seo sem

SEO vs. SEM: What You Need to Know

If you’re in the online writing or content marketing business, you may have heard the words SEO and SEM thrown around.

You may have even casually sprinkled them into conversation yourself while quietly panicking at the thought of someone asking you to explain further.

SEO and SEM are common marketing terms, but does anyone really know what they mean?

First things first, SEO and SEM do not mean the same thing.

Let’s clarify that now so that you don’t use them interchangeably. Both SEO and SEM aim to increase a website’s visibility.

One of the main differences, however, is that SEM includes more paid search tactics while SEO is a process of using organic techniques to build credibility for search engines.

That clarifies things, right?

Not so fast.

Let’s dive in to today’s topic.

seo sem

What is SEO?

SEO is defined as search engine optimization. It is a process that uses various techniques to make a webpage rank higher in search results. Increasing your search ranking will also increase the traffic to your site.

Basically, great SEO = more visitors = more customers = more sales.

Google is constantly changing their algorithm, so it is a task to keep up with the best search engine trends. Unlike the quick return of some paid SEM tactics, SEO takes patience. It is a steady process that shows progress with time.

Main Components of SEO

SEO is comprised of two main components: on-site optimization and off-site optimization. These are also referred to as on-page and off-page.

Some on-page optimization tactics include:

  • Keyword incorporation into titles, headers, meta descriptions and content
  • Creating high quality blog posts and page copy
  • Optimizing page load speed by resizing embedded photos
  • Formatting proper URLs

Some off-page optimization tactics include:

  • Back-linking, or having other authoritative sites link back to your webpage
  • Posting on social media
  • Managing local listings

All of these strategies establish your site as a credible source in the eyes of a search engine. While SEO is a more organic way to optimize your site, it still takes hard work and expert knowledge to utilize the full benefits.

What is SEM?

SEM refers to search engine marketing. This type of online marketing involves both organic and paid strategies to optimize a site. SEO can be thought of as one component of SEM, but in a larger sense, search engine marketing is working to drive traffic to your site immediately.

(Now, SEM is something I’ve never personally used at Express Writers. Instead, we use foundational inbound marketing and do things like publish 1,000 blogs to bring in our leads.)

If your boss is looking for a quick boost in website analytics, paid search engine campaigns could be the way to go.

Some paid SEM strategies include:

  • PPC (Pay-per-click) listings and advertising campaigns
  • Ad campaigns designed to reach a target demographic
  • Hiring a copywriter to create relevant ad copy using selective keywords
  • Managing metrics like impressions, cost per click and click-through rates

The most popular SEM strategy is pay-per-click campaigns (PPC).

You’ve probably come across these ads without even realizing what they are for.

PPC is just fancy terminology for paid search results. Search engines like Google sell ad placement to the highest bidder. These ads will show up first when someone searches for matching keywords. It’s likely they’ll click the ad just because it’s the first thing they see. Honestly, who goes past the first page of search results on Google?

Every time the ad is clicked, the business pays a fee to the search engine.

Just try it. I searched “tires in Austin” to look for places to replace my flat tire. At the very top of the list there’s an ad for Good Year Auto Service. I click, they pay.

This type of targeted marketing helps increase your site’s visibility in a shorter amount of time. But it must always be turned on, like a faucet, with revenue – without revenue, it shuts off.

Rules to Follow for SEO and SEM

Maybe you’ve started a website without even considering online marketing strategies. Don’t rush to change everything just yet! The ins and outs of these terms can feel overwhelming but you’ve probably incorporated some key components without even trying. One major part of ranking high in search engine results is creating high quality content. Everything else is icing on the cake.

The Do’s of SEO

  • Develop a content strategy before writing and posting content
  • Focus on engaging, well-written and high quality content
  • Include links back to your website
  • Research keywords and incorporate them naturally
  • Insert links to credible and original sources
  • Find your voice and have a consistent tone throughout your site
  • Include a call to action (CTA) that is relevant to your brand
  • Incorporate photos, videos and GIFs that are labeled for reuse and resized to optimize the page’s loading time
  • Customize your meta descriptions to speak to someone searching for your content

The Don’ts of SEO

  • Avoid keyword stuffing. Don’t overuse your keyword in a way that negatively affects readability
  • Pay for links. They usually do not add value to your content
  • Repeat the same content or use the same titles and meta descriptions for different articles

The Do’s of SEM

  • Take advantage of SEM tools
  • Analyze the sites of your top competitors
  • Know and continually research your audience
  • Share your content
  • Check your quality score and ad relevance
  • Pay attention to A/B testing to figure out what ad copy is most effective

The Don’ts of SEM

  • Forget to utilize ad extensions to make it easier for customers to interact with your site
  • Write content for only one group of people. Instead, write different content for different demographics
  • Use excessive punctuation. Capitalizing every letter or adding extra exclamation points doesn’t emphasize your point. It just comes off as irritating

Where Should I Start?

Now that you know the difference between SEO and SEM, the first thing to do is to use terms correctly. You can even bring up the topic at a dinner party. Okay, maybe don’t go that far. At least you will no longer be confused.

The next step is to figure out how to implement SEO and SEM strategies to optimize your website.

If you already have a website you can start adding new content that incorporates keywords, links and calls to action. If you haven’t set up a website yet, now you have the guidelines to start building the most successful one yet.

CTA strategic ROI content

12 replies
  1. Mandro
    Mandro says:

    It’s really awesome information. Now a day’s digital marketing and SEO is booming to all industry. Digital marketing is the service of promoting the products and brands in the world of Internet Marketing to reach customers.

    Reply
    • Cassie B.
      Cassie B. says:

      How kind of you, Mahendra! We are so happy to hear that you got such value out of this post and we hope you come back for more! ~Cassie, Content Specialist at Express Writers

      Reply

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