SEO or SEM? The Battle of Online Marketing

30 November, 2018

8 mins read


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Over the last few weeks, we shared with you the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). We received a few questions about it; mainly what is more important for improving your online marketing results? So, here we are to let you know.

We’re assuming you’ve already read our other articles or have some knowledge of SEO or SEM, but if you need a refresher:

Search engine optimisation (AKA SEO) is what one would do to improve their online presence, either through website or off-page activities. And then there is search engine marketing (SEM), which is paying for advertisement on a search network, such as on Google’s search results.

So, which one is better?

Both are Good for Online Marketing

The aim of both activities is to improve your visibility online, one using paid advertising, the other organic methods. It makes sense that you should be looking at both options to really maximise your potential—dominate the search results, if you will. But if they both work for the same goal, why do you need both?

Each method is good for a different part of the sales funnel (see below). Having good SEO will help to target people when they are looking for a product or service you can provide (awareness phase). Then, you can use SEM to target these people to remind them about your business, bringing them into the conversion phase.

Sales funnel

SEM can also help you to compete when SEO becomes hard. Essentially, when there is a lot of competition in a particular industry (meaning this won’t work for every business), it becomes harder to gain more visibility on search result pages through SEO. In these cases, you can invest in improving your SEO for your specialised areas of business, and SEM for the more competitive ones. For example, a plumber will have a lot of competition for the first page when people search for plumbers in that area. However, if your plumbing business specialises in no-dig excavation, you can use SEO for more specific searches, and SEM for the general plumbing consumers. Make sense?

SEM also helps you be a little bit sneaky with your competition. We’re going to do an article on this later, but you can target your SEM campaigns to your competitor’s business name. Yes, you can put your ads on the search results even if someone types in your competitor’s name directly.

While this information is useful, it probably doesn’t help you decide where to focus on right now. Keep on reading to find out.

Should You Focus on SEO or SEM First?

To give you the answer, we need to explain the end goal of SEM. Your paid campaigns bring you more potential customers, but you want to turn them into actual sales or bookings. To do this, your ad needs to be enticing enough for people to click on your website link (or directly on your phone number). It’s then your website’s job to convince the person to contact you or buy a product. Still with us?

We know from our other articles that Google and other search engines love high-quality, authoritative websites that provide a solution to the user. To convert leads from paid ads into customers, you need your website to provide an answer.

By now, you probably see where we’re going with this. Focusing on your SEO first kills two birds with one stone—it improves your organic online presence and sets up the right foundation for paid online marketing campaigns.

Our Advice for Nailing Your Online Marketing

It all starts with a good website. Focus on providing a good user experience, including a design that is pleasing to your target audience’s eye, appealing content and functional features. Setting up a good website can be time consuming—but we have the answer for this too.

Localsearch combines the best web designers, developers, content writers, user experience specialists, hosting, products and more to deliver websites that are search engine optimised AND a good foundation for your SEM. And if you need help with either of these, we’re a Google Premier Partner, making us a smart choice for maximising your online potential.

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