What's better for you - SEO or SEM?

Thursday, September 03, 2015 1:00 PM

Many digital marketers see it as the great internet debate: SEO versus SEM. What's better for business? The good news is, there doesn't have to be a choice between SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing).

Google announced in early May that for the first time, mobile searches have surpassed tablet and web searches around the world. Fewer and fewer people are sitting down at their computers to research a product or service; potential customers are grabbing their smartphones to make quick and dirty searches. This presents a huge opportunity for digital marketers: just landing your company or product in front of a customer's eyes can be the difference between making and losing a sale.

Choosing SEO vs SEM isn't an either/or decision; both marketing routes offer benefits and drawbacks.

That's where SEO and SEM come in. But choosing how to promote your website isn't an either/or decision; both marketing routes offer benefits and drawbacks.

Pressed for time? Most digital marketers are. One of the biggest differences between the two marketing tactics is that SEM will work right away. An SEM strategy usually includes paid ads. These will earn you eyeballs, and likely clicks, immediately. SEO is a longer term strategy. Developing your content to organically earn a top search result ranking will pay off, but it will take time.

Judge the competition. You can't move forward with SEO or SEM without understanding the marketplace and your competitors. Do a quick search. One search will tell you a lot of information about how you should develop your strategy. If there are lots of ads, you'll be paying a lot per click. On the other hand, if your search leaves you with few relevant results, then it may not take much as much effort to pop up first in the rankings by employing SEO tactics.

Consider longevity. When you stop paying for ads, your exposure will instantly disappear one of the major drawbacks of SEM. But SEO has the potential to last longer. Think of SEO like going to the gym: you have to put in the work consistently in order to see results, but your abs won't disappear overnight if you skip a day.

If global sales are your goal, think above and beyond just SEO for your strategy.

Where is your target market? Your strategy will look vastly different depending on your targets. Are you looking for local customers, or international ones? Being found by customers outside of your region might be difficult because of localized search. If global sales are your goal, think above and beyond just SEO for your strategy.

Putting off your digital strategy is easy to justify when you don't want to make the wrong choice between SEO and SEM. But with the rapid growth of digital searching and the ever-increasing potential customer base, digital marketing can't be put on hold. Consider the pros and cons of SEO and SEM, but remember that you don't need to choose just one strategy. Research, implement, evaluate, repeat.

Brittany Kustra

Brittany Kustra

Brittany Kustra is a freelance writer and communications manager based in Edmonton. When she's not writing, she's studying for her PR diploma at MacEwan University, and when she's not studying, she continues her quest to find the best vanilla latte in the city.

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