What is The Difference between SEO and SEM?

Much like how advertising is a subset of marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) is only one component of search engine marketing (SEM). SEO and SEM are used to accomplish essentially the same goals: to increase search engine ranking and to increase awareness/visibility.

The Down Low on SEO

SEO is the marketing science/practice of organically increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to a website by systematically improving its position on search engine result pages (SERPs). While there are many factors that play a part improving SEO, it’s important to remember that the foundation of this marketing strategy is built on one critical element: good content.

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While delivery of useful, high-quality information might seem like a no-brainer, and even an over-simplification of an SEO best practice, it really is the crux of digital marketing. In fact, according to Google’s Search Engine Optimization Start Guide, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factor.”

In conjunction with creating great blogs, vlogs, photos, videos, podcasts, and other media, a great marketing agency will also:

  • Develop unique meta tags and page titles

  • Enhance the structure of your URL(s)

  • Ensure mobile friendliness

  • Improve site structure and navigation

  • Optimize alt, header, and anchor text

  • Promote your website appropriately

Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO

Every method listed above is considered “white hat SEO” as they focus on people as much (or even more so) than other search engines. In contrast with these user-driven techniques, there are also “black hat SEO” tricks that concentrate almost entirely on the all-mighty Google machine (or Bing, I suppose).

Marketers who sell SEO like it’s an item on the shelf are generally the shysters applying black hat SEO techniques. Although these methods might work temporarily, search engines will catch up with websites piling on paid links, stuffing their content with keywords, and/or cloaking their URL(s).

Black Hat SEO tricks can actually get you banned temporarily or permanently removed from Google’s index. To avoid getting exiled from search results be sure you’re not:

  • Building “doorway” pages

  • Creating pages with malicious behavior

  • Engaging in paid (or unpaid) link schemes

  • Hiding text and/or links

  • Misusing redirects

  • Spinning or automatically generating content

On-page vs. Off-page SEO

In general, there are two types of SEO: On-page and off-page (linking). On-page optimization involves building up the content on your own website. To do this, you’re going to want to compose high-quality content on all of your webpages and your blog.

To get the most out the copy on your site, it’s critical that you use relevant keywords and format them appropriately with header, paragraph, and alt text. In conjunction with content, each page should have a unique title/page tag and a brief meta-description to help search engine users decide whether your link page is relevant.

Off-page SEO increases a site’s authority. To gain useful insights about where your URL’s current position is in Google’s results it’s helpful to set a Search Console account. Link intelligence database Majestic goes one step further by providing strong predictive indicators referred to as “Flow Metrics.”

There are two measurements that make up Flow Metrics:

  1. Citation Flow

  2. Trust Flow

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Citation Flow helps to calculate how influential a URL might be based on how many sites link to it. On the other hand, Trust Flow predicts how trustworthy/relevant a page will be based on how trustworthy/relevant the site is that created the backlink.

For this reason, it’s important to check up on your backlinks as some may actually hurt your search ranking. Moreover, this is precisely why you don’t want to get involved with black hat link farms. If you want snapshot of your domain authority, page authority, and spam score, take a look at Moz’s Open Site Explorer.

Differentiating SEM

SEM breaks down into two simple components: organic search and paid search (also known as pay-per-click ads (PPC)). Organic search results appear because of their relevance to the terms being searched (this is what SEO improves). Similarly, paid search results also appear when they’re relevant.

However, as the name implies, the differentiating factor for paid search, is that you have to pay to appear in these top-ranking results. Probably the most prolific and popular form of PPC is Google AdWords.

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When your search triggers an ad on Google, the paid search results will generally appear in the first three to four results on the top or bottom of the page. Paid search can be a great way to increase site visibility, traffic, and conversions. According to Google’s Economic Impact Report, “businesses generally make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords.”

In addition to showing up at the top of search results, paid search platforms like AdWords offer up some pretty amazing tools. Google’s reporting features allow you to see the exact search terms for which your ad appears, compare paid & organic traffic, gain valuable audience insights, and/or create your own custom report.

Google’s Keyword Planner is also great for building highly-relevant, successful campaigns. In addition to creating great ads and keyword lists, this tool is extremely useful for discovering new keywords that should be integrated into your header text, page titles, meta-descriptions, and other areas of your website.

Use Organic and Paid Search for the Best Results

If you’re looking to make the most of you online presence, the best plan of attack is to improve both your organic and paid search ranking. To do this, optimize your website using only “white hat” SEO best practices and run AdWords to supplement the traffic gained from high-quality content. If you’re interested in improving your search ranking, click the button below to contact us about how we can help you achieve your goals through organic and paid search.