SEO or SEM? Deciphering Online Marketing Double Speak

Have you been approached by slick Internet marketers who offer Google on a platter but leave you scratching your head about how they plan to accomplish what they promise?

Many of our clients have been approached by sales people offering all sorts of incredible sounding Internet marketing services. The problem is that many business owners do not understand what they are being offered, what is possible and what is not possible and what represents value for your marketing budget.
What is SEO and what is SEM?

There is an important distinction to make between these two services as they will have a very different impact on your Internet marketing strategy. Many business owners are unaware of the difference between them and without being educated about this you can fall prey to sales double speak and be led down the garden path.

The best way to illustrate the difference between SEO and SEM is to show you...

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

The image shows a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The areas at the top and right column show sponsored results. These sections are paid ads that are generated using Google's ‘Pay Per Click' AdWords engine. The advertiser pays Google a "bid" amount for every click the ad receives. Advertising your business in this way is called SEM or Search Engine Marketing. AdWords is by far the most successful and far reaching of the PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising models around at the moment. We mentioned in an earlier article that Google has the lion share of the search market in Australia. This also goes for paid advertising.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

On the left side of the Google SERP is an area shaded in red. This represents where "organic" or "natural" search results are shown. This is where Google's famous search algorithm is used to rank websites against numerous criteria to judge how relevant it is compared to others for certain search terms. If a web agency is offering SEO services, it is important to make sure that what they are offering is better search results for your website in the organic results section of the Google SERP.

SEM and SEO Sales Double Speak to Watch Out For

There are a lot of aggressive sales techniques being used by SEM sales people at the moment. Here are a few:

• Top 3 AdWords positions for highly competitive keywords with unlimited clicks on a fixed budget
There are a few SEM companies out there who offer this sort of deal. We investigated some of these offers and have come to the conclusion that it not only sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Google AdWords is a pay per click advertising model, so it is difficult to understand how anybody can offer bonified unlimited clicks on a budget that put the SEM company in the red if the offer was legitimate.

• SEM/SEO companies that associate themselves with Google
A lot of telemarketers and email marketers make themselves sound like they are from Google. Google wouldn't call you to try to sell you a service or product and it is dishonest to make such statements.

• Search Engine Submission Services
Using a service that submits your website to 100's or 1000's of search engines is a waste of time and money. Anyone offering the service is not a professional SEO service provider. There are only really 3 major search engines that handle over 95% of Internet search queries. Submitting your website to those 3 via their website submission form is also not the best way to get your website indexed into them.

• Guaranteed #1 Google Ranking
If you are guaranteed first position in Google, alarm bells should ring loudly in your head. No-one can legitimately make such an offer other than Google themselves and they certainly won't do that. I would suggest reading the fine print. Do you get to choose the search terms that they will give the guarantee for? If they choose the search terms, they probably do not have very high search volume or competition and therefore not very useful to your business. Also be careful that they are not actually going to set up an AdWords campaign and pass it off as a successful search engine optimisation. Then suddenly your ad disappears after you have paid for SEO.

• SEO Companies that use methods that "trick" Google
Companies that try to trick Google into ranking your website highly can damage your rankings for the long term, even if these methods appear to work for a while. It is most likely Google will work it out and drop your website out of the search engine and possibly ban your website forever. Success in SEO is about enhancing your website and its rankings in a way that enhances the Google search experience users. Any methods that circumvent Google's mission to keep search results as relevant as possible will eventually cause more problems than it is worth.

SEO vs SEM as Marketing Strategies

Having your website appear on the first page of Google has become a very important prerogative for most businesses at a time when print is being overtaken by the Internet. The best strategy to pursue when deciding whether to take up SEM or SEO is to do both.

The main thing to keep in mind when looking at both SEO and SEM is that SEO is a longer term solution to bringing your targeted free traffic to your website. SEO involves periodic reviewing of your website as well as your competitor's websites, continuous link building and monitoring your progression up the path to first page position on the search engines for your related search terms. SEM on the other hand is a good way to get quick results. If your website doesn't currently get much traffic, AdWords can bring highly targeted traffic within hours or even minutes of setting up and activating your ads. By using AdWords, you can get a link to your website on the first page of Google easily, it just depends on whether your pay per click bid is high enough to compete and your ads pass Google's quality standards. With SEO, Google compares your website against other related websites and ranks you accordingly but this can take some time and does have the quick results that an advertising campaign can have. Once the SEO campaign does get you first page results, however, the benefits pay long term dividends.

Also, while a lot of traffic can be had by running an AdWords campaign, more Google users click on the natural search results. It is estimated that around 84% of Google users click on organic search results rather than the sponsored results. Still, it is a good strategy to appear in both columns of the Google SERPs for your search terms to drive the most traffic. AdWords can continue to drive traffic for those competitive search terms that may be extremely difficult to optimise for with SEO.

Contact us today to find out how our SEO services can help your business grow.

David Lopez is an eMarketing conslultant with 3 years experience working as part of the AWD team. David is currently offering a free 30 minute eMarketing consultation for new and existing clients of AWD. If you are interested in a free consultation for SEO or eMarketing for your website, contact him at

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