SEO and SEM, how do they work?

The worst thing about talking to digital experts is trying to decipher their abbreviated language, without looking clueless. You may have heard marketing professionals talking about SEO, SEM, PPC, SERPS for example, you may even know what they stand for, but do you really know the differences? How do they help you grow your online presence, and head for digital success?

If you’d rather leave it to the experts, the simple answer is—we’re all just talking about different approaches to advertising your business. If you’re keen to understand the basics and how they can work in harmony for your business, then keep reading.


Common Acronyms & Abbreviations used in Search, what are they?

SEO: Search Engine Optimisation.

It is sometimes used as an umbrella term for everything to do with Search Engines – strictly speaking, this is wrong. SEO is about acquiring, monitoring, and analysing organic (unpaid) traffic patterns from search engines.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing.

SME is when you pay for advertising on search engines. Although SME is similar to SEO, in the fact that it relies on keyword optimisation, SEM differs from SEO because it refers to all things paid.

PPC: Pay Per Click.

This is a type of paid advertising, you can opt to pay every time your ad is shown to a user, or you can opt to pay only when users click on your advertising.

CPC: Cost Per Click.

No, it’s not quite the same as PPC. CPC is a performance metric; you can use CPC to determine how well your PPC campaign is performing. Measure your CPC and then discuss with your sales team to determine how many of them turned into qualified leads. In some cases, it’s better to up your CPC to encourage better quality leads for your business.

SERPs: Search Engine Results Pages.

These are key to flexing SEO skills on your competition! As a website designer you either love them or hate them, but either way, they must be at the top of your list to help your clients generate a good return on their website investment. Ideally, your business should feature high up on the first page (SERP), the tricky bit is to get them displayed for your chosen keyword/search term. It isn’t a myth that some terms are harder to appear for than others. We can help you maximise your results and navigate the SEO minefield!

Do SEO and SEM work together?

SEO and SEM both rely on keywords to drive traffic to your website. Despite using different marketing techniques, they both focus on search traffic and the impact on your marketing activities. 90% of people will use Google to search for something that they’re looking for, and they’ll be able to find it by the organic results (SEO) or by the paid results (SEM).

Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day, and as the volume of search queries grows, the more chances you have to drive traffic to your website through the paid and organic marketing channels the better. Using a strategic combination of both can boost your visibility in the long term.

It is important to understand that SEO and SEM can be complementary, but this only works well if the website itself is SEO-friendly first.

If your website is SEO friendly, then SEM has a greater chance of being successful. If it’s not, then your money would be better invested into making improvements to your website first. Once your website is tiptop, your paid advertising will produce a better return on investment.

Most digital marketers would agree that SEO is the foundation for online success. You have a better chance of getting high-quality traffic and improving conversion rates when SEO And SEM work together. Once you have a well-built, SEO-friendly website and your sponsored ads are targeted properly (using the right keywords), you have more chance of showing up at the top of paid searches. When your SEO is weak, Google is unlikely to display your website. Google uses your SEO as a way of understanding and checking the credibility of your website/company/information. Google simply says—no SEO no credibility.

Note: if your website is freshly built and has just been launched, you can prioritize your PPC campaign first as it can take a while for SEO rankings to become established, but always work on your SEO during this launch phase—it is not a long-term strategy, google will know once it starts ranking your website how good your SEO actually is, and this will affect your PPC campaign.

What is the future of SEO and SEM?

Online Search is always evolving

Search engines are continually changing their algorithms and parameters for rankings. I’m sure you’ve heard many good website developers grumble at this because these changes however small can affect the way website designers build websites. It can influence the way they function, the copy that is written on them, and the way they are aesthetically designed. It is always tricky to predict what the future holds, but this topic, the digital marketing industry anticipates:

UX (user experience) will continue to become increasingly significant to SEO rankings.

Google wants to reward the most user-friendly sites, ultimately this is good for your businesses, your customers, and for the search engines- because the customers will continue to use search that produces useful results.

Continuing focus on mobile friendly

We’ll be seeing the death of slow-loading pages, websites with these issues will rank lower and lower. There are huge increases in mobile searches.

AI will become more and more involved in SEO and other search activities

Artificial Intelligence will likely allow us to create more targeted ads for SEM. How does AI work in search? In many ways, but here’s a simple example: If one result on a search engine is ranking third but has a higher click-through rate than the options above it, the search engine would learn from this anomaly and bump that result to the top. Perhaps brand identity/awareness and consumer recommendations will start to influence your Search Ranking in the not-too-distant future.

Data focused and privacy tightening

Everything online will continue to become more and more data-focused, it will get simpler and easier to create targeted and personalized campaigns. However, this will also cause users to be increasingly concerned about privacy and perhaps even who they interact with.

The digital landscape is going greener

Google thankfully has begun to migrate many of its cloud-based server platforms to run solely on renewable energy. Thankfully the future of digital is starting to look greener. It is entirely possible that search engines could start to penalise your website if it is not hosted with Green Website Hosting.

Business owners don’t need to be experts in Digital Marketing. Grasp the basics and recruit the best freelancer, or professional for the job.

If you are engaging with a web design or marketing company, you should make sure they know their SEO from their SEM. Choose a forward-thinking company that has a good understanding of how businesses might be affected as we become more reliant on technology.

Choose to work with professionals who want to lead you in the right direction, provide you with a good return on your investment. If you are baffled by the jargon, ask them for an explanation—you’ll soon see if they are up to speed in their industry.


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