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What Are the Differences Between SEO and SEM, and How Do They Affect Your Small Business?

by | Jul 30, 2021

differences between SEO and SEM
What are the differences between SEO and SEM, and how do these two ultra-important strategies make all the difference for a small business? In other words, what even makes them ultra-important in the first place? Growing your small business digitally (which, let’s be real, is just “growing small your business” nowadays) means taking full advantage of all of the incredible tools and resources the World Wide Web has to offer. Arguably no two initiatives are more effective at growing brand awareness, incentivizing clicks, and growing profit margins than Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. What do they do, and what can you do to make the most of them? We’ve got you covered; find out below.

SEO Explained

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is just the technical term for all of the things you can do to boost how high your website turns up in search engines organically (i.e., without paying for ads). SEO comes down to one thing: the quality, consistency, and quantity of your content. SEO isn’t one linear initiative; it’s more like the process of setting up an ever-growing web of relevant, useful content that shows up when your audience searches for it. It means constantly writing topical blog posts, eBooks, web pages, infographics, and other pieces of digital content that live on your website.

The foundation of SEO is the strategic use of keywords. Each content piece (blog posts, landing pages, pillar pages, eBooks, etc.) you put out online should have a focus keyword, which is a short term that your audience is likely to be searching for online. The focus keyword for this blog post, for example, is “differences between SEO and SEM.” Then, the goal is to incorporate the keyword into the content piece that you are writing in as natural and subtle a way as possible (beware of overloading with keywords; the key is to strike the balance between repeating it often enough to be picked up by search engines without sounding like a keyword-spewing robot).

It’s also important to make sure that search engines know where your business is located – or, to be more accurate, the areas to which you provide services. This is done by making sure your website has location-specific webpages: one for each county and city where you provide services. Optimizations like adding a map and address to your “Contact” page also help pinpoint your service locations.

Ultimately, SEO is complex and ever-evolving. However, the most basic thing to remember is that it’s all about making sure your website is specific, targeted, and rife with keywords that are compatible with your ideal customers’ online searches.

SEM Explained

SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, is just a fancy term for the Google Adwords (or any other search engine ads platform) campaigns you’re running. When you search just about any term on a search engine, the first 1-3 results you’re going to see are paid ads. That’s because companies know that SEO is only one piece of the puzzle; in order to reserve those coveted top search results for your website, it’s sometimes necessary to pay for them. SEM is the process of bidding on keywords using your business’s search engine ads account. You can set a daily budget for this ad spend, and you are free to update the keywords you’re bidding on as often as you see fit (which should be as often as the data points you that way). SEM works in tandem with SEO, and the goal between both of these strategies is to make sure that your website is all over the relevant keywords that your audience is searching for.

What You Can Do

The good news is that it’s easy to start contributing toward boosting your digital presence via SEO and SEM, even if you’re new to it. If you’re only just beginning, we recommend sticking to basic SEO initiatives: do some research into popular Google searches in your industry. Pay attention to the terms and words that come up a lot. Then, make a list of blog posts you can start working on, each of which incorporates one of these terms into its title and body copy. Once you’ve got the blog copy written, the best thing you can do is be consistent about posting. If you’re looking to go a bit farther, there are numerous digital resources you can use to learn more about SEO and SEM.

How to Make the Most of It

It may sound super biased to hear us say this, but stick with us for a sec: the best thing you can do for your SEO and SEM, and to boost your digital presence overall, is to work with a team of digital marketing specialists. We know: that’s a shocker coming from us, a team of digital marketing specialists. But it’s because of our expertise in the matter, not our desire to sell you anything, that we say this. SEO and SEM are complex and never-ending; they are full-time jobs (actually, more like several full-time jobs) in and of themselves. In order to be truly competitive in our highly saturated and ever-evolving digital market, it’s crucial to have a website and digital content pieces that are always being optimized. A full-service digital marketing agency can make that happen for you, doing the same kind of SEO and SEM work that an in-house team would do at a fraction of the cost that it would be to hire an in-house team of specialists. A great agency will help take your business to the next level using data-driven SEO and SEM initiatives whose goals evolve as your business does.
We hope this has been a helpful breakdown of the key differences between SEO and SEM, along with the ways that they work together to define your digital presence. If you’d like to learn more about how to optimize your website, content, and search engine appearance, we’re here to talk. Just reach out to us to set up a meeting (coffee’s on us).

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