One of the most incredibly powerful marketing tools on the internet is “search”. Every day millions and millions of searches happen on Google. We bet you got to this article through a Google search didn’t you? The chances are that if you are a local or online business, people will also be searching for your business too.

Research on daily online search was conducted on a global scale in 2017. The results showed that over six billion people search for something on the internet 2-5 times daily on the average. One reason to leverage the power of search is because it generates massive, real traffic which can convert into leads and sales. There are two ways you can take advantage: search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO). As a business, you may be wondering, “Which is better? Where should I invest my marketing budget?” We’re here to shed some light on that subject.

What is SEO?

SEO describes a technique used to generate natural traffic from search engine results. The traffic is not paid. However, optimising your website for search engines may attract some cost depending whether you tackle the campaign internally or outsource to an agency.

SEO typically starts with an audit and site review, followed by technical optimization and an ongoing campaign to generate backlinks and build traffic in order to rise in Google search results for your desired keywords.

What is SEM?

SEM, on the other hand, is a method of advertising on search engines to bring in paid traffic. Typically, this is done through Google AdWords ads. SEM is a technique that employs the use of pay-per-click (PPC) ads so you only get charged when someone engages with your ad.

So which one is the better technique for your business? It depends. Some people will say that SEO is the winner because it’s “free”, while others will say that the traffic quality you get from paid ads is better because it’s more targeted. Each option has its pros and cons, which we’ll take a look at.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Pros and Cons

Brand Awareness

When its customers do not know a brand, then it seems like the brand does not exist. Building a company brand is essential for the survival of any business as this affects the bottom line and determines the long-term benefits in the end. Awareness aims to get into the heads of potential clients.

Brand awareness could be increased via social media platforms and offline marketing methods. However, search engines have a fantastic way of creating awareness of a brand.

Building a stronger brand

If you already have a brand, it is vital that you make it stronger to give a competitive advantage. Creating a healthy relationship with your audience should be a top priority, and as such, you should provide them with what they need. That is why you need to do accurate research about your market niche. If you do not do this, you will only be wasting your time and resources. You become a market authority when you provide your audience with relevant information via search engines. Word of mouth also helps you to build a stronger brand and generate more organic traffic. Word of mouth can only happen when you have done your homework about your market niche. In this case, Google is always a better option for most customers searching for information online.

Trust and Credibility

Over the years, Google has continuously worked tirelessly to build, not just a brand but gain the trust of its users. The influential company always ensures that users get the best result which in turn creates a highly trusted TOS (Terms of Service).

When people search for information presently, they usually settle for the first ten results, and in some cases, first five results which are attributed to the trust people have in the search engine – Google. By showing up on Google’s first results, it automatically gives you credibility and generates organic traffic because people will always check Google’s first result.

More Traffic

The aspect of traffic cannot be overemphasized. First, you need to rank high on Google result pages. Second and most importantly, have relevant and excellent content for your audience. These are the secrets to sustaining an online business and presence. Creating great content increases traffic to your website. It could be an educative content or anything you know people cannot do without.

SEO today is all about content marketing. It is about how you leverage content to grow your brand and educate your target prospects about it.

Lower Costs

The truth is, you have little to worry about when it comes to investing in SEO if it is done the right way. This is because you will always get excellent results. However, one thing that should be constant is CONSISTENCY. SEO campaigns cost much less as regards the running cost which makes it spot-on when it comes to cost.

Yes! SEO has incredible benefits, but it also has its perks which will be stated below.

  • Takes much time
  • Highly competitive
  • An absolute and well-thought content strategy is required

Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Pros and Cons

Reach the Top

One significant advantage of paid ads is that it grabs the attention of your audience. It enables you strategically announce your online presence. The objective, in this case, is to have well-crafted ads that appeal to the minds of your audience while utilising relevant keywords. This is regardless of whether the user chooses to click on the ad or not, but they will not miss it.

Using SEO takes much time to get to the top of the Google result page. However, you can always pay your way to the top if you bid on the exact keywords using Pay-Per-Click (PPC).

Have More Control

PPC adverts offer more control over the results you achieve. By changing a few details about the ad, there will be an overall performance of the advert campaign.

Marketing messages, in this case, are also more persuasive. Words can also be crafted according to your style, and you have control over who gets this message. Elements of the advert can be customised to achieve maximum click-through rate.

Products are showcased better

In cases regarding organic search listings, people are only able to access plain text and nothing more. This is majorly bad for marketing and ranking because people will lose interest in your products even though it has excellent benefits.

Using Google’s product listing gets rid of this problem as it allows for adequate visuals of your products which in turn increases click-through rate. Moreover, leads to conversions eventually.

Increase Brand Visibility

SEM requires that your ads are laser targeted to specific people unlike in the case of SEO. In SEO, you may get much traffic, but might not be relevant as well. The aim, in this case, is to look for the best way to attract people to your brand to boost visibility.This will affect your business directly and indirectly. Paid ads will always get your products and services to your audience face no matter what.

Controlled Budget

Having a firm control of the budget puts every business owner at an advantage. Therefore, in SEM or PPC, every step of the process is controlled unlike what happens in SEO.

PPC grants you the opportunity to have a daily budget fix depending on how much you are willing to spend on the project. It could be completed on a small budget which also requires that you find an expert in the field of SEM. This will help you to prevent loses.

SEM has fantastic advantages but also has its disadvantages which are outlined below.

  • It can be quite expensive and requires continuous investment
  • Competitors can review your ad campaigns

So the question is which should you choose?

Personally, we think a mix of the two is actually the best move. Paid ads have actually been shown to improve the click through rate of organic results so if you can rank highly and also have a paid ad displayed, this will improve your overall chances of getting that click.

If you’d like to chat more and find out what mix might be best for your own business, get in touch, we love geeking out on this type of thing.