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SEO & Search Engine Marketing: What’s in the Names?

As business-to-business (b2b) online marketing has evolved over time, so has marketing lingo. Sometimes, this can cause confusion between marketer and client because clients may not be familiar with certain marketing terms. 

Two popular buzzwords seen in the marketing space are SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). It can be difficult to understand what differentiates one from the other and the role each plays in marketing. However, when understood by both client and marketer, both SEO and SEM can be leveraged to their full potential, creating great marketing results. 

So, what is the difference between SEO and SEM?

In simple terms, SEO is an organic search strategy, while SEM is a paid search strategy. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of getting your web pages to organically show up when buyers look for information on search engines. It essentially makes your site or campaign landing pages gain online visibility the best they can without paying for ads. This happens on the backend of your web pages by following guidelines for applying Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Focused Keywords that have alignment with your page copy. By doing so, Google and other search engines better understand the content on the page, notice that you are bringing value to buyers, and can boost your ranking, allowing your website to show up higher in the search results which can lead to more organic web traffic. In terms of keywords to use, SEO should resonate with your ideal buyer and how they search, which is why SEO should not always be in the most technical terms. By focusing on the buyer’s intent and addressing their problems, needs, and wants in your SEO strategy, you can more reliably convert them into customers. 

Sample: Custom on-page SEO improves web page and blog post rankings (Below)

Indirect SEO that refers web traffic

Organic web traffic does not have to end with your own web pages. Frequent and optimized blog posts can gain visibility and offer links back to web pages. Distributing press releases through a reputable newswire service with good search rankings can boost your exposure. You can also gain search visibility by posting content to online directories or content sites that are managed by your partners, trade groups, and professional associations.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM is marketing through the use of paid advertisements that appear on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). These paid ads can also be referred to as pay-per-click ads (PPC) found on Google Ads, Google Shopping Ads, Bing Ads, etc. PPC advertising allows you to target potential customers through relevant keywords that match a user’s search query. The appeal of SEM is two fold. First, it allows marketers to promote their ads in front of motivated buyers who are ready to buy at the exact moment they are available to make a purchase.  Second, you can begin to show up in these search results after just a day or two of launching the campaign vs. the likely weeks or months that it can take to show up organically.  This is what allows SEM to be such a powerful marketing tool for your business.

Sample: Google AdWords dashboard displays an overview for a targeted Search Campaign (Below)

Curious how each strategy might move the needle in your organization?  Invest time, not money, and get your Free Digital Marketing Roadmap, on us.