As a digital marketing agency who lives and breathes digital, we like to use the term “digital confusion”, or “DC” whenever we come across confusion around digital marketing terminologies. With endless abbreviations, acronyms, and new definitions being created on a daily, maybe even hourly basis around the globe, it’s no wonder DC remains relatively high.
The two terms which still seem to hold the highest level of DC is SEO and SEM. So, in the interest of reducing DC as much as possible (we’ve made it our mission), we’ve created this blog to set the record straight once and for all.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Broadly speaking, Search Engine Marketing refers to the practice of using search engines for marketing purposes. This includes generating both free (organic traffic – SEO), and paid (search advertising – SA) traffic.
Think of SEM as an umbrella term. SEM is not just paid advertising. And it’s also not just SEO. It’s everything search related! To add confusion to the matter, Search Engine Marketing is now commonly referred to as ‘Search Marketing’.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO, as mentioned above, is a type of SEM activity. It involves optimising your website and brand, to ensure you rank as high as possible in search, and as a result, search engines send highly qualified organic traffic to your site. Organic traffic, for a lack of a better term, is ‘free’ traffic to your site, thanks mostly to Google.
Organic listing example:
Search Advertising (SA)
Search Advertising is completely separate from SEO. It has the same objective as SEO in that it aims to increase share of voice in search, but it’s based off a paid advertising model. Wikipedia defines Search Advertising as “a method of placing online advertisements on web pages that show results from search engine queries”. The biggest search advertising platform is, of course Google.
Paid listing example:
SOV for Search Advertising continues to expand, and now in some instances, has more visibility on the first page of search compared to organic listings. The perceived negative impact of this is that it’s costing companies more to appear in search. To learn more about this, read a recent blog our Managing Director crafted, titled Paid vs Organic Traffic – Is there A Battle?
Words by Angela Hampton, Managing Director