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SEO Vs SEM – Which Marketing Approach Should You Take?


With the evolution of digital marketing, the language used by marketers is constantly changing. In digital, two terms are quite often used by new-age marketers which sometimes might sound perplexing to many. That’s nothing but SEO and SEM. 

To put forth basic definitions, Search Engine Optimization is an essential organic strategy used by brands that want to drive website traffic and grow their online presence on the SERPs. This process can be a rather tricky strategy to manage if you do not know the difference or how to combine it with Search Engine Marketing (SEM). 

To be honest, they both sound like the same thing, but in reality, these two strategies are very different digital marketing approaches to becoming visible on the SERPs.

SEM vs. SEO: How Is It Different?

Before you decide on your strategic approach to improving your business’s online visibility, you need to first know the terminology used and what it means. So let’s break this down into simpler terms that are easy to understand. 

The two core approaches within the search marketing industry rely on are:

  1. SEO – An approach that uses organic methods to appear in search results.
  2. SEM – An approach that uses paid marketing to get displayed in search results.

As a marketer, you need to understand that the definition of SEM is often disputed and contradicted. 

SEM belongs to a wider channel of search that includes both organic and paid.  Broadly, SEO is organic search and SEM is paid. However, the perception of many in digital marketing has changed where we have noticed that the definition of SEM moves towards the meaning of search engine advertising, with organic efforts coming pretty much under the SEO umbrella.

Let’s dive deeper into these two tactics in a little more detail, specifically adhering to what really differentiates these two.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO uses many tactics that can help a brand increase its search rankings organically. Below are a few SEO techniques that are often grouped into three categories.

  • On-Page SEO: This is the part where you optimize your website around targeted keywords to bring in customer searches for search engines. In on-page SEO, the best practice is to include your brand and non-brand keyword in your title tag, meta description, H1 tags and webpage URL.
  • Off-Page SEO: This method is all about getting trust and authority signals from various websites. This process requires building high-quality backlinks to your website to increase your page authority. But Google will also use off-page signals to size up your site’s authority, like E-A-T and social media sharing.
  • Technical SEO: Here you have to make sure that Google and other search engines can crawl and index all of the website pages. Technical SEO also includes things like making sure your page’s speed is good and is responsive. And that also your site architecture is set up correctly.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Google Ads is the most popular platform for hosting search engine ads for your brand. Apart from this we also have Bing ads, Yahoo search ads, and Amazon-sponsored ads for the right target audiences. SEM includes PPC which is a field that has its own set of marketing features, best practices and more.

  • Bidding: Paid advertising in search is all about bidding. Here you need to bid on a specific keyword. And when someone searches for that keyword, your ad will pop up. The rankings of the ads are proportional on how much someone is bidding. In case you’re the highest bidder, your ad appears in the highest position outranking your competition.
  • Quality Score: Quality Score is a super crucial metric in Google Ads. Theoretically, it’s Google’s way of figuring out if your ad is an ideal match for whatever your audience is searching for. Quality Score is based on a combination of click-through rate, landing page quality and Google Ad account’s overall Quality Score.
  • Ad Copy:  Writing compelling ad copy is a big part of ranking well with PPC. Because great ad copy gets you high CTR which in turn means a good Quality Score. Then you start paying less for the click.

SEO vs SEM. Which One To Opt for Your Business?

Firstly, it’s crucial to figure out your budget and business goals which will get your objective aligned. It will help in choosing between SEO and SEM strategies and your method of promotion. SEO helps you get targeted traffic which is slow and long-term but SEM quickly attracts your potential clients giving more brand value. It’s always better to use SEO and SEM in combination to figure out what works for you. You will have to optimize your website, begin promotions, and move on to search advertising. SEO and SEM as a combo can bring excellent targeted traffic and ROI for your business.

Having a firm grasp of how each of these strategies is involved in digital marketing campaigns will be especially crucial in the digital marketplace. If you’re still unsure about what approach is best for increasing your online presence, you can always consult with Let’s Goo Social to help you realize your brand’s marketing potential. From SEO to SEM to PPC to Website Development, you name any digital service and we have got you covered! If you’re ready to give your brand an exceptional boost, consult with our marketing experts  @ +91 9087706000.

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