In the ongoing debate of SEO vs SEM, one thing remains true.
Hands down, no questions asked, irrefutable, indisputable, beyond a doubt…
Google is the largest search engine in the world and controls 92.42% of the search engine market share worldwide.
This gives businesses an opportunity to drive massive amounts of traffic to convert into leads and sales via SEO and SEM efforts.
In fact, here at LYFE Marketing, we have used SEO and SEM to drive millions of hits to our site so far to date.
Ok, so we know SEO and SEM works, but which one is better for your business?
If you are a novice to either or both, don’t worry.
Today, we’re going to clearly explain what SEO and SEM is and the similarities and the differences between them broken into the following 5 categories:
Let’s start by defining SEO and SEM!
What is SEO?
SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is the process of optimizing your site to increase its visibility for relevant searches.
What is SEM?
SEM, which stands for Search Engine Marketing and often referred to as “pay per click”, is the process of paying search engines to increase your website’s visibility for relevant searches.
Yes, the goal of both SEO and SEM is to increase your site’s visibility within search engines.
SEO vs SEM: What Are The Similarities?
Other similarities between SEO vs SEM include:
- Helping drive traffic to websites
- Using keywords for targeting
- Requiring continuous optimization
If search engines were a car, SEO would be an electric car and SEM would be a car that takes gas.
Both help you reach your destination but differ in their makeup and sustainability.
So let’s discuss those differences, starting with our first category.
SEO vs SEM: What’s The Difference?
Search Engine Marketing also known as paid ads show above organic listing and sometimes below them as well.
It can be identified by an “AD” badge attached to them. And only one ad at a time will be shown per search result for your company.
SEO is also known as organic results show below search engine results and take up more real estate on the search engines.
At this time, for some search terms, you can rank multiple pages on your site for a single keyword.
However, Google has said that it is working to limit organic results to one result per company.
Beyond keywords, Search Engine Marketing allows you to target your ads based on the following criteria:
- time of the day
- day of the week
- geographic location
In addition, with search engine marketing, you can pay to have your keywords show up for almost any keyword, regardless of competition.
This gives you unlimited potential for reach at any moment.
When performing Search Engine Optimization, you can only target your content based on one criteria – keywords.
Also, unlike SEM, with SEO, you have to consider competition a bit more as you don’t want to waste efforts attempting to rank for a keyword who’s competition is out of your reach at the moment.
With Search Engine Marketing, your time to results can be immediate once your ads are approved, which typically take less than an hour.
This makes SEM very attractive for those willing to pay the price to get immediate results.
With Search Engine Optimization, depending on the authority of your website, it can take between 2 to 12 months on average to start to see results from your efforts.
The moment you stop paying for SEM, you stop showing up for search terms.
This means that the long-term value of this traffic source is literally dependent on your taking cash from your business to fuel it.
With SEO, you may or may not have upfront costs such as outreach or backlinking to help you rank on search engines that typically decreases once ranking is achieved.
The beauty of performing proper SEO is that over the long run, the maintenance and cost to maintain your search engine position ranking and continue to receive traffic is very low.
The average click-through rate (CTR), across all industries for Google Ads is 3.17%.
This means that on average, 3 people out of 100 people who see your ad will click on your ads.
The average CTR, click-through rate, for the #1 organic search result gets 31.75% of all clicks.
This means that on average, 37 people out of 100 people who search on google for a keyword click the #1 ranking.
In fact, simply being on the first page of search results in the 9th position will net you the same CTR as the average Google ad.
There you have it, a deep dive into SEO vs SEM!
So with all we know now, which one is better for your business?
SEO vs SEM: Which is Better For Your Business?
What we have found is that it varies for every business.
And the businesses that can do both and dominate the real estate on search engines typically outperform those who can only do one at a time.
BUT, if you must choose only one, you must ask yourself a few question first:
1. Do you have money to allocate to advertising spend?
a. Yes: You should try both. Go to the next question to filter further.
b. No: You should make SEO your main strategy.
2. Do you need results immediately?
a. Yes: You should make SEM your main strategy.
b. No: You should try both. Go to the next question to filter further.
3. Does your website have a high Domain Authority/Page Authority?
a. Yes: You should try both. Ultimately, you have a better chance of getting great SEO results fast with proper strategy. Go to the next question to filter further.
b. No: You should try both. You benefit by starting the clock on the time to result for SEO and get the immediate results of SEM. Go to the next question to filter further.
4. Is your buying cycle short or long?
a. Short: SEM may be profitable for you and is worth the try.
b. Long: It may be expensive to acquire a customer via ads. A solid SEO content strategy may be more profitable for you.
5. Still have questions?
a. Yes: Comment below and we’ll make sure to get your questions answered.
b. No: Get started by visiting our blog to learn more in-depth SEO and SEM strategies or reach out to us to start a result-driven SEO and SEM strategy and campaign for you.
In summary, SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is the process of optimizing your site to increase its visibility for relevant searches.
It takes 2-12 months to see results on average and becomes less expensive over the long term.
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, and is often referred to as “pay per click”.
It is the process of paying search engines to increase your website’s visibility for relevant searches.
SEM results are immediate but take continuous advertising spend to maintain results.
There you have it!
If you need more help in determining whether SEO and SEM can help grow your business specifically, then we have a team of marketing consultants who can assist you.
Contact us today for a free consultation.