What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

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Ever wondered exactly what is the difference between SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing)?

SEO = The branch of SEM that deals only with non-paid/organic/natural/algorithmic search rankings. Again, SEO is the process of creating or updating a website to improve the site’s ranking in organic search results, with the objective of increasing the volume of quality traffic. This must be done on-page (site architecture, link structure, content, keywords, title tags, etc.) and off page (link building.)

SEO can also be an acronym for Search Engine Optimizer, or someone who performs SEO. While SEO is more time consuming and requires more upfront effort, it’s the most cost-effective method of SEM.

SEM = A form of internet marketing that seeks to promote websites in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) via both non-paid/natural methods (Search Engine Optimization) and paid methods (paid placement, contextual advertising and paid inclusion.) SEM can also be an acronym for Search Engine Marketer, or someone who performs SEM.

While SEO is an art and a science, paid advertising is much like an eBay auction. With paid advertising, the higher your budget the more keywords you can target and the higher they’ll rank.

With SEO, quality content and links win, not budget. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mom and pop hardware store or a conglomerate with a huge advertising budget; you can level the playing field if you execute effective SEO.

Now look at this next image. 86% of the clicks on a Search Engine Results Page are made on the organic listings produced by SEO, and only 14% of the clicks are made on paid search listings produced by SEM (Source: Beussery.)

Search Engine Results Page - heat map

The top 2 organic search listings get 60% of the traffic. If you aren’t engaging in SEO or aren’t ranking highly in the SERPs, how much traffic are you missing out on?

So then what is the value of Search Engine Optimization

Searchers are active shoppers:

37% of people have an incentive to buy when they search online. Of those people, 56% are conducting a local search; they’re looking to physically go to a local business. 80% of those people are going to call that resource, and 60% of those people are actually going to purchase that product online or in a store. (Source: Network Solutions)

These “active shoppers” come at a very low Cost Per Lead:

Searchers are active shoppers

Source: marketingpilgrim.com

So what do all these numbers and pretty pictures mean?

Despite the seemingly obvious benefits of SEO, only 17% of small businesses have an articulated online marketing plan, and 83% of website owners have the mentality “if I build it, they will come.” (Source: Network Solutions.)

Wake up. If you market it, they will come.

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