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SEO Versus SEM

It depends on what your objective is

Search engine optimization is a long term commitment. There are a lot of moving parts that are constantly changing. Googles algorithms, your competitors efforts, the time it takes to get your content crawled and indexed and much more. Being visible in “organic” results is thought to be “free” to some people. In reality, if your topic or business is in a competitive space (just about all are these days), you’ll need to invest time and money in the tasks and content generation that are needed to increase your rankings.

How do you increase your visibility through SEO? First, understand what Google looks for on your site, on your web pages and what are best practices from a technical standpoint. An audit of your website is needed. Next you need to audit the backlink profile of your web pages and those of your competitors that are ranking higher than you. This is the information you need to start efforts to increase your rankings. You need a way to monitor all this continually. If it is done correctly, your rankings will rise over time. By investing time and money and creating quality content, you will be rewarded with a higher position in the organic results over time.

Search engine marketing will bring immediate visibility. Essentially you’re paying to show up on SERPs, (search engine result pages) or elsewhere on the internet. You create ad campaigns and you pay per impression, clicks or phone calls. Your results will reflect the quality of the messaging and creative of your ads. Like any type of marketing, the goal is to get a lead to your company. At that point it is up to the sales person to convert the lead into a sale. It’s also important to optimize how your company handles leads quickly and persuasively.

How much should you pay to be visible?

It depends on what the price of your product or service is. If your product sells for $30 you can’t afford to pay $30 for a lead. If your product sells for $300, costs $3 to make and your customer will be replacing it multiple times, $30 might make sense. Let’s say a customer buys a replacement every year for 10 years. That’s $3000 in sales and it cost $30 to acquire the customer. Your product will most likely increase in price, so $3000 in sales is just a sample. The point is you need consider the Life Time Value (LTV) of your customers. If your sales team is really great at closing sales and your service team deliver an awesome experience, that $30 cost to acquire the customer can pay off even more with referral business. The more expensive your product or service is, the more expensive the lead cost will most likely be. You’ll be competing with other businesses that understand the value of the lead. You’ll be buying visibility from Google and other large internet companies who know the value of the keywords you are targeting.

Most companies use a combination of SEO and SEM to keep the lead bucket filled

SEO is cumulative. SEM is like a faucet, you can turn it off or on as you desire. SEO investment keeps paying off over time. SEM dollars are gone once the viewer clicks or sees the ad (impressions) or makes the phone call. Once that budget is used up, the only way that visibility continues is by reloading the budget.

I’ll go even further and say most companies don’t limit their visibility to only online marketing. Other forms of media can drive traffic to your website, generate contact form submissions or phone calls. SEO and SEM should be part of your marketing plan in conjunction with other tactics. Create, test, measure and improve is the battle cry. You can’t just “set it and forget it.”

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