Time after time I have heard SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) used interchangeably. Clients and even industry insiders swap the two in and out as if they are the same. So, are they one in the same? Or are they different?
SEM - Search Engine Marketing
This is the process of marketing a Web site via search engines through multiple tactics both paid and organic to increase visibility, brand awareness, traffic and most definitely ROI. SEM encompasses SEO, paid advertising, Social Media Marketing, Blog marketing and Web analytics. Let’s break these down separately.
SEO - Search Engine Optimization
A crucial component of any SEM campaign, SEO is a long term strategy that includes using both on and off page factors such as strategic linking, content, addressing site structure / navigation, and technical search friendliness issues. SEO does not happen overnight. But with a little elbow grease your Web site can enjoy quality targeted traffic and top search positions.
Cost effective ways to deliver paid traffic to your Web site includes PPC (pay per click), paid links, online media buys (banner ads) and email marketing, to name a few. PPC advertising, when done right, can provide high quality traffic and deliver a fantastic ROI. Paid advertising can also play a critical role in shaping your SEO efforts, because after all, you don't want to have to pay for that success forever.
Social Media Marketing
The term Social Media Marketing is evolving quickly and includes a variety of important social platforms, such as media sharing sites, social networks, and bookmarking tools. Social Media Web sites allow users to submit, share, bookmark and comment on submitted content in different ways. Content has the ability to spread virally as more users save / share / vote on the submitted content, thus sending traffic and establishing links to your Web site. When done correctly, Social Media Marketing can help your Web site's rankings on Search Engines and grow your business' online visibility!
Blogs are a great way to interact and gather feedback from your market, build brand and product awareness. Blogging is an interactive marketing tool that allows you to publish any content you want and respond to feedback from readers quickly. According to a study done by Universal McCann, there are an estimated 60.3 million people who read blogs in the United States alone. A complete SEM campaign will utilize blogs in a variety of ways to grow your company's brand awareness and connect with your audiences.
SEO, paid advertising, Social Media Marketing and Blog marketing are all critical components of a successful SEM campaign. Use Web Analytics to fine tune these efforts by measuring program performance and ROI. The data will tell you what is working most effectively so you can focus on those elements that are making you money.
To Sum Up
SEO and SEM are not the same. SEO is one component of a much broader SEM campaign. Though SEM is all encompassing when it comes to marketing your Web site, SEO plays a critical role, it is often the necessary first step in any successful SEM campaign. Though SEO is just one building block, it is a vital foundation on which an SEM campaign needs to be built on and around. Though confusing, having an understanding of both SEM and SEO will benefit you in the long run. When you are looking for the total package in marketing your website online, it is important to trust your SEM campaign to professionals who fully understand the concepts and operations of this ever changing industry. It takes all of the components listed above, along with a specialized professional to really build the most profitable and beneficial internet marketing campaign for your business.