but can pay long-term dividends if done correctly.

SEM is simply paying the search engines (Google or Bing) to put you at the top of search without you having to optimise your website. This is more costly but of course can bring in results right away as opposed to SEO.

They can be used as separate strategies or together. To get the best results, both should be implemented in your digital marketing strategy.

They both have different benefits and costs, and when used together, they can give you a real competitive advantage.

If you’re having trouble seeing results then maybe it is time you look outside your organisation for support. Gerald and Rose thrive in helping small and medium-sized through digital marketing services so you can focus on doing what you do best, running your business.

Be sure to contact us or call us at 02 7906 8410 to arrange a free consultation.