Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two different strategies that can help small businesses improve their online visibility and drive more traffic to their website. And ultimately increase business at a measurable rate of return. In most cases, we can actively track down to a cost per acquisition to attract a new customer.

What is SEO?

SEO focuses on optimising a website to rank higher in organic search results. This involves optimising the website’s content, structure, and meta tags to make it more relevant to search engine algorithms. SEO is a long-term strategy that can take several months to see results, but it can be very effective in driving targeted traffic to a website.

SEO involves a range of techniques, including optimising website content and structure, improving site speed and mobile responsiveness, building high-quality backlinks, and using relevant keywords in website content and meta tags. By improving these factors, a website can become more relevant and authoritative in search engines’ eyes, leading to higher search engine rankings and more traffic.

SEO is a complex and ever-evolving field, as search engine algorithms are constantly changing and becoming more sophisticated. However, it is an important aspect of digital marketing for businesses of all sizes. It can help drive targeted traffic to a website and increase brand visibility and authority online.

What is SEM

On the other hand, SEM involves paying for advertising space on search engine results pages (SERPs) or paid ads on social media marketing platforms. This can include pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, where businesses pay each time a user clicks on their ad, or display advertising, where businesses pay for their ad to appear on relevant websites. SEM can provide more immediate results than SEO but can also be more expensive, especially for competitive keywords.

SEM typically involves using paid search ads, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, to target specific keywords and phrases that are relevant to a business’s products or services. When a user searches for those keywords, the ads appear at the top or bottom of the search results, marked as “sponsored” or “ad”. With Meta (Facebook’s platform) we can create custom audiences.

SEM also includes display advertising, which involves placing ads on relevant websites and social media platforms. These ads can be targeted based on a variety of factors, such as demographics, interests, and search history.

SEM can effectively drive targeted traffic to a website quickly, as businesses only pay when a user clicks on their ad. However, it can also be expensive, especially for competitive keywords, and requires ongoing management and optimization to ensure a positive return on investment (ROI).

Overall, SEM is a powerful tool for businesses looking to increase their online visibility and drive traffic to their website, but it should be used in conjunction with other digital marketing strategies, such as SEO and social media marketing, to create a comprehensive and effective online marketing plan.

The verdict for small businesses

Most SEM strategies are dependent on a good SEO strategy first.  Get the SEO right on your small business website, and then look at adapting an SEM strategy. In simple terms, a well-structured SEO website can make SEM efforts (particularly with Google Ads) more cost-effective and deliver better conversion rates.

For small businesses with limited budgets, start with SEO, as it can provide long-term benefits and be less expensive than SEM. However, if a small business needs immediate results or has a particularly competitive industry, it may want to consider SEM to supplement its SEO efforts. Ultimately, the best approach depends on each small to medium business’s needs and goals.

As SEO and SEM specialists based here in Geelong, we work with small to medium businesses in Australia and can assist in guiding you through the world of SEO and SEM for your business.

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