Search Engine Marketing or SEM is the term that is often used to describe paid search advertising. I think that is inaccurate. To me SEM should be the all-encompassing term for “search engine marketing” – know know what it stands for – which includes both paid search and organic search. The two are so closely related that if you are doing one separate from the other you are mostly likely wasting a lot time and money. I would like to spend a bit time talking about both of these channels and why they are important to your marketing efforts.
Search Engine Optimization or SEO
This channel revolved around ranking organically for keyword phrases. Most commonly we talk about ranking for Google because it is by far the biggest fish in search pond. Also, other companies such as Bing and Yahoo tend to look to Google for guidance, whether they admit or not. This is a the “free” channel. But is only free in the sense that you don’t pay any dollars directly to a search engine to rank organically. It can certainly be an expensive channel when you think of it in terms of man hours.
Pay Per Click or PPC
Perhaps we should call it SEM-PPC since PPC is a term that can also be used by companies that sell banner ads. For the purposes of this post we will agree PPC means pay for click for paid search. It is important to note that there are three major networks in Google Adwords system.
This is actual Google search page ad. When a user goes to google.com and searches for the keyword.
This is Google search results on an external site. Accuweather.com, as an example, has a Google powered search on their site.
Search Partners PPC
This is other search engines that use Google results. AOL is an example of this.
Why do you care about this? Because each network might preform differently for you. If you have a keyword that isn’t preforming well for you but you believe it should see what network it is running in. If you are letting Google allocate where your dollars are focused it is just looking for the best price for the ad. That doesn’t mean it is giving you the most qualified visitors or that ad will perform well.
If you aren’t doing either of these in marketing plan currently, I recommend starting with SEO. Starting with SEO will help you to optimize what content you already have and identify where you might be lacking. Once you have that in place it is will be easier and more effective to tailor your PPC efforts to your optimized content. I have created a 4 part series for each of the channels to help you better understand the goals of each and how to get started.