SEO vs SEM – To Pay or Not To Pay?

(April 29, 2015) – SEO, i.e., Search Engine Optimization, and SEM, Search Engine Marketing, are terms that are often used interchangeably; however, they are not the same process, and one would be well-served to consider both approaches when it comes to their online marketing strategy.

Whereas SEO refers to the basic set of good web practices to ensure your content is as accessible and well-crafted as possible, SEM is a slightly broader term that encompasses some of the other options search engines give you to promote your content, such as paid and targeted ads.

SEO includes strategies such as the utilization of keywords and analysis, the creation, publication, and maintenance of good content, link building to spread your content, especially via social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and ensuring your sites and pages are easily navigable and pleasant to view for the end-user.

SEM traditionally incorporates the methods included in SEO strategy but is now usually used to refer to more of the paid aspects of search engine optimization, hence ‘Marketing.


Timing of the Method

When to use each strategy is the main concern when it comes to deciding which search engine strategy is right for you and your company. When first starting off, SEM via a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign may help establish a presence for your company, but this is not a long-term solution.

One can pay for ads and clicks to ensure your content is accessed by your potential customers, but what will keep your online presence strong in the long term is SEO.

Having good content, a well-built website, and accessibility to your customers will take your business to the next level.

It’s all well and good to have traffic funneled to you via paid ads and clicks, but those customers will not stay or come back to you if that is the only strategy you have implemented.

The best strategy is a balanced one that is aware of your current needs. If you are getting enough new traffic but business seems to be flagging still, it is more than likely that new and better content, a well-designed website, and solid keyword usage will be of more help than paid ads or clicks.

However, if you have loads of great content and your website and SEO are all well-implemented, consider using SEM techniques to further boost your visibility and help deliver that content and your company to the intended audience.