Search Engine Optimization & Search Engine Advertising as Different Parts of Online Marketing

27 May, 2020

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Should You SEO or SEA? Including the meaning of SEO/SEM

With so many businesses shut or offering restricted services, right now many Digital Marketing activities raise a whole host of new and important questions: each business is faced with different challenges. Unlike many restaurants who are currently closed, an online store selling equipment and books for baking sourdough and banana bread may, more than ever, need to appear in the search engine search results as quickly as possible to get that quick exposure before those customers' newfound interest in baking is swapped for bakeries and cafes in town. Whereas, right now, those bakeries and cafes may find more value in focusing on activities that require a little more time to yield results, so that when customers return they are visible in all the right places online, search engines included.


SMBs considering their options for increasing their customers and visitor numbers through Digital Marketing often find SEO and SEA to be the first two key areas they consider. Despite this tendency to think of SEO and SEA together, these activities are qualitatively very different. Comparing and contrasting SEO and SEA provides a great understanding of the different needs and concerns of digital marketers. This article should give you a good understanding of the appeal and differences between SEO and SEA as well as providing useful info for helping you decide which of the two activities your business should currently be focusing on. 

What is SEO?

The aim of Search Engine Optimization is to increase a site’s traffic by making sure that more of the right people find this site on a search engine in the organic results.  The most important search engine for SEO is without a doubt Google. For example, an upmarket Guitar store in Nashville looking to get more business through SEO might aim to be the first result that appears in the results on Google when someone in Tennessee types in ‘Nashville custom guitar shop Tennessee.’ in most cases, this doesn't include, the first one or two terms that appear in the results, these are not normally the product of SEO, they have the term AD written by them and come from SEA, when I typed in ‘Nashville custom guitar shop Tennessee’ the first results I saw was 

Gruhn Guitars: Vintage Guitars - Fine Fretted Instruments 


+1 615-256-2033

Nashville Used Music Is The Oldest Independent Guitar Shop In Nashville. Certified Repair Techs. Quick & Safe Processing. Knowledgeable Staff. Competitively Priced. Easy Checkout. Large Inventory. Brands: Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, ESP, Gretsch, Epiphone.

But the second result below was from SEO...

Carter Vintage Guitars

Nashville's friendliest vintage guitar store, featuring new and used guitars, basses, mandolins, banjos, ukes and other collectibles. Carter Vintage guitars appear on the search results page because of SEO.

Despite appearing right next to each other in the results, the first result is the product of SEA and the other of SEO. This means there is a huge difference between how the first and second result got to be where they are. The most significant being that the owner of the first result paid Google a fee to get that ranking whereas the owner of the 2nd result did not pay Google a penny. 

The industry term for results that appear in the Google results without paying Google any money is organic results. Getting your site to appear as highly as you can in search engine’s organic results for the terms that most potential customers are using to find businesses like yours is the aim of SEO. 

Why Is Google So Important for SEO? 

When discussing SEO, there is a  reason why Google is often talked of in separate terms to other search engines. To understand why just take a quick look at the global Search Engine Market Share of the 4 leading Search Engines outside of China (May 2020

Google              bing            Yahoo!           DuckDuckGo

91.89%             2.79%           1.87%             0.45%

These figures alone are reason enough for global businesses to prioritize Google for SEO, but we can also find equally compelling stats for national perspectives: Google holds 88.21% of organic search market share in the US,  92.62% of it in UK, and a staggering 98.5 % in India.  

The Advantages of Doing SEO Now

A Top ranking on Google for terms that many of your customers use to find your businesses will boost your visitor rates and profits very quickly but getting those SEO rankings doesn’t just happen overnight. SEO is like growing crops, before the results can be harvested the seeds of an effective SEO strategy need to be planted. 

Most people need to work on this for a few weeks to get the essentials in place. It can then take up to 3 months for the full impact of this strategy to really start taking effect. 

This time delay makes SEO the perfect Digital Marketing strategy for businesses that are currently offering limited or no services to work on. Top rankings take a little time to get, but once they have been achieved, no payment to Google is needed to maintain them. This also makes Top SEO rankings a valuable long term low-cost source of new visitors and customers. 

Conducting A Full SEO audit

If you want to work on your SEO strategy right now the first thing you should do is conduct a full SEO audit of your website that includes an analysis of your sites:

  • Crawlability referring to how easy it is for a search engine to access your website. 

  • Indexabilityshowing the degree of difficulty for search engines to source and list the relevant information from your website to match the terms of search queries.

This assessment can then be used as the basis for an SEO strategy. 

The First Key Steps of a Technical SEO plan 

Usually, the first step of implementing an SEO strategy for an existing site is to make sure that Google can find the website and access its information. We call this technical SEO. Examples of activities for improving technical SEO include:

  • Submitting a sitemap to Google 

  • Adjusting the coding of a website so that Google is able to crawl it

  • Installing plugins that improve the user experience of visitors including smartphone users

Working on a website’s technical SEO is something that can never be done too soon. If a site doesn’t have effective technical SEO then Google may not be able to find it. Also, many other Digital marketing activities such as Local SEO and Social Media Marketing, work much better if the foundations of technical SEO have already been laid. 

Use the SEO analysis features of  Digital marketing applications like rankingCoach 360 which create a professional Digital Marketing strategy for you to implement yourself. This plan focuses on everything your site needs to do to be found by Google and get those top rankings. 

SEA for Those In Need of Quick Visibility

So what about those people trying to shift as many banana bread baking books as possible right now. They should definitely consider Search Engine Advertising (SEA)  also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Pay-Per-Click (PPC). As with SEO, the most important search engine for Digital Marketers to focus on for Search Engine Marketing is Google. 

The Meaning of SEA

Unlike SEO, SEA is not focused on pleasing the Google SEO algorithm which we know takes a while to achieve, positioning with SEM is won through a virtual auctioning process that marketers can take part in very quickly and easily. This makes it possible to achieve widespread visibility within days or even hours of setting up a campaign. 

The first result in the above example had the first ranking because it had won the Google’s Ads auctioning process. SEM is perfect for achieving quick visibility but it literally comes at a price; the Pay-Per-Click modal raises additional considerations: It is vitally important to make sure that the people clicking on a Google ad are actually interested in buying from or visiting the site it is promoting. Otherwise, that price paid per click isn’t leading to anything. 3 key things you should focus on when setting up Google Ads are:

  • Making sure the Google Ad is set up with the right target audience and terms so that the people who find the Google Ad is likely to click on it

  • Professionally controlling and monitoring the SEM campaign budget so that it is used effectively 

  • Optimizing Google ads for clicks and conversions to ensure the maximum number of the right kinds of searchers click on it. This is also a crucial part of winning the Google Ads auction as Google won’t award the Ad spot to a Google Ad that users won’t click on. Even if it is the top bidding Ad

Should My Site Be Doing SEM Right Now

You should definitely look into SEM if your products are currently experiencing unusually high demand because Google Ads are perfect for achieving quick sales and visibility. They are also a great long term option for businesses whose conversion rate to cost per click ratio is profitable. This ratio can make seemingly expensive ads great value. For instance, In the USA where the average cost per click price is between $1 and $2 dollars,  Law firms pay $41.63-50.89 for the term ‘personal injury attorney because the law fee that some of the visitors to these law sites eventually pay makes it worthwhile, though as the article showed, if those Law firms were using rankingCoach360 they could find some better value terms. 

Need Some Help Working on Your SEM? 

rankingCoach 360’s rankingCoach Ads feature is perfect for setting up SEM campaigns. The rankingCoach Ads feature generates budget-controlled targeted ad campaigns in a few simple clicks maximizing the likelihood of selling for each click and protecting the site owner's budgets. rankingCoach’s expertise in this area is recognized by Google who has made rankingCoach a Google Premier Partner recognizing rankingCoach’s specialization in SEM.

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