Unfortunate as it may be, most of the 2 billion or so websites up and running right now attract little to no traffic. Shocking at first, but less so when considering that just a couple of major search engines direct around 95% of the web’s collective traffic.
So it’s really no surprise that competition for the top spots with Google and the like is ferocious. Climbing the rankings means implementing an effective marketing strategy, which brings two distinct options into the spotlight:
1. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
2. Search engine marketing (SEM)
Often confused as one and the same, SEO and SEM are in fact quite different. But if you’re serious about appearing prominently in the rankings, you’ll need to bring both into your digital strategy.
SEO Vs SEM
In a nutshell, SEO refers to the activities and initiatives implemented to boost a website’s appeal in the eyes of the major search engines. By contrast, SEM refers to paid search advertising programmes, which most commonly manifest in the form of PPC advertising (pay-per-click).
Why is SEO important?
Taking a look at SEO first, search engine optimisation affects the extent to which visitors will find and visit your website organically. In this instance, ‘organic’ means you didn’t use any form of paid marketing, advertising or promotional materials of any kind to attract them. Instead, they found you ‘organically’ because you’re clearly the best match for their needs.
SEO is important because it is an ongoing strategy that boosts not only traffic volumes, but also brand recognition, authority in your niche and the potential to drive better conversion rates. Organic listings in the search page results attract exponentially more attention and interest than their paid counterparts, making SEO a must for small and large businesses alike.
What is SEM?
At the opposite side of the spectrum, search engine marketing is all about paying to have your ads positioned prominently at the top of the rankings. Rather than attempting to appeal to the major search engines by improving and optimising your website, you instead pay them to showcase your message in accordance with your chosen keywords and search terms.
SEM differs from search engine optimisation in that it has the capacity to deliver an immediate influx of traffic. The moment your ads go live, they begin directing traffic to your landing pages accordingly. This can therefore be ideal for generating an initial burst of interest in a new website, advertising a temporary promotion or introducing a new product.
On the downside, the benefits of PPC advertising are usually limited to the period during which the campaign is operational.
The Best of Both…
Essentially, therefore, you’re looking at a free and organic search strategy geared towards long-term benefits, alongside a paid initiative that can deliver near-immediate results. A strategic combination of both clearly represents the ideal approach for any business out to improve their exposure.