Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are both strategies used in the realm of Internet marketing. However, they are not interchangeable. While both aim to achieve visibility, they serve two very different purposes. SEO elevates your rankings in search engines while SEM uses PPC campaigns and other advanced strategies to lead more users of Google, Bing, Yahoo! and others search engines to your site.

So, SEO and SEM are not the same?

The short answer is no. In the world of digital marketing, SEO and paid search are more like cousins than siblings.

A solid SEO strategy and a strong paid search strategy should work together seamlessly to cover each other’s weaknesses. But they don’t affect each other directly because they focus on different factors influencing search engine performance.

For example, a website can have a fantastic SEO strategy and a nonexistent paid search strategy, yet still experience a measurable increase in organically driven visits over an extended period of time. More than likely, this site will miss out on the greater variety and number of customers that a paid search campaign could generate, and growth will be fairly slow.

On the other hand, a website can have a fantastic paid search strategy in place and experience short-term gains in traffic and click-through rates (CTR) while missing SEO optimization completely. In this case, growth will be fast and visitors and clicks will be generated through a more diverse set of keywords, but it may cost quite a bit of money that would be more effective elsewhere.

Ideally, a site should have both a well-thought-out SEO strategy and a planned paid search strategy to cover the most search real estate.

One more time: how are they different?

SEO focuses on organic search results: the results generated by Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines that aren’t marked as ads, including local mapping. Paid search, on the other hand, focuses on a bidding system where the highest-paying advertiser gets the most prominent ad placement and is charged a fee every time a user clicks on the ad. The real question, then, is not how the two methods differ but what kind of results each one produces.

Fishing is a handy analogy here. Paid search is like heading out with your fishing rod and dropping bait in the specific spots where you’ve heard there are fish. SEO, on the other hand, is like dropping a net in the river in the general areas where you’ve heard the fish are jumping. Both techniques catch fish, but not in the same way.

Paid search is precise and agile. You get the searchers you want, but you pay for that convenience. SEO takes research and effort to make sure your net is in the right place and catching the right kind of fish. It also takes longer to move a net than to pack up your tackle and try another lake, and the same is true for drastically changing an SEO campaign versus changing a paid search campaign. SEO is a long-term strategy investment, but, once you do hit that page 1 search results, it’s nearly impossible to be kicked off that organic ranking and the bonus is that you don’t have to keep paying the piper to ensure google top positions.

If you’re interested in learning how Bad Penny Factory can help you kick start your SEO and PPC campaigns, schedule a free, quick chat with us to explore program options.