It’s hard to stay out of the SEO vs. SEM debate if you work in the e-commerce field and haven’t been under a rock. SEO and SEM are terms that people use to talk about different things. SEO and SEM can mean various things to other people. So, let me explain what I mean by that. These aren’t meant to be complete definitions, but they do the job of being accurate and simple.
Search Engine Optimization is a term for things you do on your website, like keeping a certain number of keywords, or on other websites, like link building, to get more traffic from search engines (SEO).
Paying search engines to send people who are interested in your business to you, most likely through a pay-per-click mechanism, is called Search Engine Marketing (SEM). It is very easy to say that SEM is a lot more than I have just said. It includes the practice of SEO. To develop some actionable ideas, I will separate SEO from other SEM tasks.
In terms of e-commerce, which one is better?
If I could answer this question with “this one,” I would be one of the most sought-after e-commerce marketers in the world. As you’d expect, the answer is more of an “it might.” If that sounds bad, don’t worry. It gets better.
SEO Is More Effective Because…
- You spend resources once and get benefits for a long time.
- Once you get good at SEO, you have a big advantage over your competitors that is hard to get back quickly.
- Many e-commerce websites have bad SEO by default. There are so many ways that even a small amount of work can yield big results.
- Users who can tell the difference between organic results and ads are more likely to trust organic results.
- Expect that in the long run, the cost per visitor will be a small fraction of what you pay for SEM campaigns in the long run.
- SEM spending has become so high that they’re not worth it anymore in some industries.
SEM Is More Effective Because…
- SEM campaigns start working right away, but SEO can take a long time.
- It’s clear what you’re paying for, and you can figure out how much money you’re getting back (RoI).
- You won’t lose all of your money when search engines like Google change their algorithms.
- Once you find the right SEM strategy, you can keep growing it easily.
- It is up to you and doesn’t depend on the moods of two Stanford PhDs and their friends.
- PPC traffic converts better than organic search traffic for most online businesses, which is true for most.
- You get to decide how your brand name and other things are treated.
Which one is better?
The lists above are very interesting. E-commerce businesses can’t completely forget about either SEO or SEM. Here are some things you can think about:
If your e-commerce site is still very new, you can’t wait for SEO success to start. As a result, most of your money, say 90%, should be used for SEM activities and the rest for SEO.
As time goes on and you start to see some success with SEO, you can allocate more resources to SEO.
Because there will always be something you want to promote “right now,” you will need to use paid traffic for the rest of your life. You can expect to spend 50-50 on SEO and SEM in the long run.
The Battle of SEO vs. SEM
How soon can you get enough people to make a difference?
One big difference between SEO and SEM is how quickly the owner of an eCommerce site can get traffic. Because you’re paying Google to show your ads when you run an SEM campaign, your ads are almost always seen by your audience when they search. This means that the owner of an eCommerce website gets a lot of traffic right away.
However, if you want to use SEO, you’ll have to outdo the SEO of the already-ranked pages that show up for the keywords you want.
This part isn’t set in stone. In some cases, it could take months or even years to outrank some other pages because of how strong their link profile was. People who are good at marketing want to do keyword research because they want to find keywords with many low-quality results in the search results to outdo their competitors’ SEO easily.
Word of Advice: Be careful
SEM is the first thing that works, so it’s easy to get stuck there. You can not be able to maintain up with the rising cost of each click. So, it’s good to build up your organic leg as well, too. On the other hand, SEO is becoming more and more of a pain in the ass. Think about using content marketing as a way to improve your SEO. So, content marketing still has much power left in the tank.