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SEO vs. SEM
What is SEO and what is SEM, and what is the difference between the two?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of creating or adapting web pages so that they are easily indexible by Search engine spiders. SEO includes "optimizing" factors on the page to help computer programs to identify the content that is contained on the page. SEO includes paying attention to "on-page" factors like text, meta tags, file names, and other information in the page "source" code. As search engines have become more sophisticated, Search Engine Optimization has grown to include "off-page" factors like building links from other sites.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a strategy that includes using SEO to be able to get a given page to have a high rank within search engine results and then to use those results to market a product or service. This means not only giving thought to the combination of "on-page" and "off-page" factors to help your page get indexed, but also building the information in such a way as to help consumers buy from your page.
GenerallyAwesome.com sells black t-shirts with the word "security" printed in white letters on it. In order to reach more customers we did some SEO for this page. The keywords that we tried to target were combinations of the word "security" and "t-shirts." Focusing on the SEO we only were concerned about helping the search engines recognize that this page has information about security shirts. The result was that this page was ranked within the top 10 search engine results for a few variations of our target keywords. However, we were not seeing large amounts of clicks to our site. We also were not converting a lot of customers. After a few months we decided to change a few things to help with the "Marketing" side of the equation.
Our price was lower than all of our major competitors within the top results, so why weren't we converting sales since we had an almost identical product at a lower price? Well, we were not making it easy for visitors to know that our price was lower. We noticed that one competitor had his price listed in his "title" tag in the source code of his page. We decided to re-write our page so that the price was included in the "title" of our page. We also included in the title a reference to bulk discounts available. Not only that, but we noticed a couple other areas where we had a marketing advantage that we were letting fall through our fingers. We were one of the few sites selling size small security t-shirts. For many competitors medium was the smallest shirt size available. Also, our competitors charge extra for size XXL, XXXL and 4XL t-shirts. We don't have the 3XL or 4XL sizes, but we do offer XXL size shirts for the same price as the other sizes. So we included that sizing information and features into our "meta description" tag in the source code of the page. (FYI, all the search engines pretty much just use the "title" and "meta description" text from your page in their search engine listings, so you can control what a search engine visitor reads about your page).
I took a little while for the Search Engines to come back and re-index the page, but once they did we noticed a dramatic increase in sales and conversions.
Simply showing up within the search results is not enough. You also have to focus on marketing if you want to convert sales from search engine visitors. That is why SEO and SEM are best done hand-in-hand.