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The SEO/SEM best practices require different skills and can be applied depending on your pre-determined business goals and objectives. In an ideal world, a business should invest in and implement both processes in equal measure, but sometimes budget and time constraints put that option on hold. In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning of SEO/SEM and outline the pros and cons of each process.

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) describes the process of improving a website’s ranking in a search engine results page to attract a higher rate of organic traffic. Organic SEO is arguably worth more to a company’s website in the long term compared to pay-per-click advertising – as it directly contributes to page ranking and could potentially be free of charge if done effectively.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a form of marketing that aims to attract visitors to a website through paid and sponsored ad listings on a search engine results page. SEM is very effective at quickly attracting your targeted audience without having to wait for it. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising such as Google Ads is one of the most popular forms of SEM.

SEO Pros and Cons

Increased Trust and Credibility

Google is arguably the most recognisable and trustworthy brand in the world. Being accredited by Google’s search engine will give your own brand a higher level of credibility and consumer trust simply by association with the search engine powerhouse.

Website owners all aspire to be in the coveted first place of a results page, but even if your website is in 9th or 10th place on the first page of SERPs, simply being there will earn you a level of credibility that can be extremely valuable to gaining new customers. After all, how often do we actually click on the 2nd page?

There are several SEO techniques you can implement to increase your ranking potential. Keywords play a big role and you should remember to use relevant keyword in your:

  • title tags
  • meta descriptions
  • URL descriptors.

More Traffic

Here is where SEO and content marketing converge. Nowadays, increasing search engine traffic has a lot to do with creating content that your audience is actively looking for. Interesting, or “share-worthy”, content is content that answers a specific query or educates your audience about an interesting topic related to your niche. In this case, the maintenance of a regular blog is one of the most effective methods.

Extremely Cost-Effective

If you’re a small business with a restricted budget, SEO should be at the top of your list of marketing priorities. SEO is often regarded as the most cost-effective techniques that a business can implement with the most generous ROI. There will be costs involved, but these are trivial when compared to other, more expensive marketing channels. The reason for this is you won’t have to pay for the clicks and impressions you receive from organic traffic and the effects are long-lasting with minimal, but constant, maintenance.

Time-Consuming

If you’re going to learn anything from the SEO process, it’s patience! A business that’s under pressure to produce immediate results might have to consider other marketing channels. Extensive keyword research and analysis is required prior to the start of the campaign, and this can be particularly time-consuming for the inexperienced – taking anywhere from weeks or months to produce results.

Highly Competitive

If your business operates in a stacked industry with multiple well-established companies, then you’re going to find it more than difficult to rank for the popular keywords related to your niche. This is where you need improvisation and initiative by selecting other key phrases and terms, as well as long-tail keywords that have much less competition. That’s the nature of organic traffic!

SEM Pros and Cons

Instant Table Topper

By paying a premium, you’ll be able to place an ad at the top of a search results page. This pay-to-win tactic gives your business a huge advantage with instant visibility and brand awareness to new customers. Sure, there’s a chance that visitors will simply scroll past your ad in favour of the top-ranking organic option, but this gives you the option to skip the lengthy SEO process and go straight to the top of the page.

Split Test for Quick & Measurable Results

Split or A/B testing your individual ads is one of the major advantages of SEM. This will give you valuable insight into what is and isn’t working during your advertising campaign. From the colour to the copy and image selection, a split test gives you the chance to formulate the most effective ad that you know your audience will respond to. The data you can accumulate with SEM can outweigh the overall cost of the method.

Properly Showcase Your Products

Only the paid advertisements contain pictures in SERPs, compared to the plain text of organic search listings. Web browsers want their eCommerce experience to be as smooth as possible, and the inclusion of an attractive product picture is more likely to entice the shopper onto the paid link; ultimately increasing your CTR and conversions.

It Can Get Expensive

At first, you might not notice the costs of your PPC campaigns on your bottom line and feel that your business is easily able to absorb the running expenses. If you get complacent and don’t make the necessary adjustments over time, you’ll undoubtedly start to notice the growing cost without the results to justify negative ROI. It can be very expensive if you let it.

Gives Your Competitors an Insight

Your competitors will easily be able to have a look at your ad campaigns to see the process of your sales funnel. Your keyword selection, style of copy, landing page and general strategy will be out in the open for all to see and analyse. It might not have a direct impact on your results, but it will give your competitors an ideal blueprint if they’re lagging behind.

What Should You Choose?

SEO and SEM can fulfill different objectives depending on your individual timeframe. If you’re focused on short-term goals and require instant results, then you should invest in an effective SEM campaign. If you’re not limited to a timeframe and want your business to have a well-established and credible online presence for years to come, focus your efforts on SEO. Ideally, it shouldn’t have to be SEO vs SEM vs PPC, but sometimes a choice has to be made!

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