This is a topic that can be confusing to those who don't live in the SEO/SEM world, because sometimes you hear these acronyms used interchangeably. As a Columbus website design firm, we sometimes use these acronyms conversely ourselves.
To start, here’s an overly simplified explanation:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) takes time
...is a method of getting your website listing to appear in search engines' organic results without having to pay Google (or other search engines) to run ads. This type of ranking is called “organic" ranking, and showing up high in organic rankings takes time. And energy. And if you don’t produce your own content: money. SEO takes time to do right, and show results.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing) can show quick results
...is a method of creating backlinks to your website through press releases on news sites, .gov sites, .edu sites, and social media bookmarking. It also might include buying ads on search engines so your website appears on the first page (or two). These are the ads you see when you do a search, such as for "home builders in Dallas" (below). You know they’re ads because they have a little “Ad” icon to the right of them. Running Google ads gives you immediate results, meaning you can show up on page one on day one.
Who clicks on the Google ads? Do you? Do others?
- 50% of adults don’t recognize the top listings are ads (you know, the listings with the little “Ad” icon to the left of them)
- 60% of teens couldn't identify the ads in Google's search results
- The percentage of people who click on ads at the top of the page, supposedly, is 2 out of every 1,000. (Which is less than 2%, though we've read studies saying the number to be as high as 5%.)
- How many people click on the ads? It depends on what you're selling and what stage of buying people are in. When someone is ready to buy a product, the percentage of people who click the ads is high.
- For research, buying services and other high-end purchases, a very small percentage of people click on those ads. However, Google still makes over $40 billion a year from those ads. That’s about $100 million a day.
- Depending on what study you read, between 20% - 33% of clicks go to the first link in the organic results. Between 10% and 20% of the clicks go to the link in the second spot, and between 7% and 10% of clicks go to the link in the third spot.
- The businesses listed in the map section are ones that, historically, have gotten more clicks over time. Even if a business is further away from where you're searching, Google’s algorithms might decide that business would be more likely to have what you're looking for. If that’s the case, that business would appear on the map.
A breakdown of a Google search results page
SEO is an approach, comprised of dozens of little steps, used to help your website rank well organically (see below) in search engine results. Wikipedia cites “Organic search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to their being advertisements.”
SEO is comprised of "on-page" elements: the stuff that can be done ON your website.
Major "on-page" elements include:
- Using keywords into Page Title tags and Meta Descriptions
- Naming your images to include keywords
- Using keywords in the “Alternative text" field for each image (for sight-impaired people)
- Blog posts that naturally incorporate keywords into them (keywords should be no more than 5% of the total word count)
- Page copy that is written and optimized with H1 and H2 tags (headlines and subheads)
- Clean URLS
- Optimized page load time, and
- Social media icons for easy sharing of your content
The most important part of SEO is "Content Marketing"
By far, the toughest part of SEO is getting authoritative websites to link back to your website. The best way to do it is by providing good, educational content.
The two ways to do that are:
- Submit your blogs/articles to other websites in exchange for backlinks. This is, assuming they're websites that curate their content. Opposed to “link farms” that let anyone upload an article no matter how good, bad, or sales-oriented it is.
- Post good content on your own website so people want to link back to your site (they way we linked back to other websites in the beginning of this blog post)
How Content Marketing works
All SEO and SEM is based on the premise that you have worthwhile, educational content on your website. Without that, you won't get the most out of either SEO or SEM.
Having awesome content on your website is the best way to earn backlinks from other websites. And by getting the word out by posting your content on Linkedin, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc., you can get your content in front of more people than by just posting your articles on your website.
If your content is good enough, folks will want to Share it, Like it, Google+ it, and link back to your website. People do that because sharing good content makes them look well-read and educated.
How do you do that?
Start by reaching out to bloggers you respect and follow. Not sure who they are? Google the subject matter and the word “blog.” There’ll be more than you can possibly follow. By following the blogs of people smarter than you (just like we do to get our information) you'll never be without inspiration.
Once you have that content, here's some things you could do to spread the word of your insightful content that your audience will benefit from reading:
- Cross-promote your content by posting it on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- Start a (professional) e-newsletter that lets people know that you know your stuff, and can help them.
- Email the experts you refer to in the story, and see if they like it enough to share it.
- Ask an expert if you can interview them for an article on a subject you want to post. (Who wouldn't want to be asked for their expertise, and a link back to promote their website?)
- Do surveys and post the results.
- Make cool info graphics. People love sharing those, especially because they're easy-to-digest, and not enough folks are doing them well. And once you have them, post them on social media, your website and even email them to folks on your e-newsletter list to get it out there.
Content Marketing is the face of your company
Having great content on your website takes time and commitment, because that content shows the expertise, and knowledge base, of your company.
Expecting an intern or low-level employee to represent your company by creating articles about what you do, just isn't realistic. The only way to portray your company as an expert in your industry, is for the members of your company’s "brain trust" to take the lead.
More details about SEM
The main elements of SEM are:
- Placing ads on Google, other search engines, and other websites. This is called “pay-per-click" (PPC). The cost-per-click can be anywhere from 10 cents for a rarely used keyword, to $20, or more, for a common keyword. Lawyers and medical product websites often pay over $100 per click, depending on the value of the clients they get.
Social media posts (LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, etc.)
Social bookmarking (Stumbleupon, Reddit)
- Getting backlinks from authoritative websites back to yours (without paying for them)
Complete Google webmaster submissions (Submitted Sitemap.xml monthly to be indexed and crawled)
Complete Bing Webmaster submissions (Submitted Sitemap.xml monthly to be indexed and crawled)
Submit press releases to over 200 of the top news sites, as well as the most popular News channels. These websites index your website to help get you be found by Google, and to increase the authority of your website.
Manually create profiles, with links to your website, on Web 2.0 sites with high domain Page Rank, Domain Authority
Manually create links to your website from government and educational sites (.GOV and .EDU sites). These website are some of the more authoritative sites on the web
Every monthly create bookmarks on social media sites
If you'd like us to help your website start showing up higher than your competitors' websites, lets talk.