SEM, SEO… What is this? A serving of alphabet soup? No, not quite. Let’s dig into the basics of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We’ll cover what they are, how they fit together, how they are different, and why these differences impact your bottom line. 

What is SEO?

According to Moz, SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity, and quality of your website traffic through organic search. Essentially, more people are able to find your website by searching for topics and keywords you share content about.

Check out this quick 90-second easily digestible definition of SEO and how it has changed over the years. 

Still have more SEO questions? Dive deeper and check out our basics of SEO blog. 

What is SEM?

In the not so long, but growing history of the internet, SEM was used as an umbrella term which encompassed both SEO and paid search engine advertising.

However now, the approach has been more simplified, your SEM is basically your SEO strategy, but with money allocated toward it. SEM is a type of internet advertising displayed in a prominent location on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). SEM directs traffic to your website through these advertisements. There are a few different models for how SEM is structured: 

  • Pay-per-click (PPC): the advertiser pays a specified amount each time a searcher clicks on their advertisement. This is the most common, and it is sometimes called cost-per-click (CPC). 
  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA): the advertiser pays a specified amount each time a conversion is achieved through the advertising. 
  • Cost-per-impression (CPM): the advertiser pays a specified amount per thousand impressions, or the number of times the advertisement is visible to searchers. 

Better Together

Your SEM will immediately drive traffic to your website, and your SEO will ensure prospects’ questions are answered. We believe your digital advertising and your SEO are better together. As with any good team, it is good to know what each party brings to the table, so that we can understand how they uplift one another. We asked G5ers — Pat Kane, SEO manager, and Devon Stanzione, Digital Advertising Strategist — to explain this in under a minute. Watch, and learn more.

Long and Short Game 

SEO and SEM each provide distinct value to your business and require a tailored approach. A strong SEO foundation ensures that the website you’re directing searchers to via your SEM, is robust, useful, and exactly the information they were seeking. 

In today’s instant-everything environment, it’s important to remember that SEO can take a long time, as in months or years, to influence SERP rankings. It is essential to embrace this long-term view and build a website that caters to the needs and expectations of both future customers and search engines. Like many things worth doing right, there is no quick fix. Selecting a best-in-class marketing partner familiar with your industry will benefit you as you navigate the intricacies of increasing your organic website traffic. Unlike SEM, you don’t have control over who, when, and how an audience will reach the site. But, you can provide valuable information including pricing and availability to answer customers’ most urgent questions. 

SEM results are more immediate. Paid advertising presents website information in a prominent location. For instance, on a SERP this is the top slot above any organic search traffic. Which means you’re essentially purchasing a number one SERP ranking. Therefore, it can significantly increase page views and website traffic. With SEM strategy, you target specific search queries or keywords. This introduces your property to a prospect in the research phase of their customer journey, who usually has a high intent to rent, as demonstrated by their online research. Selecting a marketing partner who implements advanced machine learning allows you to track the buyer’s journey, identify points — such as the research phase — with the highest likelihood of conversion, and dynamically allocate spend appropriately. Meaning, your efforts are more likely to lead to conversions.

Why is it Important to Have Different Methods of Directing Traffic to Your Website?

You’ve heard the phrase, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” right? Well, if you opt for an SEM-only approach that’s precisely what you’re doing. Without a thoughtful approach to website architecture and content, your users’ questions won’t be immediately answered and they’ll leave your site quickly. So, you’ll miss out on those prospects.

If you go the route of an SEO-only approach, you may not see an increase in organic search traffic for quite some time, which doesn’t solve your lease-up challenged property today. Additionally, search engine algorithms will continue to change and become more precise to meet searcher needs. As new changes are implemented, your website traffic may lag while you adjust your SEO strategy within the new parameters. In times like this SEM has your back, and will continue to drive traffic to your website. 

Learn More About the Benefits of Predictive Marketing

To get the most from your SEO and SEM, a tailored strategy to both is essential. With SEO, this means continuously optimizing for search as search engines continue to fine-tune their algorithms. With SEM, predictive marketing is an essential component of your 2020 marketing toolkit. Want to learn more? Check out our infographic outlining our top five benefits of predictive marketing.