SEO vs SEM – Definitions and Examples
Striking the ideal balance between SEO vs SEM-PPC takes a lot of work. Novice marketers often choose one or the other; but this is rarely the best strategy. Our clients have achieved the best results by combining SEO and SEM (along with social media marketing – SMM) to produce results that exceed what either could do alone.
For an integrated SEO-SEM-SMM evaluation and proposal, contact Semantic Advantage.
In the right hand side of the page below, we show some examples of Google Ads (paid search advertisements), Google-My-Business (GMB) listings and organic search results for the keyword ‘professional plumber austin tx’. The ads (now clearly marked as such) at the top are examples of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). The organic (aka natural) listings are enabled by Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Presence in the GMB section is facilitated by a combination of SEO and social media signals (ratings/reviews mostly).
SEO is the process of enhancing web pages’ positions in the organic search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords. The effects of search optimization services are seen in the main body of the search results. SEM is the management of a paid search engine advertising campaigns. Both SEM and SEO are used to bring more traffic to your website for the purpose of attracting prospects, generating sales leads, or closing online sales (e-commerce). These two Internet marketing disciplines are highly complementary. And most businesses utilize both SEO and SEM in conjunction with email, social media and offline efforts as part of an integrated inbound and outbound marketing program.
Examples of SEO versus SEM-PPC
An SEO company improves your Google search rankings by making enhancements to your website structure, keywords, content, meta tags, inbound and outbound links. This same methodology also applies to improving search results on the other major search engines: Bing, Yahoo!, Baidu and Ask. [Note: #2 search platform YouTube is owned by Google parent Alphabet and uses Google search.] It is extremely important for your web pages’ listings to appear on Page One of the Google results – because most people find what they’re looking for there. SEM services entail the creation and management of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns.This work includes bid and budget management, keyword selection and grouping, identification and application of negative keywords, and continuous monitoring and optimization of the Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). PPC ads are found at the top and right margins (‘sponsored results’) of the SERPs. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you owe Google (or Bing, Yahoo! or Ask) the pay-per-click fee.
Alternatively one can elect to pay the ad platform on the basis of Impressions (# of times the ad is shown). But we prefer to wait until the advertising program has some history, so we can determine whether payment by click or impression gives higher returns.
Conversions – SEO vs SEM Comparison
A conversion is a specific action you want your website visitors to take. The Conversion Rate is the percentage of visitors that take this action when given the opportunity. The Click-Thru-Rate (CTR) represents a special case of conversion rate for the initial click on a SERPs listing. In general, most marketing programs do not draw a distinction between subsequent SEO vs SEM conversion actions.
Most digital marketing programs identify a series of conversion actions which correspond to the steps in the sales cycle. Examples of typical conversion actions include:
- Clicking on your web page’s entry in the organic search results
- Clicking on your PPC ad (link to your website) in the sponsored results
- Navigating to a specific page on your website
- Requesting more product information
- Signing up for a newsletter or email offers
- Completing and submitting a Contact Form
- Looking at an online video or product demo
- Requesting a call from a salesperson
- Making an online purchase
An SEO or SEM services program tracks these conversions to identify strengths and weaknesses in the online marketing process. And to enable search optimization enhancements or PPC campaign changes that increase the amount of website traffic, conversions and CTR.
Search Engine Optimization – Benefits and Drawbacks
– More lasting effect from SEO vs SEM
– Enhances rankings on all search platforms
– Avoids Pay-Per-Click costs
– Can take months to have an effect on organic search results
– No guarantee of Page One Google search rankings
– May require significant (and costly) changes to website structure and content
Search Engine Marketing Strategy +/-
– Immediate effect – PPC ad can generate traffic immediately
– Easier to calculate ROI and manage costs
– Does not require as many changes to website
– Effect does not persist when ads stop
– Cost can be high, especially for most competitive keywords
– Need separate program for each search engine
Key SEO versus SEM Recommendations
We recommend combining search marketing and search optimization in an integrated program – along with social media marketing. Calculating the value of your key conversion actions (and accurately measuring the costs of SEO vs SEM/PPC) enables you to allocate your marketing budget to the activities that give the best results and ROI.
Browse the Semantic Advantage website for more information on our social media marketing strategies,
SEM-PPC program management, and SEO services.