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SEO vs. SEM What’s the Difference?

SEO vs. SEM What’s the Difference and Why Should I Care?For many people SEO and SEM are interchangeable terms, but to me there is a difference. And if you don’t know this difference you could be SOL. ;)

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization and SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. In their simplest form SEO is what you do to your site and SEM is what you do outside of your site.

Search Engine Optimization is the process of increasing a web site’s rank and the amount of quality traffic sent to it via the organic search results of a search engine for specific keywords by optimizing various elements of each web page within a site. Phew! That was a mouthful. For those of you less technical and unfamiliar with some of the previously mentioned terms I’ll try and explain this concept with an analogy.

Imagine if you will, that you are a beauty pageant contestant trying to win Miss America. To win or rank well you would do everything you could to increase your chances of winning, right? So how would you increase or “optimize” your chances of winning the pageant? You might workout so your body looks great in a swimsuit. You’d probably whiten your teeth, style your hair and put on make-up. Basically, you would try to make yourself as attractive as possible to the pageant judges so that you rank well and hopefully win the contest.

Well, what if you knew what the pageant judges were looking for before the pageant started? You’d have a definite edge over your competition and be able to concentrate your efforts on those areas you know the judges are looking at, and not waste time trying to guess what it is that they want to see in order to win the pageant. Essentially, what you’d be doing is “optimizing” the areas you know the judges are looking at so you would rank well and hopefully win.

Now replace pageant contestants with the pages within your web site. And instead of you trying to win the Miss America Pageant, your web pages are trying to win keyword pageants that are being judged by search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. Keyword pageants? Yep, you see, each page within your web site should be “optimized” for a specific keyword phrase for it to get a high ranking within a search engine.

For example, if I had a web site about fishing and one of the web pages within this site dealt with “how to fly fish” then I would want this page to rank well (show up on the first page of search results) for this keyword phrase. I would make this web page as “attractive” as I could to the search engines to win the “how to fly fish” pageant so when someone goes to a search engine like Google, Yahoo or MSN and types in “how to fly fish” your web page about “how to fly fish” is displayed in the results.

So, generally speaking, SEO is the process of making your web pages as “attractive” as possible to the search engines by optimizing various elements of each web page. And if you have an understanding of SEO and how the search engines “judge” web pages you can properly optimize these elements to gain an advantage over your competition and hopefully win that tiara.

Search Engine Marketing is the process of researching and positioning a web site within search engines to achieve maximum exposure. A SEM campaign includes SEO, paid inclusion, pay-per-click, and other related services that will increase qualified traffic to your web site.

Yes, I know, another mouthful. Let me break SEM down for you as well. The easiest way for me to explain what SEM is about is to compare it to the way businesses traditionally market their products and services.

Marketing at its core is about exposure. Not just any old exposure, but rather targeted exposure to people with a high probability of interest in what’s being advertised. The more targeted people exposed to your advertising the better.

Traditionally businesses advertise their products/services using various mediums such as T.V., radio, print, billboards, etc.. Each form of advertising has their own pros and cons, but when used in concert they can be very effective at gaining maximum exposure for whatever product/service being offered.

If you take this idea of cross promotion using various mediums and apply it to the Web it’s called SEM. Instead of T.V., radio, and print it’s SEO, paid inclusion, and pay-per-click.

It’s important to realize the difference between SEO and SEM because search engine optimization is only one piece to the SEM puzzle. No SEM campaign is complete without the optimization of your web site and SEO should be the first step in promoting your site, but if you aren’t incorporating other SEM techniques you could be missing out on excellent sources of highly qualified traffic.

So remember, SEO alone is good, but SEM (which includes SEO) is better.

By · Posted on March 5, 2008 · Topic Business

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