Yep! And no. They’re part of the same package of digital marketing, and their roles definitely intertwine.
The confusion starts because these words are accidentally and incorrectly used interchangeably.
SEO and SEM are more like business partners.
They work together to get the job of search marketing done.
The concepts behind these strategies can be difficult to digest, so I’m going to do my best to keep it simple and avoid a bunch of jargon that leaves your head spinning.
To start, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. SEM is Search Engine Marketing.
What does SEO do?
When you type something into a search engine, a complex and lightning-fast algorithm returns the websites that it deems the best matches. Search engines look for relevance, quality and content, among hundreds of other things – and the only way to make your site fit the bill is by setting it up for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
The better your SEO practice, the higher up you’ll go in search engine rankings.
What does it look like in real life?
There are two elements to having a site with great SEO. The first is the content on and in your website (called on-page activities) and the second is your site’s online footprint within the world-wide-web (called off-page activities).
There are literally hundreds of them, but here’s a quick summary of a few on-page activity examples to give you an idea:
- Blog posts and copy with quality keywords in it (there are tools that show highly searched terms that should be included)
- Using keywords in titles, including meta descriptions, title tags, headings, urls etc
- Semantic URLs, which basically means a link that is written cleanly (so a human could read it)
- Integration of social media and easy sharing capability
- Links to high-profile external sites
And here are some off-page activity examples:
- Amazing, interesting and sharable content
- Engaging with social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
- Being present on social bookmarking sites (eg, Reddit, Stumblupon and Digg)
How do I improve Search Engine Optimisation on my site?
You’ll need a professional to set up, review and maintain all your SEO elements correctly. And as you can see, it’s not a one-time event. For Search Engine Optimisation to work effectively, it needs to be organic and fluid, and stay current with the forever changing algorithms.
Ok, onto SEM.
What does SEM do?
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the marketing a business does using paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages. Your business will bid on keywords that your potential customers might enter when looking for your products or services.
Every time someone searches through a Search Engine like Google or Bing, ads go through an auction process known as an Ad Auction. The Ad Auction then returns the most relevant search results. The two main factors of this Ad Auction are your maximum bid and the Quality Score of your ads.
Quality Score is calculated using all the same elements of SEO, like landing page quality and relevance along with ad relevance, click through rate and a number of other factors.
There is a really great video on the Ad Auction and Quality Score Explanation by Google’s Chief Economist here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwuUe5kq_O8
If you just want to watch the part of Quality Score it starts at 2 minutes 30 seconds
What does Search Engine Marketing look like?
There are many forms of advertising tactics that are classified within SEM :
- Pay-per-click advertising (like Google Adwords)
- Mobile Advertising
- Video Advertising
- Display & Re-marketing Ads
- Shopping Ads
- Paid social media ads and posts
Google AdWords advertising is by many measures the most popular paid search platform used by search marketers, followed by Bing Ads, which also serves a significant portion of ads on Yahoo.
To make sure that you’re getting the best information, we recommend that you use a Google Accredited Partner. To become a Google Partner you’re required to complete regular training and attend information sessions to receive and maintain as a Certified provider of Google’s products and services.
Partners also received information about the regular changes made to algorithms and insights into customers behaviours. – move to above into Google accredited parters.
In closing, when your business utilises both SEO & SEM effectively it will not just improve your search ranking, but will increase your visibility online and therefore increase visitor traffic to your site.
Still not sure about SEO & SEM and how it can improve your business? Or need a hand improving your existing Digital Marketing? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch we are always happy to help.