You might be familiar with the difference between SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) and their roles in a digital marketing strategy. The ways they work together and complement each other are less obvious, however. Here is a basic rundown of these two aspects of online marketing and how you can employ them together to achieve significant results.
SEO is, broadly speaking, a part of search engine marketing. The term refers to the process by which marketers make websites easier for search engines to find. This involves the use of keywords, tags, and link building. If your site links to authoritative sources and incorporates relevant keywords for people searching for information related to your service or product, the site will appear higher in search results relative to less optimized sites. This is an automated process that uses algorithms to decide where to place search results according to a variety of factors.
The advantage of SEO is that it costs nothing to optimize your site for Google and other search engines. By creating a streamlined user experience, incorporating relevant keywords, and providing useful content and authoritative backlinks, you will improve search rankings and build organic search traffic with no out-of-pocket cost.
Like SEO, SEM relies on keywords to help users find your site. The difference is that SEM is basically a form of paid advertising. Ads are created to target certain keywords related to your business, and they display at the top of search results. When a user clicks on the ad, you are charged a small fee. The cost of PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is structured around the keywords used, and you can use tools like Google AdWords to set a maximum budget and find effective keywords.
One of the main advantages of search engine marketing is that it brings targeted traffic to your website. People who click on your ad are more likely to be interested in the service or product you provide than someone who stumbles onto your site through a blog article, for example.
Why you need both.
SEM and SEO both bring traffic to your website and increase conversion rates, but they are most effective when they work together. For instance, even if you have a great ad, users who click through to your website will not be inclined to stay if it is poorly designed, slow, or lacking quality content.
Conversely, a site with plenty of backlinks and SEO content might still need help from paid search to attract qualified leads and increase conversions, especially in the earlier stages. Often it takes time for search crawlers to find and categorize new websites, so PPC campaigns can help you bring traffic to your site while you create SEO content that will help drive organic traffic later.
As you plan your digital marketing strategy, pay close attention to what keywords are performing well and what sources bring the most traffic to your site, and especially how they affect the conversion rate. This will help you tweak your strategy going forward and get you the best possible ROI.