SEO & SEM: The Dynamic Duo of Website Traffic | Content Strategy Basics

Batman & Robin SEO SEM

The Dynamic Duo of SEO and SEM

Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are essential techniques for driving users to your website properties. These core tactics are similar, but not the same.

SEM and SEO are often confused, particularly since these acronyms only differ by one letter. Of course, if they were the same thing, we wouldn’t name them different things. Plus, it’s the acronym that’s different, not the underlying meaning.

I’ve found an easy way to remember these different tactics. These may help you differentiate for your extended strategy teams. If you’re a content strategist, it is essential to know how SEO and SEO work together.

SEM: Paid Advertising for Driving Traffic to Your Website
For SEM, the “M” may as well stand for “money.” That’s a nod to the fact that this includes an out of pocket (OOP) expense.

SEM works for a wide range of click traffic to websites, mobile properties, YouTube, apps, and more. Google and Bing give brands many options for driving traffic. For simplicity, let’s just talk about website traffic for now, even though your specific needs may be in a different channel.

It has been pointed out that this isn’t marketing at all. That’s true. SEM is primarily paid advertising. At some point, there was an effort to rename this search engine advertising, but the name didn’t stick.

The dominant player in SEM is Google. Their Google AdWords platform accounts for the majority of their billions of dollars in income. Google earns money each time someone clicks on a paid ad, which is why SEM is also referenced as pay per click (PPC).

Google AdWords and Microsoft’s Bing Ads both work from a similar auction-style model. There are limited ad slots and users bid for top slots. The highest qualified bidder (more on this later) will get the top slot. Continue reading