Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two very common terms which may from time to time be used interchangeably, albeit wrongly by many players in the online market space when trying to promote their website or products online. SEM can be defined as the online marketing techniques and practices which are adopted by an organization with the main aim of gaining visibility in search engine results. It is generally over and above SEO even though it usually forms just a subset of the overall internet marketing strategy.
SEM can be done in a variety of ways which include but are not limited to having paid placements, paid inclusion, contextual advertising as well as SEO. SEO on the other hand can be defined as the practice of optimizing the content of a site so that it can rank higher in search engine searches. It does generally involve well thought and proper distribution of keywords, increase in the number of back-links and basically striving to make it easy for crawlers, spiders or robots to properly index the contents of a page so as to determine the relevance of the page to what the user may be searching for at any given time.
For SEO, there are two main pillars; these are Off-site and On-site SEO. Off-site SEO is the process of getting votes from other sites so as to increase the trust level of your site in the eyes of search engines. Votes in this case are usually links coming from other sites to your website. In certain areas, Off-site SEO is usually referred to as link building. On-site SEO on the other hand are rules and regulations which you can apply on your blog or site so that it is more search engine friendly; this may include rules such as how to use well formulated URLs, use of proper titles, correct use of H1, H2 and images, importance of good descriptions etc.
Paying for Results
In comparison, SEM is basically geared towards getting more visibility in search engines either though paid search advertising (paid traffic) or free traffic. By adopting paid search advertising, the user essentially buys advertising space in the search engine results. In this strategy, instead of attempting to rank higher in the searches and get free traffic, the user pays so as to appear at the top or in front of the searches. Google AdWords is one of the most popular advertising agencies used for paid search advertising. Your ads will appear in the Google search results and you will only be charged for the clicks on your ads and hence the name – Pay per Click (PPC).
Difference in Timeframe
The main disadvantage of SEO is usually its speed. Whereas other SEM styles tend to get results instantly, using a purely SEO driven strategy is bound to produce delayed results. This is mainly because it does take some time before crawlers go through the website pages and indexes them accordingly; this becomes even more pronounced if you are constantly changing the content of your pages.
SEM is a very broad topic which covers a lot, and SEO – even though is the most important aspect – is just a part of the much larger online marketing strategy that a business should adopt. If the business has limited resources then SEO would be the best option to go for but if the business is keen on fast results and is not so constrained financially then the full suite of SEM techniques are bound to provide instant results.
If you just nod and smile when other business owners are talking about their strategies for search engine marketing, you shouldn’t be too concerned, nearly half the companies out there have little or no strategy for SEM. This doesn’t get you off the hook. If you don’t investing in the basics of search engine marketing you’re neglecting an important opportunity that can lead to more traffic to your site, and when done properly your conversion rate will increase as well.
In order to stay relevant in your industry, it’s important to have a noticeable web presence. The internet isn’t going away any time soon, and the amount of people investing resources into their online marketing plan is only going to increase. If you haven’t put a plan into place yet, start now before you fall too far behind the completion. Here are some basics you should know to start.
Search Engine Marketing… What is it Again?
If we’re talking about the basics of SEM it helps to at least define it. When users search online they’re often browsing with a specific goal in mind. They’re using certain phrases they believe will be most useful in order to pull up relevant search results. To market through a search engine, you have to think like one.
What Are the Rules?
That’s the tricky part; no one really “knows” the rules. Google provides a list of guidelines and recommendations, but the specifics of their algorithm are somewhat of a mystery. We do know that Google values relevancy, engagement, and overall user experience. So regardless of what aspect of your website you’re dealing with, whether it has to do with design, content, or optimization techniques, make sure you’re doing so with your real life audience in mind. Google wants you to market organically to people, instead of trying black hat techniques that spam the system. Doing so will get you penalized which will make climbing to the top of rankings that much harder.
Since ranking for the most relevant search phrases that a high volume of users are searching for is the most important part of marketing online, it’s vital you begin by doing keyword research. The first step in the keyword research process is simply to brainstorm a list of the words and phrases a searcher might use to find your site or business. The key here is not to be too general. Forget broad terms like “cars” Focus instead on long tail keywords such as “good cars for winter.”
By running your list of proposed keywords through a keyword research tool, you’ll discover how many searchers are actually conducting searches for a given word or term every day, how many of those searches actually converted, and other useful analytical information. You can also use these tools to discover other terms or phrases similar to the ones you want.
Once you’ve determined which keywords to target, both for a general content marketing campaign as well as for specific, smaller initiatives, it’s time to build content around those phrases.
One of the important ways Google analyzes sites is by looking at the backlink profiles of each website. They’re interested in diversity, too many links coming from the same site doesn’t do much to impress Google, and if you’re linking to too many sites that are spammy and have low metrics, Google can penalize you. The best way to create a natural, healthy looking backlink profile is to generate good content that people want to link to and share. Focus on creating content that is valuable and engaging, and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Natural link building services can be hard to come by so make sure you’re using a reputable agency that knows what they are doing.
A great practice to put in place is reaching out to other site owners and writing an article for their site that contains a link back to you. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that with the right type of nurturing could develop into a useful relationship.
The technical side of search engine marketing should never be overlooked. Google has to properly crawl your site for indexing purposes, and if you don’t have all your pieces in line, you may end up getting overlooked. Keeps these important tips in mind:
· Your content on your site should have title tags and Meta descriptions.
· Meta keywords are pretty much ignored by search engines nowadays, but if you still use them, make sure it talks specifically to that page and that it is also formatted correctly.
· Your Meta description should be unique and also speak to that specific page. Duplicate Meta descriptions from page to page will not get you anywhere.
· Title tags should also be unique! Think your title as a 4-8 word ad, so do your best to entice the reader so they want to click and read more.
· In addition to optimizing for the desktop experience, make sure to focus on mobile and tablet optimization as well as other media.
· Consistent Domains: If you type in www.example.com, but then your type in just example.com and the “www” does not redirect to www.example.com that means the search engines are seeing two different sites. This isn’t effective for your overall SEO efforts as it will dilute your inbound links, as external sites will be linking to www.example.com and example.com.
· Keywords in URL: Having keywords you’re trying to rank for in your domain will only help your overall efforts.
· Optimize your non-text content so search engines can see it. If your site uses Flash or PDFs, make sure you read up on the latest best practices so search engines can crawl that content and give your site credit for it.
An important lesson I learned from a teacher was don’t do something unless you intend to do it in the right way. You should definitely invest your time and effort into search engine marketing; it’s where the people are. But unless you commit to following the right practices, all your effort will go to waste. Continue to educate yourself and speak with professionals in the SEM industry to get you seen and heard online.