Is it better to invest in SEO or buy traffic with SEM?

Search optimization is an essential marketing tool to attract attention, drive website traffic, and generally grow your business. While SEO and SEM tactics may sound similar, but they are two very different approaches to search optimization and if you don’t know how to compare them, it may be difficult to implement the most effective digital marketing strategy for your business.


What is the Main Difference Between SEO and SEM?

Simply put, SEO is an organic strategy, and SEM deals with paid listings on search engines.


SEM = PAID strategies to appear in search

SEO = ORGANIC strategies to appear in search

SEM vs. SEO – What Are the Similarities?

While we will point out the significant differences between SEO and SEM, there are a few common factors that overlap.

Both SEO and SEM are designed to:

Help your brand/business appear high up in search results

Drive more traffic to your website

They both:

Use keyword research to uncover popular search terms

Target specific keywords

They both require:

Knowing your audience

Testing and continual optimization

The Pros of SEO

SEO gets free clicks – One of the biggest advantages of SEO is that you’re not paying for traffic to visit your website. While you may need to invest in SEO tactics to achieve the number one organic ranking, one you are there, the clicks are free.

SEO targets quality traffic – It’s a customer-centric inbound marketing strategy. Instead of interrupting and annoying consumers, it involves creating helpful resources and making helpful information more easily accessible. Unlike traditional outbound advertising channels, which involve reaching out to consumers whether they want to hear from you or not, inbound methods centre on making it easy for your audience to find you when they want information.

SEO gets more clicks than PPC (Pay Per Click) – Although PPC Ads appear above organic rankings, it’s a proven fact that consumers are more likely to click on an organic search result than on an ad. Statistics show that click through rates for organic results are as high as 66% for a desktop search and 39% for a mobile search, compared to just 6-9% for paid ads. The majority of the clicks for any given search go to an organic result, not an ad.

SEO is sustainable in the long term – If you invest in SEO strategies to build a good ranking you will see a consistent stream of organic traffic coming to your website, and it will continue unless your organic ranking drops dramatically across all keywords. However, this is unlikely, unless your website gets penalised by Google. Paid ads will direct traffic to your website, but once they end, so does the traffic. SEO, if done correctly, will see your rankings gradually climb over the long term and you will generally get progressively more and more returns from SEO year on year.

Often referred to as paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, what are the Advantages of SEM?

SEM gives you instant results – If an Ad campaign is set up correctly, you should see immediate traffic and therefore immediate enquiries and sales. Yes, you have to outlay hard earned dollars to achieve that, but it means you don’t have to wait months or years that a page 1 organic ranking can take. For new businesses or businesses with a great deal of online competition, search ads are a great option for immediate leads.

SEM uses Geo-Targeting – Whether you want to reach potential clients in your own backyard or on the other side of the world, SEM allows you to target searchers down to their location. You can choose to target a radius around a post code, metro area, state, country, or add in regions of interest. In SEM you can limit your geographical area very tightly, or to particular suburbs or cities. You can exclude people from other regions and countries that you don’t want to visit your site.

SEM Let’s You Control Who Visits Your Website – With organic traffic you can’t really control who visits your website, other than by trying to target different keywords that you think are a better fit for your business. Paid search ads give you an astonishing level of control and only show your ads to the people you want to bring to your website. Ads allow you to control:

What keyword searches trigger your ad

The physical location of the searcher (geo-targeting mentioned above)

The time of day your ad is seen

The day of week the ad is seen

The device type it’s viewed on (e.g. computer vs. phone – and which type of phone)

The network (e.g. Google only or its Search or Display Networks)

The ad position

And more

While organic results might have the potential to bring you a lot more visitors than paid marketing, many of those visitors may be consumers you don’t actually want. In many cases you would better off getting the one targeted person to your website rather than seven people that don’t really want anything you are selling.

Which is better SEO or SEM?

As there are many benefits to both SEO and SEM, which is better sparks a great debate and the answer will vary from business to business, depending on business goals and desired outcomes. A combination of the two is generally the best approach for a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. If you are launching a new website and want to have immediate search engine visibility, then it would be a good idea to launch a PPC or search engine advertising campaign while investing in quality SEO will lead to great organic results in the long term. PPC campaigns should be used in conjunction with SEO as part of a long-term marketing strategy.

If you are looking for a digital marketing agency to partner with to get you the best results, then contact the team at Digital Elder. Our Australian based team of digital marketing specialists combine proven traditional marketing methods with the latest digital technologies to grow your business. Get in touch with us today.

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Digital Elder is, hands down, one of the best companies that we have worked with! The company has either met or exceeded all of the goals set for SEO, Display, Adwords and Reported all results 24/7 in the platform. Some months dip and rise but overall average lead gen has been good for us.  Rounded professionals that are highly knowledgeable and well skilled. I highly recommend Digital Elder to anyone looking for a great group to work with.
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