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SEM vs. SEO: What’s The Difference?

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SEM vs. SEO: What’s The Difference?

CSS. HTTP. URL. HTML.

It’s possible the only field that uses more acronyms and initializations than web marketing is the military.

The military uses them to save time.

Sometimes, it seems like our industry only uses them to confuse newcomers.

And it’s not uncommon for even experienced professionals to mix them up.

Some of the most common mistakes happen when it comes to the similar and related, but distinctly different concepts of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

Once upon a time, in the halcyon days of the early internet (that is, circa 2001), SEO referred to a part of SEM.

But, as the language and nuance of web marketing shifted, search engine marketing came to refer to a specific type of digital marketing. So, what’s the difference?

Sometimes also referred to as organic (SEO) and inorganic (SEM) search, both are focused on using Google (and to a lesser extent other search engines) to drive traffic to a specific website.

From a high-level view (and don’t worry, we’ll dive into the details a bit later), SEO is the process of improving your website to generate traffic, while SEM is using paid methods to show up in searches.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve mixed these terms up. It happens all the time.

To help you avoid any embarrassing mishaps when speaking with other digital marketers, we’ve compiled this handy guide to give you an overview of these concepts.

Confused? Don’t be, all will be made clear in the end. Now let’s get started.

PPC, Another Variable In The Mix

As we get started, just to make everything even more confusing, let’s add one more initialization into the mix: PPC or pay-per-click.

Okay, that one isn’t really fair because PPC is just another term for SEM – or at least, a part of it.

PPC is most likely a term that evolved through the Wild West days of early search engine strategies when different people used different terms to refer to the same thing.

Eventually, pay-per-click and search engine marketing came to mean the same thing: paid digital marketing advertisements on search platforms.

Pay-per-click, regardless if it’s called PPC, CPC (that is cost-per-click), paid search, or search ads are referring to paid search marketing, typically through search engines like Google and Bing.

Other terms and tactics used in digital marketing initiatives – especially those tied to search marketing tactics (both paid and organic) – may not be so simple and clearly defined, though.

What’s The Difference Between SEO & SEM/PPC?

We know SEO is search engine optimization.

Marketers aren’t optimizing search engines, however. We’re optimizing content and websites for search engines (and humans, too), so they can better understand, access, and direct searchers to our website.

Again, initialism doesn’t always make sense. So, naturally, this is a bit illogical.

Just like other things in life that don’t always add up, there are some acronyms that will never make sense either.

Like Humvee, which doesn’t stand for any words that start with U or E in them. (It actually stands for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, and was spawned from the original acronym, HMMWV.)

We’ve also determined that PPC marketing is (at least now) the same as or a very large part of SEM. Here’s where they overlap:

  • Both are paid initiatives.
  • Both need a budget.
  • Both make search engines like Google and other advertising platforms a lot of money.

But, while Wikipedia defines SEM as “a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising,” it’s not so quick to call them the same exact thing.

In fact, pay-per-click marketing has its own Wikipedia page separate from search engine marketing (despite there being plenty of discrepancies and confusion throughout the page).

The bottom line is this:

SEO is not a component of SEM.

And, while PPC is typically the largest and most demanding component of SEM, both PPC and SEM are paid initiatives that offer real-time data, ROI, and protected data that can only be accessed by advertisers on certain platforms.

Why It Matters

Consistency is the main reason it’s important to clarify these terms.

Too many novice marketers, or marketers who aren’t specialists in maximizing value through search, have adopted these industry definitions and crossed them, combined them, confused them, or used them in a way that only further diluted their true meaning.

And even well-seasoned marketers who simply didn’t agree with or possibly even completely understand the terms themselves help contribute to the turning tide, as well.

Conferences have set up entire segments of their educational offering around the SEM naming convention when referring to strictly paid marketing efforts, but those efforts aren’t strictly done through search engines.

SEM, at least from this perspective, includes PPC ads on search engines but also on third-party platforms like Amazon and YouTube, as well as industry-focused platforms like Houzz, Thumbtack, or Yelp. It also includes display ads and remarketing efforts.

And, as the opportunity to advertise on social media continues to grow, it is usually used to refer to paid advertising on those networks, too.

Here at Search Engine Journal, we’re doing our part. Keeping the definitions and their usage consistent is going to be the best way to keep the information organized in a way that makes sense for marketers.

It also helps us, as marketers, convey our thoughts and ideas to clients and stakeholders, peers, or a friend who is curious about just what exactly it is we do for a living.

But, you should never assume someone else knows what you’re referring to when you use these terms.

Be concise and explain exactly what you’re talking about and make sure everyone agrees on term definitions.

Before we move on, let’s recap:

  • SEO is the organic effort that goes into marketing through search engines.
  • SEM and PPC are paid initiatives through search and other platforms.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.

Should I Use SEO Or SEM?

Now that you hopefully have a grasp on the differences between SEO and SEM, you’re undoubtedly asking yourself a question: Which one should I be using?

Ideally, both.

But if you don’t have the bandwidth and can only choose one, here are some things to consider:

What Are Your Goals?

If you want to drive traffic quickly, whether to promote a sale, try out a new offer or just give your website more exposure, SEM is the choice for you.

SEO, on the other hand, is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes more time to show results but is good for long-term growth and compounding value.

What Is Your Budget?

Obviously, SEM campaigns are going to cost you money. After all, there’s a reason it’s called pay-per-click.

If your budgets are tight or you have low product margins, it may not make sense to run SEM.

SEO, on the other hand, is more of a time investment than a financial one. And, you can probably enlist people already on your payroll like writers, IT personnel, and marketers to help.

How Is Your Site Currently Performing?

If your website already ranks highly for your keywords, your SEO needs will be primarily driven by changes to the Google algorithm and competition.

In this situation, SEM is a great augmentation. Conversely, if you’re not getting a lot of organic traffic, you probably need to get your SEO in order before you start spending money on paid ads.

How Much Data Do You Have Or Need About Visitors?

SEM lets you capture a lot more visitor data than organic search.

You can run your PPC campaigns through dashboards like Google Analytics, where you can see clicks, impressions, CTR, sessions, conversions, etc.

You can then use this data to track trends and attract new customers.

How Is Your Online Reputation?

SEO is a great way to control the narrative around your brand.

Using the same techniques you use to climb to the top of search rankings, you can control the way your organization is seen online.

In one famous (albeit unsuccessful) example, UC-Davis paid a consulting firm $175,000 to scrub the internet of negative postings.

Of course, if you can swing it, you should combine SEO and SEM as complementary search strategies.

This way, you can use the data you gather from your PPC campaigns to refine your SEO campaigns. This will give you a better idea of exactly what your audience is looking for when they click your links, so you can customize your content to it.

Combining both practices also lets you create remarketing campaigns.

If your SEO work is driving visitors, but you’re not seeing the conversions you want, you can use SEM to actively reach out to those targets and bring them back to your website.

Pairing SEO and SEM can also allow you to completely dominate search engine results pages (SERPs).

If you have the top ranking on the first page of results, plus paid listings on the same page, you’ve just claimed a lot of real estate.

The downside of this, however, is that your paid listings may cannibalize your organic traffic, which costs you unnecessary money.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by this point, we’ve successfully impressed on you the difference between SEO and SEM. But just in case it wasn’t clear, here it is once more for the people in the back:

SEO is using non-paid tactics to drive traffic to your website organically. It’s a slower process (usually three to six months) but can pay long-term dividends.

SEM, including PPC, is the use of paid search platforms to drive targeted traffic to your website. It requires a budget but can drive results very quickly.

Too many people either see these as the same thing or as completely separate initiatives and miss out on the benefits of using them together.

To get the best results, both should be a part of your digital marketing strategy.

They each have different strengths and weaknesses, but when properly united, can give you a real competitive advantage.


Featured Image: Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock

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8 Facebook Marketing Tips To Revitalize A Boring Page

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8 Facebook Marketing Tips To Revitalize A Boring Page

TikTok and Instagram may be taking their moment to shine, but Facebook is a social media platform your business simply can’t ignore.

Facebook’s monthly active users have continued to rise since its inception, with nearly 3 billion (2.96) monthly active users as of the third quarter of 2022.

It was also the most popular social network worldwide as of January 2022 when ranked by the number of monthly active users.

Knowing a substantial portion of your target audience likely uses Facebook regularly, it’s crucial as social media marketers to keep up with the Facebook marketing tips that can help you grow your business.

Your business is probably already leveraging Facebook to reach your target audience – and if you’re not, you’re missing out on valuable lead and conversion opportunities.

You’ve likely set up a Facebook Page to communicate with current and potential customers, share current updates, and build social proof.

But, is your Facebook Page optimized to engage your target audience? Have you invested ample time into ensuring you’re leveraging every form and field possible?

The good news is, starting from scratch is the most challenging part of getting your Facebook Page off the ground.

Since you’ve already done this, revitalizing your page is the easy part – and we’re here to help streamline the process even further.

This deep dive guide will succinctly outline what it takes to transform your Facebook Page from vapid to vivacious with the following eight marketing tips.

Read on to ensure you maximize the world’s most visited social media platform to your advantage.

1. Beyond The Facebook Page Basics

Your business can be found in many places online, from your Google Business Profile (GBP) to review sites and social platforms.

Potential customers should be able to find accurate information about your business anywhere they can find you. This includes your current physical address, website link, phone number, and more.

In fact, 20% of consumers are unlikely to visit a business with incorrect or missing listing information.

Ensuring all information on your Facebook page is up-to-date is a good place to start.

Next, it’s time for optimizations that go beyond the basics to help your Facebook Page stand out from your competition.

2. Leverage Facebook Pages’ Templates

Facebook offers numerous templates designed to enhance your Page and help customers find what they’re looking for.

There’s a standard template that you’ll most often see when visiting other businesses’ Facebook Pages.

But there are also templates that cater to different types of businesses, such as nonprofit organizations, restaurants, services, retailers, and more.

To find the template most applicable to your brand, once you’re on your Facebook Page, click on the More drop-down menu and select Edit Tabs.

In the template section, click the Edit button.

You’ll then see a list of available templates. Select the template that is most relevant to your business category.

Screenshot from Facebook, December 2022Facebook Page template example

For example, if you’re a service business and you select the service template, you’re able to clearly showcase the services you offer to customers, along with reviews and offers.

3. Use An Attractive Cover Photo

Visual content has the power to capture attention and increase conversions.

According to Google, businesses that add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t.

Your cover photo is the first element that will draw people’s attention. It can be the make-or-break point, helping people decide to scroll down to learn more about your business.

Pick a photo that aligns with your branding but captures your audience’s attention.

Use a real photo or an illustration that showcases your brand’s style in terms of colors, mission statement, and values – and be sure to avoid stock imagery.

Stock photos fail to convey a visual representation of your brand and, in turn, can make your brand feel less authentic.

When selecting your cover image, Facebook recommends it:

  • Left aligns with a full bleed and a 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Must be at least 400 pixels wide and 150 pixels tall.
  • Loads fastest as an sRGB JPG file that’s 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall, and less than 100 kilobytes.

4. Choose A Professional Profile Picture

Your profile picture, while not as prominent as your cover photo, appears prominently at the top of your Facebook Page.

It also appears as your avatar on all posts and photos you publish on Facebook (on your page and others).

This photo should represent your brand effectively any time someone sees it.

For most businesses, using your company logo is typically common practice, as customers may already be familiar with it, and associate it with your business.

8 Facebook Marketing Tips To Revitalize A Boring PageScreenshot from Facebook, December 20228 Facebook Marketing Tips To Revitalize A Boring Page

It should be easy for someone to discern which brand they’re engaging with when they see your Facebook Page.

Your profile image displays at 176×176 pixels on your Facebook Page on computers, 196×196 pixels on smartphones, and 36×36 pixels on most feature phones.

Ensure your profile image is clear by following the aforementioned sizing guidelines and using a high-resolution image.

5. Create Content That Resonates With Your Target Audience

Your Facebook Page should be a one-stop shop for your audience.

It’s an opportunity to learn more about your business, read reviews from loyal customers, and consume relevant content.

So, create quality content that resonates with your wider audience.

You may also want to incorporate a mixture of different types of posts – such as video posts when you have impactful customer testimonials to share, or high-quality photos when you’re launching a new product.

No matter the type of content you choose to share, make sure that it is relevant and impactful to your readers. For example, if your wider audience is Gen Z, video content may be the way to go.

When creating content, ask yourself: will this post add value, or am I trying to reach a quota? If your answer is the latter, you may need to revise your Facebook content marketing strategy.

Consider your post timing, too.

In the past, mid-morning posts drove the most engagement, as people often use the app on their commutes to school or work. However, posting during the early morning hours has now taken the lead.

Post timing also varies by industry, so find the best time to reach your customer base.

6. Create An Incentive For Following Your Facebook Page

Deals and discounts play a significant role in consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Americans say offers are a top factor when deciding where and what to buy online. Deals are so important that 48% of Americans said they will avoid brands that do not provide offers.

Your Facebook Page enables your business to promote offers for free.

These offers can be:

  • Percentage-off.
  • Dollar-off.
  • Free product or service.
  • Free shipping.
  • Custom offer of your choice.

Create an offer that is unique for your Facebook followers. This incentivizes them to follow you and engage with your posts.

These offers can change and vary. We advise that you keep your offers fresh and switch them periodically to encourage your audience to continue to follow your page.

Facebook marketing tips, creating a new Facebook offer exampleScreenshot from Facebook, December 2022Facebook marketing tips, creating a new Facebook offer example

Respond To Customer Feedback

One of the most fundamental Facebook marketing tips (and digital marketing tips in general) is to respond to all customer feedback whenever possible.

This includes any time customers reach out via Facebook Messenger, during a Facebook Live, when they leave a review on your Facebook Page, or when they reply to your Facebook Stories.

Being proactive with your responses, whether the customer leaves negative or positive feedback, shows your brand cares about its customers.

Your response time matters, too.

According to ReviewTrackers, 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week, but 1 in 3 expect a response within 3 days or less.

Ensure you have a reputation management strategy and team in place to triage responses. Set standards and expectations with your team when it comes to reviewing responses.

Creating response templates is a good way to quickly and efficiently respond to customer reviews across multiple platforms.

7. Use Every Character In Your Page’s Description

Your Facebook page allows you 255 characters to describe your business.

Use every character possible to share what you do, what you sell, and why it matters. Use original content relevant to your business when drafting your description.

You’ll also want to add complete information for your:

  • Your business contact details (phone number, address, and email).
  • Business categories.
  • Website.
  • Social media accounts.
  • Hours.
  • Price range.

8. Add A CTA

Allow your customers to quickly perform the call to action (CTA) of your choice.

This button appears beneath your cover image and to the right of your profile image. You can choose from a variety of CTA options, including:

  • Follow.
  • View gift card.
  • Start order.
  • Book now.
  • Call now.
  • Contact us.
  • Send message.
  • Send email.
  • Learn more.
  • And more.

For example, a restaurant brand would benefit from adding a Start order CTA.

This eliminates friction in the consumer’s path to purchase, allowing them to start the order right from your Facebook Page, rather than navigating to your website or a third-party food delivery app.

Keep a pulse on your engagement metrics to see if the CTA you’ve selected is driving measurable results. If it’s not, consider adding a different CTA to see if your audience engages better with alternative messaging.

To find your engagement metrics, click on the Insights button in the menu.

Facebook Insights offer a wealth of information from likes, story reach, actions on the page, post engagement rates, how different types of content are performing, and much more.

Check these insights often to better guide your Facebook marketing strategy.

Facebook CTA exampleScreenshot from Facebook, December 2022Facebook CTA example

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see, updating and optimizing your Facebook Page doesn’t take much effort.

Instead, it requires continuously keeping up with your social media marketing strategy and leveraging the tools and features available to you.

Following these Facebook marketing tips is a good place to start.

To keep up with Facebook’s evolving functionality, do a quick audit every quarter to see what’s new and available to you.

This ensures your business is taking full advantage of your Facebook Page’s capabilities and staying one step ahead of your competition.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

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