Which is better, SEO or SEM?

  24 November 2020

You must have noticed that when you type “best SEO service near me” or “PPC service near me” on Google search, you get some results with an ‘Ad’ written before the url of the relevant site and most of urls without any prefix. The first category of the results are shown because of SEM and the later because of SEO. It will be pointless to ask the question which is better, SEO or SEM before knowing what exactly they are and how they work. Hence, let us first understand in brief what is SEO and what is SEM.

What is SEO?

Simply saying, SEO is making your websites user friendly up to the extent that search engines can easily interpret it and rank them on the SERP(search engine result page) as per user’s search queries.

It is important to note that when we talk about search engines, mostly we talk about Google. It is because Google is the most popular search engine and a lot depends upon its policy while you are working on SEO.

When your website is better SEO optimized, it tends to show at the top of search results. This will in turn boost the number of visitors on your website. Even search engines tend to treat you as valuable and helpful to the users..

How does SEO work?

Although SEO involves a lot of different activities that you need to undertake on your website as well as outside your website.

Broadly, SEO falls into two categories: On-page SEO and off-page SEO:

On-page SEO: On-page SEO includes title tags, regular blog posts, optimizing the images, and better page speed. When it comes to on-page SEO, it is entirely in your control.

Off-page SEO: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) generally involves work that takes place outside of your website, such as reaching out to third party websites, posting on social media, or sharing content. You do not have complete control over it.

Key takeaways from SEO are:

  • Optimization of your page titles and meta descriptions
  • Optimizing your page speed
  • Research and analysis of target keywords
  • Content creation and updation

What are the advantages of SEO vs. SEM?

The advantages of SEO include:

SEO builds trust

SEO demonstrates the value of your company to those who may not have previously been aware of it. And if they are aware of you, you have to hold them by making them believe that you are the most valuable resource for them, especially when it comes to your industry.

This builds trust, making it easier for site visitors to become full-fledged customers.

SEO requires zero ad spend

Unlike SEM, which frequently focuses on paid strategies that require a monthly ad budget, SEO requires no ad budget. However, your company can invest in SEO by creating content, conducting outreach, and optimising existing pages. This will ensure that you reap the benefits for a longer duration.

SEO works 24/7

This is probably the most beneficial feature of SEO that it works round the clock by driving traffic to your website every day of the week. SEM, on the other hand, requires an ad spend to run, and your ads may only run on specific days and times depending on your ad settings and payment structure.

What are the advantages of SEO vs. SEM?

The disadvantages of SEO include:

SEO requires a long term strategy

SEO is a long-term strategy as well as process. It isn’t something that can be done once.

You must keep your rankings, especially as new competitors appear and try to maintain your place in the search result pages. It’s also critical to expand your SEO strategy over time and stay updated with the changing guidelines of search engines to build on the progress you made the first time around.

Keeping this in mind, you can say that SEO is a process that requires mindful strategy and continuous efforts. You have to devote time and be patient while putting continuous efforts. However, the end result is well worth it.

SEO takes time

When it comes to SEO, businesses must be patient. In most cases, a three to six months waiting period is necessary to see the rankings, traffic, and sales getting increased because SEO does not produce immediate results. While SEO is well worth the wait, if your company requires immediate results, SEM may be a better option. Now that you have understood SEO, let us understand what SEM is.

What is SEM?

SEM is a broad term that includes SEO as well as a variety of paid advertising strategies for immediate results.

The most popular SEM strategies include the following:

  • PPC
  • Local SEO
  • Display advertising
  • Shopping or product advertising
  • Remarketing

How does SEM work?

SEM operates in the same line as SEO. The different SEM tactics include:

Account structure: Your account structure helps in the organisation and optimization of your ad strategy. It moves from account to campaign to ad group to ad to organize everything.

Bids: Your bid establishes the maximum amount your company will pay for a click on your ad. Some platforms, such as Google Ads, have automated bidding options that can help your company achieve its specific goals while staying within its advertising budget.

Quality Score: Your Quality Score, which is a Google Ads-specific metric, represents the ad’s quality and relevance. A higher Quality Score means a lower cost-per-click (CPC) and better ad placements.

Ad assets: Your ad assets include everything from your copy to your images and video. When you optimise your ad assets, you increase the likelihood of your company delivering relevant ads that increase click-through rates (CTR).

If you plan to use SEM against SEO, then first you should research the different ad platforms, like Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and Facebook Advertising. This will help you to understand the offerings of these companies and accordingly, you can optimize your ads to achieve maximum benefits.

What are the advantages of SEM?

Some of the advantages of SEM include:

Immediate results and complete control

Paid SEM strategies have the advantage of being able to have an immediate impact. You have complete control over your PPC campaigns, including who sees your ads, how much you pay, when they appear, and much more.

It can be customized as per targets

For businesses that want to reach a large audience with highly targeted campaigns, a broad SEM strategy should be the ideal choice. You can use a variety of mediums to create unique advertising campaigns for different groups of people.

Payoff is high

You may pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for the services you receive when you work with an agency. However, the payoff is enormous, especially when compared to the traditional advertising costs. On top of that, it can also be fully tracked with the help of analytics software.

Advantage over traditional marketing

SEM has a significant advantage over traditional marketing. SEM is less expensive, more cost-effective, and easier to track than billboards, banners, posters or television commercials.

It’s always an option for companies that want to go big with their marketing to combine SEM and traditional advertising.

What are the disadvantages of SEM?

Some of the disadvantages of SEM include:

SEM requires continuous funds

You must pour in funds for running your ad campaigns in addition to the cost of developing and managing your SEM. Your ads won’t run if you don’t have a monthly ad budget, which can result in a sharp drop in traffic, leads, and sales.

SEM limits the targeted users

SEM focuses on the bottom users of the marketing funnel. While bottom-of-the-funnel users have a ready-to-buy mindset, limiting yourself to this segment of the buying funnel can cause you to miss out on valuable top- and middle-of-the-funnel users. However, with SEO, you can capture and nurture those users into your next potential buyers.

The bottom line

Which is better, SEO or SEM?

Now the million dollar question arises as to which is better- SEO or SEM or which one beneficial for your business?

However the answer is not simple, as it depends on several factors, including your marketing campaign goals.

SEO is always a part of SEM. If you want to go for a long term organic traffic generation, then SEO is the better option. Considering the fact that SEO does not require much dedicated funds, it can save revenue for your business instead of generating it.

On the other hand you have the paid marketing campaign – SEM. SEM can give you immediate results of driving traffic while ensuring the top most visibility.

The best strategy would be to combine both SEO and SEM to achieve your marketing goals.

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