How different is SEO vs SEM

While successfully launching a website for your business might seem like a herculean task in itself, it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Today, anyone who owns a business or an online business (and who wants to make money out of it!) knows that the most successful way of generating traffic is either through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or through paid marketing.

It is equally, if not more, important to boost traffic and maintain a constant flow of visitors on your website. And this is where people often get confused between the two choices.

Both SEO and paid marketing have their separate takers that also sometimes overlap in the middle of the Venn diagram. But let’s start with the basics first.

Search Engine Optimization is a dynamic methodology that can be followed to help a web page rank better in the search engine ranking page (SERP).

These techniques include practices like adding meta tags and meta descriptions, adequate mention of keywords and linking the internal page with anchor text, among others.

Paid marketing, as the name suggests, is when you pay search engines, social media platforms, and ad networks to generate traffic for your website.

It is a much more traditional approach in the sense that you give someone money to promote your business, without having to worry about learning and earning the same by following industry best practices.

SEO vs. Paid Marketing (SEM)

The basic and the most obvious difference between the two is that while the traffic garnered using SEO techniques is completely organic, paid marketing entails the exchange of money to promote a business website.

Search Engine Optimization only aids a user in applying techniques that, in combination with quality content, can help their web page perform better on search engines.

There is no money or third-party interference involved. It is a way of working smart along with working hard.

If your website is not search engine optimized, it is likely to get far less number of views, regardless of how top-notch the content is.

Since there are only so many visitors you can gain from sharing your work on your personal social media channels and asking friends to spread the word, it is important to learn the basics of SEO for easy and organic traffic.

On the other hand, paid marketing involves search engine advertising.

Under this model of internet marketing, you pay a pre-decided fee each time someone visits your website through the ad. This is called PPC or pay-per-click. In essence, paid marketing is purchasing traffic.

While understanding the nuances of SEO and changing your content according to that might take some time, paid marketing is outsourced and quick.

Because of this, it might seem like an easier option to some people.

Paid search advertising also ensures that your search results get featured on top of organic search results in the sponsored section.

Networks like Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing are most commonly used to set up ads where you can pay for the incoming traffic.

SEO, on the other hand, is free. SEO best practices can help your page achieve a prominent position in search results. More than anything, it is a worthy investment of time.

Choosing Between SEO Vs. Paid Marketing

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing between the two methods.

If you require huge amounts of traffic in a short span of time, and if money is not a constraint, go for paid marketing.

This usually happens in high-end products launching on a big scale. PPC advertising focuses on achieving faster conversion, so purchasing traffic can get you instant results.

Further, if your keywords are popular or are dominated by big industry players, you may not have any other option but to go for paid marketing to even enter the game.

You will also have to consider the average cost per click or CPC of your target keyword.

This is the pre-decided amount that you pay for a single click on your ad. Higher CPCs of related keywords often make it difficult for newer players to compete with sponsored ads.

In such a case, calculate what will get you higher profits. Sometimes, a slow but steady traffic from SEO can go a long way.

Notably, there is also the third and not sufficiently utilized option of combining paid advertising and SEO.

It can’t hurt to pay for the ad and make your website SEO-friendly. After all, there is no substitute for quality content.