SEO vs SEM Which One is Best For Your Marketing Strategy?

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website to improve where web pages rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). The practise encompasses many forms including technical SEO, off-page SEO, and on-page SEO. Incorporating each approach into your digital marketing strategy is essential to achieve your marketing goals.

In the most simple terms, SEO is how marketers increase the organic visibility of a website for relevant keywords. The more visible your company is, the easier it is to attract your target customers and secure sales. High-quality lead generation, improving the user experience, and increasing your site’s click-through rate are all possible with SEO.

google search organic example

As seen in the example above, our blog discussing the best websites on the internet has secured the top spot in Google Search as well as the featured snippet for the search term ‘best websites’.

How Does SEO Work?

Google processes 3.5 billion searches every day, using hundreds of ranking factors and signals to identify which pages are relevant to each search query. Search engines work using bots to crawl web pages and place them in an index. From there, an algorithm analyses the pages and orders them on SERPs based on a variety of ranking factors.

SEO is the process of optimising a web page to match these ranking factors and signals so your site appears higher organically within results pages. The biggest search engine, beyond any doubt, is Google. The tech giant boasts a 92.18% market share worldwide with the 2nd place Bing only raking in a 2.27% share. To ensure your digital marketing efforts are profitable, optimise for Google search as this is where most prospective customers will be conducting research as part of the buyer’s journey.

Technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO all intersect to increase rankings on SERPs organically. High-quality content keeps users engaged and ensures they stay longer on a web page. Having an appropriate keyword density is also a crucial ranking factor that demonstrates relevancy to search engines. While how mobile-friendly a site is, its page loading time, and security such as the HTTPS protocol are site architecture ranking signals. To learn more about the fundamentals of SEO see here.

What Is SEM?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of digital marketing that promotes a website’s visibility on SERPs through paid advertising. It’s one of the most effective ways to make your business stand out, particularly in a competitive marketplace. Using paid advertisements to market your website is a great method to grow your business quickly and secure quick wins.

google search inbound marketing ad

The example above shows a paid ad we are currently running on Google. You can see that the ads sit higher above the organic results with 2 other ads sitting below.

How Does SEM Work?

Ads on SERPs are typically referred to as pay-per-click advertising. Bing ads are also a form of SEM, however, the most effective platform is Google AdWords. There are also Facebook ads and other forms of social media advertising that enable you to promote products, websites, or services to users scrolling through their feeds.

Google AdWords places your website at the top of Google’s search results, providing that your ad matches the criteria to sit in that top spot. A well-placed ad creates valuable, loyal customers. Google is where most of us look for products, services, and businesses. It’s the tool we use to conduct research and begin that all-important journey to making a purchase.

What Are The Key Differences Between SEO and SEM?

SEM generally refers to paid search tactics, which involves a business paying for a search engine to display their webpage. 

SEO aims to earn high positions in search results organically, for free on SERPs through the creation of relevant content and implementation of SEO techniques. 

A business will pay when implementing a Search Engine Marketing campaign, while Search Engine Optimisation is free to execute but commonly more challenging to master.

Which Is The Right Tactic For My Business?

Digital marketing tactics cover a broad spectrum and encompass a variety of approaches. SEO and SEM are most effective when they work alongside each other. However, there are occasions when one marketing tactic will be more useful. For example, SEM delivers quick wins and results, which makes it ideal for testing, while SEO takes longer before you will see an effect.

To determine the right approach, analyse what your competitors are doing. If they’re ranking highly for competitive keywords, then Search Engine Marketing is the most effective approach to overtake them on SERPs. Whereas if your competitors have massive gaps in their content, SEO is the right marketing tactic to implement.

SEO versus SEM is a difficult discussion to have as many of the benefits they offer to marketers overlap.

Both marketing tactics help your brand rank on search results for queries your target audience is searching for. Optimising your site for topics and specific keywords highlights your brand to prospective customers researching your niche or industry.

They attract more valuable traffic to specific pages on your site and your website in general. Instead of driving users to your site that aren’t interested in your brand, SEO and SEM help draw in targeted traffic.

SEO and SEM both begin with keyword research. Discovering the search queries your target audience is searching for allows marketers to identify the most valuable keywords to optimise for. This doesn’t mean the most competitive keyword, but the option that’s most relevant to your brand.

These shared benefits demonstrate that SEO and SEM help marketers achieve the same goals. Where they differ is that the journey towards the end goal is different. This is why the conversation shouldn’t be about which marketing tactic is better, but rather how you can combine the two to produce better results. With the right digital marketing strategy, you can achieve your marketing goals, grow, and succeed.

Bright Design SEO & SEM Marketing Tactics

At Bright Design, we craft bespoke SEO and SEM approaches focused on your target audience. Our team has years of experience in SEO and we constantly develop our marketing tactics to align with industry changes. Whatever your brand, we assess your goals to identify how SEO and SEM help you achieve your marketing goals. Discover how our SEO and SEM strategies can benefit you, get in touch with our team today.

Peter Dennis

Pete joined the team in 2019 as a copywriter. His main responsibilities involve researching and writing valuable content for our client-partners to ultimately help them achieve their goals. Pete works closely with the Marketing and Account Management teams to ensure his content aligns to what each client is looking to achieve.

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