How Top Marketers choose between SEO & SEM, and why you can’t afford to
When 200,000 people all over the country come to the internet just to learn about SEO and SEM for their businesses, there must be something very unusual about these two. It’s natural to be curious to want to learn more about them too.
If not to boost your traffic, sales or sharpen your marketing skills, just to see why tons of top marketers find them so valuable and how they can keep a business from competing in the marketplace when they are misunderstood.
When businesses claim the incredible effects of using one of the internet marketing models over the other, you are likely to take such advice with a grain of salt given the internet and its false information, for either promotional purposes or whatever reasons. Let an unbiased third person make a statement on not just the benefits of the two, but also their disadvantages: and your ears prick up in attention.
Especially when SEO & SEM are worth over $80 billion, and are responsible for 6-7-8 figure businesses which are becoming increasingly competitive by the day. And with the cloud of black Friday hovering over e-commerce during November, those looking to boost their sales will want to hear more about this.
So, don’t let this article gather dust, either devour it now while the news is hot as can be, leave a comment, bookmark it, or just share it through social media or your favorite forums so that it rebounds back to you one way or the other.
Every marketer is keen to know which one brings home more bacon. And will find out exactly which and how just now.
Table of Contents
What did we learn from SEO vs SEM comparison?
So, are you ready? Let’s get into this SEO vs SEM comparison in detail.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
SEM, which is also known as paid search, gets online business attention. Its main intention is to result in an immediate sale. Paid search methods are placed in high priority by Google as it owns Google ads, which most people running paid advertising use.
If I’m not being explicit enough, that means 95% of Google’s revenue depends on it. The ads are placed to beat out organic content. This is mainly through PPC (pay per click) or PLA(product listing ad) and can be seen clearly by users placed either at the top or on the side of the SERP’s.
This is a great advantage over people who have more authority and have used more effort than the business/person serving ads to the audience, which mostly clicks on the first top 3 ads they encounter. This means the one who bids the highest, is compliant and relevant to their niche/keyword query wins the marketplace.
- PLA’s(Product listing advertisements)
What’s more: once a person clicks on an ad, they can be re-targeted. Meaning that the ad will follow them around throughout their web experience for a certain amount of time: making the offer linger over their head during their search and boosting the likelihood of conversion. This explains why 50% of people who receive ads are more likely to buy.
Ads with opt-ins and a relevant message can serve as strategies to capture leads. This can help build a list to send email sequences to if they don’t convert on the spot. So, even when the ads flop, there can be something to salvage.
Coming up with an ad is rather easy to execute. Finding a search engine, network or traffic source and following through with the instructions in the first step. Creating campaigns and adding content onto the ads is the second. Once Google or the vehicle you intend to use to reach prospects is approved, you can use tracking tools to keep up with your efficiency.
Disadvantages of SEM
It is this same ease of creating and launching ads that the problem with SEM arises from. A person who hasn’t taken the time to learn about their niche can lose a lot of money.
Even experts lose money. It takes time to train a pixel to recognize the patterns in your targeting of ideal prospects for your offer.
#1 Trouble finding your ideal audience
You might have to incur a lot of failed attempts to land on a winner, or never do in extreme cases. You might be shooting for the wrong audience, have a product/service that no one needs or just plainly failing at communicating its value.
#2 Problems with establishing authority
A brand/business using SEO will beat you when it comes to authority and communication of value proposition. These make the traffic that SEOer’s get more likely to move from a passer-by to regular visitor. When done right, they move on to being a customer and finally: a loyal repeat customer.
The reason behind this is because SEO allows a much longer and tailored sales process that transfers trust than compared to SEM methods. Getting qualified leads from SEM methods is not a given.
#3 Increased regulations by Google and advertising networks
Some regulations get in the way of serving ads nowadays. Google can turndown your ads for noncompliance or if they feel that they are offensive. For those serving ads on Facebook, political statements can get your ads flagged down. A certain amount of caution is required in your ad copy. This is not all bad and comes with the territory.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Gaining visibility organically starts with optimizing your website and outreach channels with the help of SEO.
- Speed Optimization
- Google features
These make up two parts of SEO: On-page and Off-page SEO. Tuning up both puts you in a favorable position to reach your audience without incurring a lot of costs to your marketing budget. You can start from nothing and rank for targeted keywords that get your product/service in front of the public audience with other big-spending players.
A website/brand using SEO can capitalize on a great portion of people who are searching for these targeted keywords in search queries with intensity. A keyword strategy tailored around what users are likely to type into the search bar is one great piece of advice to implement if you want to be relevant and fasten up the process.
It plays into long-tail keyword optimization and can help you appear explicitly on Google SERP’s. Look into answer boxes to take full advantage of this.
There are plenty of tools available online to take care of the technical part of SEO. Speed is one of the major technical ranking factors of SEO. MPA (mobile phone acceleration) is another that is dominating the of users that surf the net daily.
Optimizing technical off-page and on-page elements make up the most of SEO, but it is in keyword optimization that conversion is leveraged. Content is not king, it is the emperor.
Keyword-rich blog posts, articles, social media posts, and meta-data in the web page elements, video, etc… are a few examples. There is a need to be relevant to keep in compliance with Google’s guidelines.
Here’s the kind of content that Google prefers:
EAT content is what Google qualifies as useful to their audience. This is not only good for SEO content but is also the backbone of SEO as a whole. Following that simple acronym will help with producing evergreen content that is not misleading and will put you in google’s good books.
Disadvantages of SEO
SEO is a tedious process.
To be frank, on its own, SEO is tedious. As a search engine optimizer, you will juggle with coming up with fresh content regularly and keeping up with Google algorithms and shifts (which change continuously and sporadically without much notice) that threaten your position.
What makes you rank today can get you penalized next Wednesday. This should keep you sharp between your ears.
It is also slow.
SEO can be frustrating for someone who wants near-instantaneous results for their efforts, or one who is looking for a quick fix in gaining traffic. Many e-commerce store owners are aware that ranking is a long-game and can take up to a couple of months to see results, or just get picked up by Google.
You spend most of your time waiting for Google to acknowledge your efforts and lose out on immediate buyers if your improvements/offerings are still pending.
There are ways to counteract this, but I advise you to keep it white-hat. Link-farms and other black-hat strategies will set you back more than waiting for an implemented change to get realized.
However, the Return on Investment on SEO is very high when compared to SEM.
The best part of SEO is that you own your market, instead of having to reshuffle your approaches and going fishing in the marketplace constantly like how SEM requires. If your customer has unanswered questions about your offering, they are less likely to buy.
So with SEO, every visitor that comes through your gates has a higher chance of becoming a long-term customer that can be monetized over and over again.
What should I pick between SEO & SEM?
There is no right or wrong choice. Saying it depends on what you are offering is plain common sense but it won’t be enough to guide you. This is the same as picking whether you are going to focus on the front-end or back-end of your business.
You pick on whether to spend your time or money on either advertising or branding. Both are equally important. Neglect one and the other will find a way to punish you for not using it.
For example, you can have the fastest loading page and an extremely good understanding of your market coupled with great content. But, no one will see your website until the 4th page of search results, which people rarely get to- or until 3 months down the line when your content starts to rank.
Or, you can have the greatest offer on your ad that many people click on but fail to convert due to a slow loading page, not being an authority in your niche or something that could be countered by SEO practices.
Ideally, marrying the two is essential. A double threat in my opinion. Using one of the methods effectively is covering 95% of your business. Using them both add the 5% that separates the rest from the 1%ers.
Note: This guide on SEO vs SEM is contributed by Pollen Lekau. If you have an interesting article to contribute, then do check our guest blogging guidelines.
If you do like this guide, share it on social media. We have got a pin for you to add.
For more resources,