Once you start building a website, the floodgates open wide. All of a sudden, you’re being introduced to so much jargon it’s hard to figure out what’s what. One of those is the difference between S.E.M. (Search Engine Marketing) and your good old pal S.E.O. (Search Engine Optimization). They seem so similar, yet they really encompass two entirely different things. What the heck are they? Search Engine Marketing (A.K.A. Paid Search) Search engine marketing is really a different way of saying paid search. You’ve no doubt seen and probably clicked on paid ads in Google. They’re the ones that show up at the top of the page, are usually highlighted, and they say sponsored listing or something similar. People pay to get these ads into Google, and they get traffic from them right away. S.E.M. Is: A paid scheme. The traffic you get is proportional to the amount of money you spend on advertising. Ad focused. You have to keep testing your ads to make sure they have mass market appeal. Short term oriented. You are looking to get traffic right away. You can think of S.E.M. as something that’s not too different from newspaper advertising. You pay for some degree of brand visibility, and you get leads from it.
There is an art to mastering paid search. People who are really experienced with it know how to get the best prices for the highest quality traffic. They also have a very clear idea of who to target with the ads, and they’re constantly testing their ads to see which ones work best. If you’re looking to hire a paid search consultant, always ask for the numbers. The good ones keep track of their successes. They have clear case studies they can show you. Ideally, you should see a before and after picture of the paid search campaigns they’ve managed. If they can show you that they’ve found a way to reduce the cost of the campaign while generating more high quality leads, you’ve got a winner. Forget about everyone else. Search Engine Optimization. (A.K.A. Organic Search) S.E.O. is the art of tailoring your website content for search. When your content is written with the right keywords, you can show up in Google when people search for those keywords. None of this is paid by the way. It’s totally FREE traffic if you can manage to get people interested in your website content. A huge part of S.E.O. involves researching the keywords to find out which ones connect to your audience the most. Then, using those keywords and a knowledge of your brand and core marketing message, you come up with content ideas for your website. You then write the content and make sure to use the keywords you just selected. S.E.O. Is: Unpaid. You don’t need to pay anyone anything to do S.E.O. It’s something you do to your own website content to make it more likely to show up in search engine results. Content focused. Your written content is what grabs the attention of readers and search engines. Most of the S.E.O. work you do will be done on your written content. Long term oriented. You will not get an overnight traffic boost from SEO. It can take months to years to get a return on your time investment. S.E.O. is a very broad term that can mean a lot of different things you might do with your website content. Including the right keywords is only a part of the picture. You’ve also got to make sure your articles are relevant to the people who are visiting your site. If people read your articles, and it seems like they were written by a robot or don’t add anything original, people won’t be interested in your brand or your website. The real trick is to use keywords subtly – write your content for people first, and then put the keywords into the mix. There are two other fields of S.E.O. that often don’t get the same attention as the others, and they are off-page S.E.O. and technical S.E.O. Off-page S.E.O. is the art of making your website content look appealing on the search engine results page. To do it, you don’t need to rewrite your content, you just need to change your META description and TITLE tags to something that reads more like an ad. This helps you take control of your search engine presence and stand out from your competition. Technical S.E.O. is a technique bigger websites use. Google and other search engines can only put so many pages into their search index. They often rule out duplicate pages and other pages that are hard to get to. A good example is a flash website. Google can’t actually get into flash websites, so the pages in those sites tend not to appear in the search engine results. A technical S.E.O. expert is someone who comes along to get those pages into the index by whatever means necessary. That might mean abandoning Flash altogether, eliminating duplicate pages, or consolidating content to give it a better chance of ranking higher. As you can see, the two worlds of S.E.M. and S.E.O. are quite different. S.E.M. is a paid scheme from the outset, and the return in traffic should be immediate. S.E.O., on the other hand, is more of a longterm investment. You can’t expect to get traffic from it right away. So if you ever get approached by an S.E.O. consultant who can guarantee immediate traffic, run for the hills! That person is lying. What you really need is a two-pronged approach. Ask yourself what your short term and long term goals are. If you need to traffic right now, the paid approach might be your best option. No matter what you’re doing, you need to have a solid S.E.O. plan for longterm growth. Don’t expect it to do wonders overnight, but it will eventually become the backbone of your search strategy.
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