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SEO vs SEM

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the main components of search engine marketing (SEM). However, SEM is often used to describe online marketing tactics other than SEO, such as paid search advertisements. When it comes to online marketing, SEM vs. SEO is often a decision that needs to be made as a way to determine how much attention is given to various marketing channels.

With StatCounter, you can track the success of your SEO and SEM campaigns. SEO is an ongoing process and tracking your successes and failures will help you develop an effective strategy to improve your website’s online visibility. Of course, we also provide valuable information on how to launch your SEO or paid search advertising campaigns. Let our experts provide insight in regards to SEO vs. SEM, as well as some best practices to improve your website’s SEO opportunities.

One of the main aspects of enhancing your website’s online presence is determining how to market your website. While SEO is actually part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), SEM is often used to refer to paid search ads rather than organic search results and SEO. To paint a clearer picture, paid search ads are the results at the top or bottom of a search page and have a set price for specific keywords. SEO, on the other hand, focuses on the results search engines serve to users for any given search query. Within SEO, there’s a wide variety of tactics you can employ to increase visibility and acquire more traffic to your site.

Understanding SEO

SEO encompasses many of the aspects that will help improve your website’s search result rankings without having to pay for the results, often referred to as acquiring better rankings and more traffic organically. This can include, but is not limited to, optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, alt text for images, and creating new content based around a number of keywords you want your website to rank for. Actually, keyword-based content may be one of the most important aspects of SEO. However, SEO can become far more technical and typically requires optimizing page loading speeds and even formatting URLs correctly, among a range of other key tactics.

SEM Basics

SEM, on the other hand, includes more than SEO. Paid search advertising, for example, is a main aspect of SEM, which is simply buying space at the top or bottom of search results for a targeted keyword, rather than optimizing content to organically perform better. Not only must you pay for these ranking spots, you’ll also need to use some SEO tactics to ensure the page content matches the search user’s intent. Otherwise, any web user who clicks on your paid ad may find the content isn’t relevant or useful to them, and they’ll find their needs elsewhere. Needless to say, the keyword for the paid ad should match that of the webpage the ad brings users to, which is called a landing page.

Basics of SEO

SEM aside, SEO should be implemented at any business, as a majority of the world’s population is now online and SEO has the ability to benefit every type of company, from small mom-and-pop shops to large multinational corporations. While the idea of SEO is more complex than it might initially seem, it can ultimately improve your website’s online visibility with the proper tactics. By this, we mean how your website ranks within search engine results, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In improving where your website ranks in these search engines, you’ll be more visible to web users and, in turn, acquire more traffic. However, with more traffic to your site, additional SEO tactics must be employed to keep users on your site and clicking through multiple pages to ultimately convert to paying customers or leads.

Keep in mind, you can always seek an SEO consultant or SEO services from a third party business to ensure you maintain a sound strategy. Consultants and SEO companies alike can assess your website and industry to help you determine the best way to go with your SEO. Plus, they can carry out the strategies as well—for a price, of course. If you decide to take a crack at SEO yourself, however, there are countless tools and a number of key practices any business should employ. To learn more, check out the page below and continue reading our tips on SEO best practices.

SEO Best Practices

Search engines have become more complex in their ranking factors and algorithms over the past decade, and new updates are rolled out nearly every day. In order to keep up with these updates, you have to stay in touch with some of SEO’s best practices. What worked five years ago may not work as well today, and what works today may be obsolete in another five years.

Some of the best SEO practices today are more complicated than simply covering a webpage with keywords and building backlinks, which actually worked in years past. These days, search engines are now taking user intent and experience into account more so than they did before. So, as we alluded to earlier, more traffic to your site from SEO tactics calls for additional SEO to keep users on site. Quick-loading pages and mobile responsive pages are important to not only the user experience, but to most search engines as well. Additionally, metrics like bounce rate and click-through-rate have become key factors in how your website is ranked in search results. Several other best practices within SEO are provided below:

  • High-Quality, Relevant Content: Content is one of the most important aspects of SEO and writing high-quality content that is relevant to your website is definitely an SEO best practice. Using keywords closely related to your industry throughout content and pages of your site is key, but you also need to ensure the content you’re writing is relevant to the user’s search intent. So in writing keyword-based content for your website, consider what type of information the user would expect to find for a specific search term.
  • On-Site Optimization for User Experience: On-site optimization, like improving header tags and internal link structures, is more for the user experience than for search engine indexing. However, this can help improve your website’s bounce rate and click-through-rate which can have a direct impact on search engine results. Title tags are the blue, clickable text found in search results ranking for each page provided, and they should consist of a keyword and some descriptive text as to what the page is about.
  • Backlink Building: Links directed back to your site from other websites have long been one of the most important ranking factors for search engine results. While backlinking isn’t nearly as important as it once was, it can still help build your site’s authority. As with most aspects of SEO, you can acquire backlinks through a range of tactics.
  • Internal Link Structure: Linking existing pages of content to other pages of your site can help users navigate through your website. This can also improve under-performing pages of your site, as you can use internal links to send users from one page of your site to the next. Just be sure the link structure makes sense, linking only relevant pages to one another.
  • Sitemaps: A sitemap is a webpage that shows the hierarchy of your website so users can better navigate your site. Search engine bots also use sitemaps to crawl your website faster, allowing your content to be indexed quickly.

How Do I Improve SEO?

When starting SEO for your website, it’s important to remember SEO is not an overnight process. It can take weeks, sometimes even months, to get your website ranking for the keywords you decide to target. However, there are a number of ways to improve the SEO opportunities on your website.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is an important first step in your SEO strategy. You should spend time looking at opportunities for your website to rank for. The keywords you choose should have a feasible search volume for your website. For instance, a new website, no matter the industry, won’t have a strong chance of ranking for a keyword with a volume of 1,000 searches a month, as other, more authoritative sites will take these rankings first. You can also look at the cost-per-click (CPC), provided in numerous keyword research tools, to determine how much people are paying for paid search advertisements and get an understanding of how popular and competitive that keyword is. Furthermore, you can type potential keywords into search engines like Google and view the suggested searches at the bottom to find relevant search terms. Plus, you can use the search results provided for each term to get an idea of what type of content will rank well.

On-page Optimization

Once you have completed your keyword research, you can begin to optimize your site to rank for your selected terms. Title tags, meta descriptions, alt text for images, and written content should contain these keywords. Once your site is ranking for these keywords, you can re-optimize your site again for these terms in hopes of improving the ranking.

Summary

When comparing SEO vs SEM, the only notable difference is SEM can encompass more than those tactics within SEO, such as the aforementioned paid advertisements. SEO focuses solely on acquiring traffic to site organically, which is accomplished through keyword research, on-page optimization, backlink building, and other tactics covered in this article. So, in looking to acquire more site traffic and improve conversion rates, SEO is a viable option.

Track Your Progress with StatCounter Insights

In order to keep your website at the top of search engine results for certain keywords, it’s important to track your progress and how every page of your site is performing. StatCounter allows you to do this and much more, so be sure to follow your metrics often to discover new areas of opportunity.

If you need any help navigating through our tools, or have any questions, you can contact StatCounter support by filling out the form provided below.

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