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Imagination Born From the Heart of Australia

  • Writer's pictureArryn Leigh Cox


In my last two blog posts I gave basic explanations on what SEO and what SEM are.

In this post I am going to give a basic comparison between the two, as well as explaining how to utilize them and which one you should be focusing on.

Now, if you have not already read those two posts, I suggest you go and do that now, otherwise this one is not going to make much sense. The order you want to read them in is ‘What is SEO’, then ‘What is SEM’, and then come back to this post, ‘SEO vs SEM’.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a free method that will increase the likelihood that your website will appear highly ranked in a search result for a particular search term or several particular search terms.

SEM or Search Engine Marketing on the other hand is a paid method that will, if done correctly, guarantee that your website or landing page will appear as an advertised listing at the top of a search result for a particular search term.

So, the question is “which one is more important?” or “which one should I be doing?”

Well, the answer is you should be doing both of them at some point, especially if you want to scale a business or scale an offer. At some point you will need both an SEO plan and SEM in place.

Now having said that, you do not want to jump straight in to doing both, especially if you are just starting out.

If you are a new business or you have a new offer, then you do not want to be jumping in and be doing both at the same time. You want to pick one, work on that one until it is at a good point, then move on to the next one. At that point you will have them both going and that is where you can scale.

So, with that in mind, “which one should you do?”

While it is possible for you to go ahead and do SEM first, I would not advise it for a number of reasons.

First of all, SEO is the free method of the two, and what a lot of people do not realize is that it takes time and testing to find the right strategy for your business or offer. So, you are not going to have it correct right from the beginning. It is going to take some time and testing. That is what we have analytics for.

So, with SEO you can implement a strategy, look at your analytics and statistics for a while, and you can see how it is performing. Most likely to begin with you will not see the best performance, and that is why you need to work on it. You take that feedback, then you go, and you rework your strategy. It is the same process for SEM, except that the problem here with SEM is that it is a paid method. That means it is going to cost you to test how your adverts perform. The more you have to test ads, the more it will cost you, especially if you are just starting out and especially if you are new to SEM.

Most likely your first ads are not going to convert many, if any, customers. So, you could be getting a lot of people clicking on your ads, which are then paying for, but if they are not buying your product afterwards, then that is going to cost you a lot of money.

So, it is better to go SEO first for that reason.

The other reason is while you are testing SEO and you are making changes to a website or landing page, you will most likely find that as you are testing and altering the site or page in order to get better SEO results, you will most likely find that you are also creating a better website or a better landing page that can actually convert more customs.

With that in mind, you definitely want to do that first. You want the natural customers coming in from SEO so that by the time you start doing SEM in order to scale, to branch out and to grow from that, if you have done SEO correctly, you will be starting off in a much better position with SEM.

As people click on those ads and they go to the website or landing page, then you most likely will already have a site or a landing page by this point that will successfully convert customers.

The testing that you will then be doing in that case is purely about which kind of advert is getting more clicks, and therefore is getting more people onto that website or landing page. You will be testing things like the title, the description, etc.

To recap, you want to begin with Search Engine Optimization. Once you have an offer or business you want either a website or a landing page. You want to implement and test an SEO strategy on that website or landing page. Once you have gotten that strategy to a point where you are getting a good, steady amount of organic traffic coming through to your site, just from SEO, then that is when you want to begin looking into SEM, and coming up with an SEM or Search Engine Marketing strategy. By that point, the two of them, SEO and SEM, will be working together.


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