SEO vs. SEM?

MarketWebsite Marketing 101: The difference between optimization and marketing.

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing share the same goal, namely to drive more traffic to your site. Both are important aspects of any website project, but they achieve their goals by different means.

Search Engine Optimization can be thought of as optimization of your website, while Search Engine Marketing comprises the things that you do on other websites to promote your website. Think of them as two sides of the same coin... one being onsite activity and the other, offsite activity. Let's take them one by one.

Search Engine Optimization

As stated above, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves things that you do to your website to get more traffic from search engines. This is often referred to as onsite optimization,  because these are things done on your site, as opposed to elsewhere. A quick example of SEO would be managing your website's page titles and H1 tags. You may do this to ensure that your pages show up for specific keywords and phrases on the search engines. 

An example of something that is NOT SEO, but is SEM, would buying ads on Google, or asking other sites to link to yours. These are offsite activities, and as such are more appropriately referred to as SEM.

Fotolia 38179430 XSWhat types of things can be done to optimize my site for SEO? In a perfect world there are dozens of things that you can do, but at a certain point, you will get diminishing returns. A smart SEO specialist will focus on the primary things that actually work. 

  • Key Words & Phrases - Before you figure exactly which words and phrases you should focus on you should do some keyword research. If you have a relatively new site, without a lot of traffic and without a links pointing, you will need to be realistic. You cannot expect to optimize your site for highly competitive keywords until you are well established. You should focus on key words and phrases in your content that are less competitive. You will also need to be conscientious of how your use your key words and phrases... don't overuse them.
  • Title Tags - Search Engines look at the title of your page, as well as the content, so make sure you use relevant titles with key words and phrases that match your content.
  • H1, H2, H3 Tags - These tags are used to identify headings on your site and search engines use them to identify what various parts of your page are about.
  • Links - When you link to your own content try to provide descriptive links. Links that say "click here" are not helpful. Search engines will look at links text to see what your page is called. 
  • Meta Tags - These tags are buried inside of your html and are not visible to users. Most Joomla website editors neglect to update these tags, but they can be somewhat helpful in your SEO efforts.

A good SEO expert will strive to generate as much concurrence as possible between all of the items above as possible for each and every page on a website. That way, when a search engine visits the site, there will be no question what the page is about, and, provide you chose your key words well, you will begin to get traffic from the search engines.

Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing is the other side of the SEO/SEM coin, and refers to activity that you perform elsewhere to drive traffic to your site. The two primary types of SEM are advertising and link building. Let's look at both in a bit more detail.

  • Advertising - There are many different type of advertising available to you, but SEM refers specifically to ads placed on search engines. Google, being by far the largest of the search engines, is the usual and obvious choice for advertising.  Google's search engine advertising product is called AdSense, AdSense offers a type of advertising called CPC, which means Cost Per Click. This means that you only pay when your ad gets clicked. Of course the other search engines, such as bing, offer advertising as well, and may offer some advantages.
  • Link Building - Link building is perhaps the most important thing you can do to establish your website and ensure that you can get traffic from the search engines. Here's why: every link to your site is like a vote for your site. The more votes your site has, the more likely it is to appear for any giving key word or phrase. It is, in some sense, a popularity contest, with the most popular sites getting the most traffic from the search engines.  But beware of stuffing the ballot box in your quest to become popular! Sites that promise to give you thousands of links to your site for a small fee sound to good to be true, and they are. If you participate in one of these get popular quick schemes you may actually get penalized by the search engines and see your traffic drop to zero. So forget the shortcuts, and get links to your site the old fashioned way... call people in related fields and ask them to put a link on their website to yours.

If you've done your SEM work well, your site can begin to get traffic from the search engines. 

If you would like a professional to help you with your SEO and SEM efforts, give GYST Media a call for a free consultation.

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