SEM vs. SEO – Two Views on the World of Search

The Geonetric educational Webinars are in the middle of a three month series on search.  This month, we’re focusing on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Pay Per Click (PPC) tactics for growing targeted site traffic.  I’ve been taking some ribbing from a few coworkers as we prepare to present on SEM.

During our Webinar on organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in January, I presented some statistics from various surveys on the perception of paid search results compared to organic results.  Those statistics indicated that, on the whole, consumers find organic results more relevant and credible than paid results, were often annoyed by paid results and, for the most part, never click on paid search items.

Ouch!  Ok, I was a little harsh, but this is certainly the SEO view of the world.

But it’s also not entirely accurate.  If no one clicked on those ads, Google wouldn’t have a revenue model.  I’ve seen Google’s SEC filings and someone is certainly doing a little clicking…

So in the interest of balance, how does the Search Engine Marketing and Pay Per Click community view this question?

First off, those statistics are based off surveys and people lie on surveys.  We know that people actually do click our paid ads because we watch what they do rather than what they say.  That said, the search engine-using community is far from homogeneous and some components of that community are very positive on paid search and are willing to admit it, even in surveys.

On the question of relevance and credibility, I admit that this is a common feeling.  If you end up in the top 5 organic results for a big search term, you are going to get an incredible amount of click-throughs.  But only 5 sites can be in the top 5.  For more that 99% of the Internet sites out there, no amount of organic search placement work will get you there for specific terms.  Those top 5 sites will get more clicks than your paid listing, but your paid listing will get more attention than a listing on page 3 of the search results.

One of the things holding many sites back in the listings is the value of longevity.  In some (not all) cases, longevity is a strong mark of credibility for a Web page.  Nothing other than time will make up for that in an organic environment.  SEM has no such bias and it’s therefore an excellent equalizer.

And finally, there is a perception that SEM is much more expensive than SEO.  In some cases, it can be, but it does not need to be.  SEM gives you excellent control of what is promoted and how that promotion happens.  The key to controlling costs is focus.  If you want to promote dozens of services with highly competitive keywords on a national level, SEM is very expensive.  To promote one or two service lines utilizing keywords with geographic keywords or less common key phrases can be done very reasonably.

In other words, SEM is a strong tool to have available.  The best way to use it is all based on what you’re trying to accomplish.

To learn more about SEM and other pay-to-play online promotion techniques, attend this month’s Geonetric Webinar: Drive Visitors to Your Site with Paid Placement.

If you can’t make this Webinar – don’t worry! We record all of our live broadcasts so that you can replay them at your own convenience. All recordings are available on our Web site 48 hours after the original event. You can access any recorded webinars using your account.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

1 thought on “SEM vs. SEO – Two Views on the World of Search

  1. During some strategies we will make some statistics from various surveys on the perception of paid search results compared to organic results.We are very thankful for sharing with us.

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