Very often at Arcomm we have conversations with our clients about how SEO and SEM are indispensable parts of digital marketing. In those conversations, we almost always see that there is a general confusion about each of the aspects, their differences and their similarities. That is why we have believed it necessary to write a post clarifying the relationship between the two.
What is SEO?
We can define SEO, Search Engine Optimization , as all those digital marketing strategies that are focused on making us appear in the SERPs or search engine results pages. We are talking about creating quality content, having the web ready with technical SEO and making it easier for search engine algorithms such as Google, Bing or Yahoo to see our page and show it to users.
These are long-term actions, since we cannot buy positions in Google results, nor are we going to have short-term results. It is a marathon in which we have to adapt and work hard on what we put online so that search engines offer us for certain keywords.
What is SEM?
Unlike SEO, SEM is all the more dynamic and short-term part of digital marketing that has to do with search engine and social media advertising. At Arcomm we also call it PPC for a nomenclature issue since the term Search Engine Marketing can be misleading.
When we talk about SEM we refer to Google Ads, Facebook Ads, other social networks and, in general, all online advertising with which we can get results in exchange for an investment. There are countless strategies and elements to take into account when working on this part of a company’s digital marketing, but we are going to talk about it in another post.
Comparison SEO SEM
As we have already said, the two are within what a digital marketing agency could do or what a business could need. However, we want to make the differences and objectives of each one very clear so that you can choose which one suits you best.
1. Long and short term goals
The first big difference is the time in which you can get results. SEO positioning is something that will take time to achieve. Normally we are talking about 3, 6 or even 12 month strategies. You will never see an SEO strategy, be it on-page or off-page, that changes your KPIs in a week.
The SEM on the other hand is much more short-term. It all depends on the investment we make and how good we are at analyzing traffic and conversion data. With good Facebook Ads and Google Ads campaigns we can reach millions of people in one or two weeks, which will allow us to optimize our internet advertising more quickly, achieving results within 1 to 3 months.
As you may already be imagining, the cost also varies substantially, while to work on search engine positioning we need an expert SEO team, SEM requires an additional investment in online advertising platforms.
Obviously we pursue the same end goals with both SEO and SEM, but it is true that the approach we will take varies a bit.
With SEO positioning we want to appear in Google searches or some other engine. In addition, we want to maintain the first positions to continue attracting relevant traffic to our website. The objectives that we will set will be more generic and more long-term, such as recurring visits, purchases, registrations, and combinations of these.
With SEM, on the other hand, we can work on various types of online advertising campaigns, each with a very specific objective. What’s more, at Arcomm we always recommend that each campaign have 1 or 2 objectives. So, the Facebook Ads or Google Ads you make have to have a specific goal like attracting traffic, web sign-ups, purchases, or social media followers.
Here the difference is much clearer, since with SEO or search engine optimization, the results will appear little by little and in a very gradual way. If you are making good content and following the best practices, you will see how everything improves at the same time. On the other hand, if you stop working on organic traffic, you will never see how your conversions disappear overnight, but rather you will see how everything goes down little by little.
In the SEM the results are seen very quickly, as soon as you launch the campaign and manage to optimize it, you will see the results you are looking for. If you raise your budget, you will see more traffic and conversion data, while if you lower it, all the metrics will disappear. Obviously it is more complex, but, in short, it is as if you had a faucet that you can turn on and off at will to appear on the first pages of search engines.
Perhaps it is the most important and most complex part of the whole process. In both SEO and SEM you will have to analyze everything that is happening and see if your strategies are being profitable or need some changes and tweaks. Obviously you cannot analyze it in the same way since they are very different.
SEO is analyzed by looking at search engine positions and conversions that have come from organic traffic. We will rarely calculate the ROI of our SEO strategies using the cost of the equipment and the sales profits. The reason is that a job well done will give you results in the long term, so the value of ROI will increase over time, its calculation losing meaning at a given moment.
As for the SEM, we will look at data on impressions, clicks, conversion rates, dropout rates, ROI and what we deem appropriate on a regular basis. At Arcomm, depending on the client, we usually do the analysis on a weekly basis if the data is sufficient, to see trends, if we need to change a campaign or if we can reinforce our online advertising in some way. Here we can calculate the ROI at a specific time, although concepts such as LTV and the consumer’s journey must be kept in mind to be able to do it correctly.
In short, can we consider SEO and SEM the same?
The answer is no. It is true that they are concepts that are similar in operation and in some points such as the use of keywords or the analysis of results, but SEO and SEM are two different worlds.
Any online marketing agency will work on it in separate ways, although they will obviously take advantage of the information to use it on both sides when possible.
Our advice is to analyze your business thoroughly to see which one suits you best. This way you will know whether to invest in SEO, SEM or both. There is no magic formula and maybe you start with a strategy and change it after a few months, nothing happens. At Arcomm we are always in favor of working with the whole pack , but we can also help you with just one of the parts. Contact us and let’s talk to see what your business needs.