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.