With any new tech startup, getting the word out there is crucial. Growing your business through online resources can expedite this process. Two of the most important tools in digital marketing for startups are SEO and SEM. SEO stands for search engine optimization, while SEM stands for search engine marketing. Some people use these terms interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. If you are an early-stage tech startup that is trying to understand SEO vs. SEM, working with someone who has experience in SEO and SEM can help you grow your business.

Search Engine Marketing vs. Optimization

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The main difference between SEO and SEM is SEO is free while SEM is paid. SEO is an unpaid marketing strategy that focuses on bringing additional organic traffic to your website. These terms may sound very similar, but they are two different methods marketers use to increase your website ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Another difference between SEO and SEM is how quickly you will see results. SEO is more of a long-term strategy and may take months to see noticeable results, whereas with SEM, you may see results right away.

What Is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization marketing, utilizes tools to get search engines like Google or Bing to recommend your website to users. The better your optimization is, the better chance your content will rank closer to the top.

People typically only look through a few website results when searching online. You want to work towards achieving a page one ranking. If you are on page ten, very few people will see your site. Search engines rely on hundreds of factors to determine which pages rank for what search queries.

SEO is made up of several important pillars, including on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.

On-page SEO deals with optimizing each page on your site. SEO experts use tactics such as:

  • Posting content that thoroughly covers a topic.
  • Matching content with search intent.
  • Using targeted keywords designed to improve ranking.
  • Writing short and descriptive URLs.
  • Writing content that is easy to read.
  • Using appropriate alt tags for images and metadata in posts.

Off-page SEO focuses on improving your website’s reputation online. Getting your brand mentioned on other sites or having high-ranking sites link back to yours are examples of off-page SEO tactics. For local businesses, increasing positive reviews, optimizing your Google My Business listings, and building citations can also help.

Technical SEO deals with how your site loads and works on the backend. Integral aspects of technical SEO include:

  • Improving page load time.
  • Using hreflang tags on content that is multilingual.
  • Adding canonical tags so you don’t run into duplicate content.
  • Marking thin content as “non-indexing.”
  • Optimizing the crawl efficiency of your robots.txt.

SEO is a long-term objective that should be part of your overall marketing strategy, whether you opt to use paid SEM tactics or not.

What Is SEM?

Search engine marketing is also known as PPC, or pay-per-click. Marketers rely on tools like Bing Ads or Google Ads to target consumers. Within Google Ads, you will find different ad formats that allow you to refine your targeting even further.

A typical campaign might start with thorough keyword research and competitor insights. You may use the following to reach your intended audience: 

  • Shopping ads.
  • Search ads, also known as text ads.
  • Gmail ads.
  • Display ads.
  • YouTube ads.

Advertisers use specific terms for ads, so when a user runs a search, they will see a custom advertisement. You can often find these ads at the top of the search engine pages. Shopping ads may appear elsewhere. When a consumer clicks on these ads, the business is charged.

One reason companies like SEM is the immediate results you see. You can be driving visits and conversions in a short period of time. However, SEO is a crucial aspect of your search engine marketing as well. You want your content to rank organically to maximize the number of people who see your site.

Look at the Competition

Savvy marketers also keep an eye on their competition. Numerous tools are available that can help you better understand other companies’ marketing and advertising strategies. For example, you may want to see how your competitors rank for the same keywords you are researching. Start by looking at their organic ranking and develop a plan that can help you beat their SERP placements. By employing reliable SEO tactics, you may be able to outrank your competition for a popular search term.

Which is Better: SEO vs. SEM

It’s not uncommon for marketers to debate SEO vs. SEM tactics. Every company is different, and marketing goals will vary. You shouldn’t necessarily think about one or the other as SEO and SEM marketing can both play an essential role for many businesses. Here are several ways you can incorporate SEO and SEM marketing to increase your overall traffic and search engine visibility:

  • Use SEO and PPC for ad-heavy keywords.
  • Stick to SEO for keywords that are strictly informational.
  • Run ads for high-competition keywords you want to rank for in SERPs.
  • Use both PPC and SEO to monopolize search results.

Determining whether to focus on one or the other first will depend on your company’s current situation. For example, a brand new site may benefit from an SEM PPC campaign as it will get more eyes on the site right away. However, you don’t want to rely on the PPC campaign alone. You should be utilizing SEO search engine marketing as well.

Working on improving organic search engine results through SEO will take longer, but it’s also less costly. You also can establish search credibility that you don’t necessarily get with SEM and PPC tools.

Understanding which search engine marketing tactics are right for your brand new business can be confusing if you don’t have experience. To improve your maximum impact and reach, consider working with an experienced SEO and SEM service specializing in early tech startups. If you need assistance getting started or understanding SEO and SEM, let us know how we can help.

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