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SEM and SEO: What Strategy Is Better for Your Local Small Business?

sem and seo

SEM and SEO are often confused

SEM and SEO are often interchangeable when discussing local business online strategies. But there are differences between the two that a business owner needs to realize. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a paid digital marketing tactic that allows you to get on the top spot of search engine results. The process includes setting up ads to ensure that potential customers will see your brand name on the first page. You’ll pay every time someone clicks on the ad. Google Ads is still the most prominent platform where you can perform paid search campaigns.

In Search Engine Optimization, you don’t have to pay directly to secure the search results’ top position. With this tactic, you’ll perform different activities to boost your visibility and drive organic traffic to your website. There are three categories for SEO techniques:

  • On-page SEO – actions that make your website to be more SEO-friendly
  • Off-page SEO – activities that improve your website’s reputation and authority
  • Technical SEO – actions that provide a better experience for users and search crawlers

If you have an effective SEO strategy, you’ll have a better chance of getting indexed by a search engine’s web crawlers. That will help get you a high placing on search results pages.

Similarities and Differences

Similarities of SEM and SEO

  1. They both need you to know your audience.

Knowing your audience is essential to creating content that will attract them. In this case, you’ll have an easier time inserting keywords or key phrases that will help your audience find you when they search for something related to your product or service.

  1. They both help in boosting brand visibility and increasing website traffic.

These marketing tactics allow you to appear more in search results by choosing specific keywords or phrases that users search for most on the internet. It will lead more people to visit your website when they see you on the first page of results.

  1. They both perform keyword research and target keywords.

When creating a marketing strategy, it’s essential to do keyword research to learn the most efficient keywords to use in the campaign.

  1. They both need constant testing and optimization.

In any marketing strategy, you always have to be consistent in every task. Testing and optimization are two things that have to be continually updated and enhanced.

Differences between the two strategies

  1. SEM consists of paid tactics. SEO is all about organic strategy.

This is the most noticeable difference between the two. With SEM, you need to pay for a better position. SEO relies on various actions that gain organic traffic. For SEM, your placements are marked as an “ad,” while SEO doesn’t on the search results. SEM also has ad extensions while SEO has featured snippets.

  1. SEM gives more flexibility to laser-target your audience compared to SEO.

In SEM, publishers allow you to specify your audience further based on age, income, location, and even time of the day. Although planning for an SEO strategy includes taking a target audience into account, it doesn’t give you as much flexibility as SEM.

  1. SEM’s impact will register faster. SEO will take time.

Last but not least, SEM provides you results immediately after you launch your campaign. In contrast, SEO may take some time before it puts you on a high rank on the search results.

Choosing between SEM and SEO for your business

One thing to know is that choosing what’s best for your business needs to be appropriately analyzed. There are many factors, such as the business size and age, competition, budget, customer buying circle, and your overall knowledge of how the industry works.

If you just opened a business and have the budget for Pay-Per-Click advertising, then SEM might be a good start to put your name out there and get leads. If you’re in the game for a while now and know the industry’s ins and outs, building a long-term SEO strategy can be a good option.

How about your customers? Do they get easily persuaded to buy a product after they see an ad? Or do they tend to take more time to make a purchase? These factors are essential to consider. It’s also helpful to look at how your competition operates and look for gaps where you can make adjustments.

In the end, it will all boil down to the unique needs of your business. Choose the one that helps you achieve goals and grow your business.





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