What is the Difference Between Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization?

Have you ever thought about it? What exactly is the difference between search engine marketing and search engine optimization? Now in 2011, we are seeing a very big difference between those keyword phrases, especially as the internet marketing industry as a whole matures. In short, when we mention “search engine marketing” we are referring to Pay Per Click and advertising on the internet’s search engines. When we mention “search engine optimization”, we are referring to online marketing activities related to making changes to your web site and promoting your web site so that it shows up better in the organic or free, natural search results.

Like I mentioned previously, Search Engine Marketing refers specifically to Paid Search. Currently, that includes keyword advertising on Google AdWords and MSN AdCenter. There are other pay per click advertising opportunities, including LinkedIn Advertising, but at this point we’re really more concerned over the “big two” PPC advertising opportunities, Google AdWords and MSN AdCenter.

Depending on your advertising budget, you can drive a lot of targeted traffic to your web site very quickly using Search Engine Marketing. You pay for every click, and one of the benefits of Search Engine Marketing is that you can turn it on and turn it off at will. It can be “on” or “off” at certain times of the day, and you can stop your ads from appearing with hours or minutes.

Search Engine Optimization, on the other hand, is a lot different than Search Engine Marketing. SEO, as it’s typically called, is not something that you can “turn on” and “turn off” depending on your budget. Certainly there are things you can do to ramp it up quickly, but not within hours or within a few days. It takes time to compete with other web sites when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. SEO involves not only fixing or “changing” certain parts of your web site, but making sure that the content on your web site matches what you you sell or the services that you provide. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

How do you determine whether or not SEO or SEM is the right fit for you? It certainly can be a difficult decision. However, I recommend a combination of both SEO and SEM/PPC. To get started quickly, you need Search Engine Marketing so that you can start getting the right visitors and figure out which visitors (and which keywords) are converting for you. You do a lot of testing early so that you understand the ultimate direction of where you need to go with your web site’s content. SEO depends partly on the ROI data from your Search Engine Marketing campaigns. If there are certain keywords that are successful in paid search, the SEO specialist can recommend targeting those keyword phrases with the content of your web site so that ultimately you “rank” in the search engines naturally–and therefore you don’t have to pay as much for those keywords.

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