Should you use SEO or SEM?
This is a big question that may confuse people who are eager to get the ball rolling when it comes to boosting the rankings of their website. But is there a big difference between them or are they just two sides of the same coin?
What is SEO?
SEO or search engine optimization is the process of making your website “search-engine friendly” and will allow search engine spiders or bots to gather information for it (via crawling or spidering), and then indexing it. Once the information has been gathered, the search engine will then classify the information based on its relevance to search terms or search phrases. The more relevant your website is to a keyword or phrase, the higher your chances of being ranked on the first page of Google.
What is SEM?
SEM or search engine marketing is like a paid version of SEO, even though it may or may not use SEO in the process. It involves money and will involve paid traffic or what industry experts call “pay-for-traffic”. This involves the use of the following:
- Paid inclusion and trusted feed programs
- Pay-for-placement management (includes pay-per-click)
- Link popularity / reputation development
Now let’s set aside the technical jargon for a bit and focus on the practical side. What should business owners use?
SEO vs. SEM
SEM and SEO have their own pros and cons when it comes to getting visitors. If you want a website to rank, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you may want to opt for SEO. However, if you have the funds for it, you can opt for SEM.
Now, the thing with money is that SEM guarantees instant first place ranking. Try going to a search engine like Google or Yahoo and do a quick search on real estate. Do you notice the links on the very top of the other results? Those are paid ads, a good example of SEM.
Another example of paid ads are those ads that you see on a blog where you see a bunch of links on a particular side of a website or a banner. However, if you don’t fund your SEM campaign, you will lose your ranking or placement. SEO is like the free version of SEM and utilizes a series of techniques that will allow a website to rank in search engines effectively, but the process is time consuming. When done correctly, the rankings will last for a long time.
But which is better?
To be honest, SEO and SEM will both work in their own ways as efficiently as they can without overlapping the other. There will be times where one is better than the other, but this is fleeting. A good balance between both will help drive traffic to your website without having you to spend a lot of time and money.