SEO or SEM?

08
Nov
By Andy | No Comments »

When attempting to get a good search engine results page (SERP) there are two techniques which are widely used:

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Both techniques have advantages and disadvantages so I thought I would put together a brief overview.

When a search term is entered into Google, a set of results are displayed to the end user. The results are divided into paid for results and organic results.

Organic results appear during a search based upon how highly the search engine in question (in this instance Google) rates the content of the website in relation to the search term whilst the paid for results (sponsored links) are paying to be listed for that search term.

google_screenshot

The above picture shows a typical results page from a Google search. The paid for listings are highlighted in red whilst the organic listings are highlighted in green.

So what are the main differences between the two techniques? Well the obvious answer is that to maintain a SEM listing costs money. Each time the listing appears during a search and each time an end user clicks on the listing costs the sponsor money. How much the sponsor pays is dependant upon  any maximum limits the sponsor put in place (such as no more than £0.50 for a listing) and also on how popular the search term may be (the more popular the search term translates to more sponsors bidding for the same listing).

So why would you want to use SEM? Well in a nutshell its possible to pay for a page one SERP as soon as a webpage is built. This in turn can give instant results (all be it at a price).

So what about search engine optimisation (SEO)? This technique can lead to a good organic listing without having to pay for it to appear. The only outlay is the time, patience and most often the fees you pay an SEO consultant to help you achieve a good organic SERP.

Getting a good organic listing can take a while to achieve but the rewards more than pay for it in the long run as it removes (or reduces) having to pay for a sponsored link. Not only this but end users generally trust organic results much more than sponsored links so the click through rate (the amount of users that visit the site from the search page) is generally much better.

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