ImageThe online marketing world is rife with acronyms. SEO, SMM, SEM, PPC…OMG. It can be difficult to find a starting point for your marketing strategies when you’re lost in the language. With the popularity of our SEO vs SMM double blog post, the next question should be SEO or SEM — where should your marketing dollars go?

SEO: A quick overview

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a strategy that works to increase the likelihood of a website being found by a user that is searching for a specific keyword or phrase through a search engine, the beauty of which being that you connect with people already searching for what you offer. An SEO strategy begins with identifying and defining a list of keywords or phrases that you want the search engines to associate with your brand’s website. Optimization involves inserting the keywords and phrases into the content of the website on the appropriate pages. After reaching an acceptable keyword density on the decided pages, the last step in SEO involves marketing the website to the Internet in general to show search engines how “popular” the website is to users. In other words, the website needs to be mentioned, searched for, and used by the marketing team to increase the authority of the domain.

SEO is what we call “organic” marketing, in that there’s nothing to do except choose your keywords and then write great content. Your rank and domain authority will grow naturally, without any intervention (unless you want to change your keywords). It’s also a more long-term strategy. Just as you wouldn’t expect organic produce to sprout overnight, neither will your organic SEO strategy produce immediate results. On the other hand, the positive impact is also long-term.

SEM: What’s that about?

SEM advertising, or Search Engine Marketing, involves the paid placement of links to drive traffic back to your website. You can achieve this through search engine programs, like Google AdWords, by purchasing space on social media sites like Facebook, or by partnering with outside websites that are related to your field. The amount you pay in every case is completely dependent upon the amount of clicks your link receives.

Just as with SEO, SEM involves keyword research to determine the best phrases and words to use when linking to your website. However, in contrast with SEO, SEM has a much more immediate effect on your website traffic; this is truly the instant gratification model.  You also have to continue paying for the results you get to infinity…the trick is to find the right mix of keywords and ad copy that drive the right traffic to your site to drive ROI for the campaign.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, a healthy online advertising plan will involve both of these strategies. You really want to own the page rather than just have one result for a person to click…why not have 5 results out of the 10 or so showing?  SEO and SEM, when used together, can increase your traffic, boost your domain authority, and drive the right kind of users to find your site with ease.

ppc vs seo blog post graphicPPC may be the better choice for investment if you’re trying to rank for high-competition keywords. For instance, coming up in Google’s search engine for “marketing” may be too difficult, but by purchasing the keyword and having sponsored links appear on the top of the page, you can have your business featured front and centre (as pictured to the right). This may or may not work with your budget, depending on the keyword, but it may be worth investing in.

SEO, if you can afford to wait, is a stronger long-term strategy to ensure that your domain/business will come up in search engine results for many months to come. The biggest investment in SEO is the man-hours needed to invest in a decent campaign.

Wherever you decide to spend your marketing dollars, remember that keyword research needs to come first! How are you going to increase your rankings when you don’t have any idea what you want to rank for?