One of the most common questions that comes into spark relates to the difference between SEO and SEM. While both our marketing strategies that attempt to drive Business to your website, their approaches vary wildly. SEO stands for search engine optimization. Executing a successful SCO strategy deals with structuring and configuring your website in such away that it is easily digestible by search engines. To understand SEO, it helps to understand the goals of search engines.
SEO and Search Engines
Search Engine Optimization
Search engines weren't always advertising companies, however when they did start to make the switch it gave them even more of an incentive to truly understand the needs of their users. A search engine's job at its core is to provide the most relevant results for its users. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use hundreds of indicators to determine which websites should show up first and which shouldn't even make the cut. These indicators range from the number and quality of backlinks to the speed at which your site loads. Search engines can tell if your site is optimized for mobile devices and how long it's been since you've updated your website. They can tell if you've unethically bought backlinks and they can penalize you if you get caught.
People who specialized in search engine optimization used to be considered a threat to the search engines themselves. If you think about it, the goals of search engines and the goals of search engine optimizers are in direct conflict. Search engines want to return the best result while optimizers want to figure out how to get their clients to the top of the list regardless of if they should be there or not. This lead the search engines down a long and complicated road of structuring their algorithms in such away that are now almost impossible to trick.
"Content Marketing has become the catalyst that fuels search and social media activity."
Jim Yu, CEO, BrightEdge
While the algorithms that companies like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use to determine their results are 100% proprietary, they will often give web developers insight on the things that they are looking for in good search results. The answer is unexpectedly simple. Create useful and remarkable content. That's the core of improving your ranking. Most small business websites only have a handful of pages which makes it difficult for search engines to fully understand the business.
Creating a content machine for your website is the single most powerful thing you can do to improve your search results.
SEM and Online Advertising
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing has a different approach to driving traffic. Let's say that you sell something that would be difficult (or impossible) to rank organically, like soda. The raw truth is that you will never beat out a company like Coca-Cola or Pepsi for most searches relating to soda. These companies have been in the marketing and advertising game longer than most of us have been alive. They have millions of dollars to spend on trial and error and quite frankly they've solicited the best talent in the business. All hope is not lost.
Search engine marketing relates to promoting your content and products with online advertisements. The benefits of advertising online are many compared to more traditional means like TV, Radio, or Newspaper. Advertising online lets you target your ads much more specifically than traditional mass media. For example, you can advertise on Facebook based on peoples interests, Pages they like, or job title. With Google ad words, you can target based on geography and a specific set of keywords for which people are searching.
The drawback to online advertising is that people have become sales resistant. When Google returns a search result the top three results are always paid ads, yet only 20% of users click the ads, while more than 50% click the top three organic results.