SEM vs SEO Marketing Explained

When comparing SEM vs SEO marketing methods, many business owners assume that the former is a pricey shortcut, and that the latter is simply too much work.  

Anyone who’s trying to make their mark online knows that the internet can be a ruthless and crowded arena to try and play in, and clawing your prized piece of real estate back is a lot harder than earning it in the first place.

Unfortunately, getting seen by the right audience requires much more than simply having a website. Without strategies in place to attract new customers, retain the loyalty of existing ones and even adhering to the technical guidelines required by the likes of Google, it’s a bit like expecting a car to operate without having an actual engine under the hood. 

For those new to the world of e-commerce, the good news is that there’s multiple choices on offer as a means to get noticed online. With the two most popular options being paid search engine marketing and search engine optimisation, what are the primary points of difference between SEM vs SEO marketing methods?

The Differences Between SEM vs SEO Marketing 

In simple terms, the primary point of difference between search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) is that SEO focuses on getting traffic from organic searches, while SEM focuses on getting traffic from paid searches, with some potential traction from organic sources if the copy is properly optimised. 

Once upon a time, SEM referred to both paid and organic advertising on search engines. Today, it is a phrase almost exclusively used for paid strategies, and although it’s often interchangeable with pay per click marketing (PPC), it’s not quite the same thing, as PPC also covers social media.

How SEM works is that users pay every time an audience member clicks a link that directs them to the user’s website, and often uses the consumer’s data to show them ads based on their previous search history.

SEM is a popular form of paid advertising as it gives users the opportunity to be noticed by a wider audience online by taking what can only be referred to as a ‘shortcut’, with Google Ads being the format that is most commonly used. In addition to speeding up the process of getting seen, users can also use SEM to target specific demographics like age, gender, location, and other purchasing behaviours, as well as tracking quantifiable data to determine return on investment.

However, the danger with SEM is that as the process uses keywords to link users with potential clicks, some keywords are much more in demand than others – and are priced accordingly. In turn, it’s very easy to spend thousands of dollars on SEM each month, without actually seeing the results to match such an investment. Not all brands can afford this avenue, which may help to explain the popularity of the alternative: SEO marketing

As a starting point, SEO is the term we use to describe the practice of including specific content on your website. Otherwise known as Search Engine Optimisation, this same content has the potential to improve your visibility on search engines, with the end goal being to connect with the right audiences. Put simply, it helps your site show up more often in relevant searches, and is crucial if you want to reach the lofty heights of the first page of results on search engines like Bing and Google organically. 

While SEM and SEO marketing both adhere to the basic principles of using keywords to connect search engine results with audiences, the major point of difference to note is that with SEO marketing, those all important clicks are free. When done well, evergreen content written for SEO has the potential to generate leads for years into the future. 

However, the reason why business owners become disillusioned with SEO marketing is that it’s very much a long game. While it’s crucial for building a functional website and protecting valuable online assets against potential competitors, don’t expect instant results as Google will often wait a few weeks, or even months, to verify that the content is helpful, consistent, and of a high enough quality to be delivered to consumers in the search engine results.

Based on the above information, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that SEO is the way forward, as organic traffic is “free” and passive. However, this often isn’t the case, as it frequently depends on the goal of the user, the keyword, and what type of competition you’re up against. As an example, a growing number of brands will use SEM for specific campaigns, but also ensure that they are backed up with SEO friendly landing pages that can also double as blogs. This way, brands are essentially having a bet both ways. 

If you’re unsure on which strategy is right for you and your business, it may be worth partnering with a reputable content marketing agency and removing the guesswork. Even the most gifted of in-house marketers usually identify as either technical wizards, skilled visual gurus or natural born writers, but rarely ever is it all three. If your brand is struggling to produce top notch content that Google deems worthy enough to showcase, the good news is that outsourcing has never been easier, or more cost effective. 

The Key To Good Marketing Is Great Content

Here at Content Hive, producing top quality digital content is exactly what we do best. We have itemised a list of digital content services, and allocated credits next to each of these. This means that each month, you can use your credits with us to produce digital content such as blog articles, social media posts, videos and even animated Instagram stories. By using this model, we believe that it enables us to produce high quality content with faster delivery times.

If you aren’t quite sure where to start on your digital marketing journey and would like to speak to a professional, why not book in a free discovery call with us at Content Hive today to discuss how we can get your brand buzzing online.

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