SEO vs. SEM

Paid and organic search engine advertising are two prevalent methods of online marketing all businesses should consider implementing into their promotional efforts. The global population using search engines has steadily increased over the last four years from 40 to 46 percent (Mangles, 2018), and is expected to grow even further into the foreseeable future. 

Furthermore, a March 2017 survey showed that eight out of ten users prefer search engines over all other sources to find information on local businesses (Emarketer, 2017). Simply put, if your business can’t be found on the search engines, you’ll be missing out on 80% of potential customers.

Which method between paid (PPC) and organic search marketing is superior? This question is not as straight forward as it sounds as both have their pros and cons.

Organic search engine marketing or OEM refers to techniques that pertain to getting a website listed by a search engine’s algorithms. The objectives are to get your site listed on the first page under a specific set of keywords, and to achieve the highest ranking possible. This is due to the fact that most people won’t look beyond the first page of the search results to find information about their query (Jacobson, 2015).

The Benefits of SEM

  • Credibility: Users perceive sites with higher organic rankings as more trustworthy and credible.
  • Improved click through rates: Click through rates are superior for organic search results.
  • Cost effective: SEM is typically more affordable than other methods of marketing.

The Cons of SEM

  • Time: Results can take months to years to achieve. SEO is a time consuming endeavor.
  • Resources: Achieving good results requires generating quality engine-friendly content.
  • Expertise: Knowledge of how to optimize your site is required.

Paid search tactics involve purchasing ads based on selected keywords. The placement of these advertisements is decided by both a bidding process and value ranking.

The Benefits of PPC

  • Speed: Placement is achieved as soon as it is paid for.
  • Improved Targeting: Ads can be customized to reach users based on more specific user attributes such as age, income, and employment.
  • Lack of resources required: No SEO specific knowledge and time intensive content creation is required to achieve results.

The Cons of PPC

  • Cost: PPC campaigns can be quite costly depending on the desirability of the keyword.
  • Not Permanent: Status disappears once they are no longer paid for.
  • Lack of trust: Many consumers distrust paid advertisements and will not click on them.
  • Expertise: An extensive amount of marketing knowledge is required to achieve the best results.

So which approach is best for your business? Most websites will see the best results by using a combination of the two simultaneously. The benefit of this approach is that it allows you to work on your organic rankings, which will provide your business with eventual credibility and long term search results, while the paid search (PPC) advertising brings in instantaneous top-of-the-page visibility and traffic.

References

Emarkerter. 2017. Most Internet Users Prefer Search Engines to Find Local Products. Retrieved from https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Most-Internet-Users-Prefer-Search-Engines-Find-Local-Products/1015737

Jacobson, J. 2015. How Far Down the Search Engine Results Page Will Most People Go? Leverage Marketing. Retrieved from https://www.theleverageway.com/blog/how-far-down-the-search-engine-results-page-will-most-people-go/

Mangles, C. Search Engine Statistics 2018. Smart Insights. Retrieved from https://www.smartinsights.com/search-engine-marketing/search-engine-statistics/

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