Before we put SEO vs SEM in the ring, let us understand both the systems and how they work first. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and does exactly what the term suggests. It involves application of internet marketing strategies and techniques to make a website more easily approachable to the target search engine. The idea is to make a site appear when an user searches the internet with keywords related to what the site wants to be found out for. You can understand the quality of the SEO work done on a particular site by looking at its page ranking after the search results are displayed via the search engine; the higher the rank of your website, the better. Ideally, you want your site to be on the very first page at least, if not in the top five.
Although SEO and SEM are often used synonymously, they are different terms. In fact, SEM or Search Engine Marketing is a more encompassing idea that involves SEO work as well, but adds other aspects to it. The main difference between the two is the point that SEO strategies do not involve paying search engines like Google or yahoo for directing qualified traffic towards a website, while in case of SEM strategies, it is an essential step. A popular method of Search Engine Marketing is the “pay-per-click” (PPC) system, in which the webmaster pays the network that hosts the PPC campaign, on the basis of every click that leads a visitor to the target site and the amount that is paid to such services on the basis of every click is known as the Cost Per Click (CPC).
Now that we have a brief idea about the two internet marketing strategies, let us see if we can find a clear winner in this battle between SEO vs SEM.
Advantages of SEO – Though it takes time, a site which has been search engine optimized with success, is a horse for the long run and will certainly not be a pushover when it comes to competition in the market. Ecommerce sites in particular, get better traffic with a little bit of SEO work, because these sites often neglect SEO totally in favour of SEM. SEO is cheaper than SEM, since SEO techniques involve one time investment, while SEM expenses in some businesses may turn out to be too expensive to make any decent profit from the program. Finally, surveys show that the educated user prefers to click on the organic (SEO generated results) and trust them more than the ads (SEM based paid results)
That being said, SEO can be tedious if you don’t have the right tools to manage your campaingns. Using tools such as SEO Catalyst or P1 RankMe can make your work a breeze. So, don’t neglect this side of things. You can read an SEO Catalyst review here or watch this video if you prefer.
Advantages of SEM – Two of the biggest advantages that search engine marketing has over search engine optimization are speed and freedom. SEM will deliver faster results by directing target traffic towards your website months before SEO strategies even begin to do the same. Search engine giants like Google tend to change their algorithms every once in a while and while that frequently messes up the SEO strategies, the SEM campaigns are not nearly as affected. Control, freedom and speed are also further joined by better quality traffic in greater quantity for ecommerce establishments when compared to SEO work alone.
It is quite impossible for anyone to really state with absolute conviction as to which one is the winner in the SEO vs SEM comparison. However, we feel that a timely combination of both SEO and SEM in a calculated manner can lead to a more profitable online business than when choosing one over the other.