What is Search Engine Marketing

You think you know what the differences are, but even some of the smartest people with M.B.A. degrees don’t know the difference between  SEM and SEO and SMM.

I could go into some diatribe about how SEM and SMM are frequently misused, but that’s not why you read this blog.  So let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

Here we go.

SEM stands for search engine marketing. It is a form of internet marketing that increases a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPS) via on/off-page advertising. Such on/off page advertising include:

  • Paid Inclusion – the practice of paying a search engine or a directory to get listed in its database. This is useful for new companies who want to show up in search engine results immediately, rather than waiting for the search engine spiders to crawl their site.
  • Traditional Ads – paid placement on SERPS (search engine results pages) that are based on impressions. Meaning you pay based on how many impressions your ad got, not how many people were sent to your website via that ad.
  • Pay-Per-Click Ads – text only ads completely controlled by the advertiser. (Think Google Ads or Overture)

I know what you’re thinking, so how is this different from SEO (search engine optimization)? They seem similar right?

SEO is the act of rewriting your website’s content using keywords to achieve the higher ranking in search results. Unlike SEM, SEO doesn’t use paid placements or contextual advertising. It is strictly the content on your website. SEO also has onsite and offsite components:

  • Onsite SEO – ensures that search engines can determine what your site is about and what keywords you want to be ranked for.
  • Offsite SEO – requires driving relevant and authoritative links from other sites back to your site. In other words, if your site is about baby products, a link back from an automotive car dealer is not going to do you any good. But a link back from organic baby food site, will.

And you’re right, they are similar and that’s because SEM is sometimes used as an umbrella term to encompass SEO and paid search. Confused yet?

SMM stands for social media marketing. It is a form of internet marketing that refers to the process of gaining website visibility or traffic through social media activity. Such activity can come in the form of social media profiles, social media ads, and social media engagement on social sites.

The pros of SEM are that it offers immediate gratification. SEO takes 30-60 days on average. The disadvantage is that you need to convince people as soon as they land on your website that you are worthy of their business. This means that either you need a good landing page, or that the  information they are looking for is easy to find. Is it?

So, clear as mud now?






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About Tracy Sestili

Tracy Sestili is CEO and Chief blogger at Social Strand Media. She is also the author of Taking Your Brand from the Bench to the Playing Field -- Social Media Fundamentals for Business.