Not to worry, you’re just like the vast majority of businesses out there. But, there is something you can and should do since results on the first page of Google receive 92% of all search traffic.

In this post we’ll explain Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC), and describe how they work together to drive compelling marketing results.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is perhaps THE most essential marketing strategy for brands trying to attract attention, increase site traffic and boost sales. And, for good reason. 

The tactics that collectively comprise SEM — Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) — help your brand show up on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) at the exact moment potential customers are looking for your product or service. 

Instead of ‘pushing’ your message out to customers — as we do when trying to interrupt a user’s attention with an ad in their Facebook Newsfeed — SEM allows customers to ‘pull’ your message to them when they are more receptive. This generally leads to more conversions and qualified leads.

A note of caution: some practitioners use the terms SEM and PPC interchangeably to refer only to paid search efforts. We follow the initial intent of the terminology where SEM covers all search engine marketing initiatives, both organic and paid. 


Search Results Page

The difference between paid & organic (i.e. unpaid) listings on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization is an organic (i.e. unpaid) search strategy. 

The goal of SEO is to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your website by elevating it’s position within results returned by a search engine. That’s accomplished by continually optimizing the site to rank higher through both “on-page” and “off-page” strategies.

Though time consuming, SEO is generally the most cost-effective marketing tactic. Site traffic from organic search is free (well, sort of) and does not dry up as soon as you stop paying.

What is Pay Per Click?

Pay Per Click is a paid search strategy. 

It’s the art & science of gaining website traffic by using paid ads to increase the site’s visibility on search engines. Combining keywords and ad copy puts you in control of how & when you show up when potential customers are looking for your products or services. 

Unlike SEO, paid ads give you the opportunity to increase the visibility of your business within a matter of hours. It also allows you to hyper-target potential customers, and provide a more predictable stream of traffic than with SEO… as long as you keep paying.

Do you need both SEO and PPC?

As you now know, SEO and PPC are separate (but closely related) tactics. They have their own unique pros and cons. PPC is often thought of as expensive and complex, while SEO is too slow.

Though you can run SEO or PPC-only efforts, we strongly believe they work best when supporting each other simultaneously. By running SEO and PPC together you can:

  • Increase the total volume of site traffic 
  • Take up more real estate and dominate the SERP
  • Test your keyword strategy in PPC before committing to a long-term SEO approach
  • Share keyword, ad copy, and landing page intelligence from PPC to improve organic search efforts
  • Improve efficiency by moving high-cost or high-volume keywords from PPC to organic search

For those reasons, both SEO and PPC should be included in your company’s digital marketing strategy, and getting them aligned is one of the most underrated ways to increase performance. Just make sure you’re sending potential customers to more than just your website.

Need more help understanding whether SEO and PPC are right for your business?

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