SEO = Search Engine Optimization
The term SEO is often (incorrectly) used interchangeably with SEM, which makes an already confusing topic even worse. SEO is a component of SEM, but both, when used effectively can be an integral part of your marketing strategy, especially when compared to conventional advertising methods whose effectiveness can be very difficult to track.
Let's start with SEO:
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is a very important component of SEM. Wikipedia defines SEO as "the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's unpaid results—often referred to as "natural," "organic," or "earned" results." Basically, it's the un-paid-for search results you see when you enter a search term into your search bar.
At the time of writing, Google is the forerunner and leader in Search Engine Technology and leads the pack in getting you the search results you want. Because they are continually updating and improving their search engine algorithms, it CAN be difficult to stay on top of the pack, if you don't know directly how those changes can affect your site traffic. For example, last year, Google announced that it would be placing pages with certain criteria higher in search engine rankings. Changes like, giving higher priority to mobile friendly (responsive) sites, or providing DIFFERENT listings to people on mobile devices.
SEO is classified into two categories:
- Placing in-code keywords into title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, alt text, etc.
- Content pages that are written with unique content and includes important keywords and geo-targeted locations
- Continually changing high-quality site-relevant content (including Social Media sharing)
- Social Media integration with content
- Clean page url's
- Page load speeds
- Having a backlink profile (Other sites that naturally link back to your site)
- Social networking bookmarks and linking
- Search Engine submissions and XML sitemap
PROS and CONS of SEO
- Free Search Engine Listing (No upfront cost in CASH)
- Exposure to people LOOKING for a solution
- Generates traffic to your website (creating possible leads and conversions)
- Can set you up as an authority in your niche
- SEO results take time. Be patient! Sometimes months.
- Requires effort in content and social media content creation
- No guarantee in results
- High competition to achieve first-page ranking
- No control over where or when you are placed in the search ranking
- Algorithms can change without warning, literally over night (requiring a rebuild of ranking)
So which tactic is better?
Like all great questions in life, the answer is... "Well, that depends". Both methods have their merit, and are extremely effective marketing methods.
If you are a new company, looking for instant search rankings, it MAKES SENSE to employ good organic SEO tactics, but boost those results with some PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, at least until your search rankings organically grow. But remember, when the budget runs out... so do the search results, meaning in order to stay on top, you have to pay to play.
Organic SEO provides a higher quality result. Remember, organic SEO takes time... but because it's earned rankings (as opposited to bought-and-paid-for), the effects of good SEO will last much longer, and provide a better return on investment over the long term. Overall, organic results still get more clicks than paid results.
Here are some interesting statistics that might interest you: (Source):
- 93% of all web experiences start with a search engine (Source)
- The highest online shoppers are more likely to use organic search for information
- 70 to 80% of search engine users only focus on the organic results ignoring paid ads
- 75% of search engine users never navigate past the first page of search results
- In Google, 18% of organic clicks go to the 1st position, 10% to the 2nd position, and 7% of the clicks go to the 3rd position respectively
- Leads from SEO have 14% conversion rate, whereas outbound leads such as print advertising and direct mail converts at 1.7%
- Your brand awareness can be boosted by 80% with a PPC ad