Should Your Business Be Using SEO Or SEM For 2021?

Everyone who works in the online world has heard of SEO – search engine optimization. Chances are, if you’ve got any sort of presence in the online space, it’s a tool you utilize often. You probably understand it well, and know how valuable it is to getting your site to rank on Google – but what about SEM?

The online world is getting more and more competitive as time passes, and it’s crucial to utilize every trick you can to ensure you get your product or service is noticed by the masses. SEM stands for search engine marketing, and it involves using paid search results to increase the traffic on your site.

How Does SEM Work?

Anyone who has ever searched online is likely to be aware that the top results are going to be the most relevant to their query. Search engines do most of the work for us by filtering through websites and selecting the ones which give the best information – and many of us simply click the top result without even thinking about it. SEO is obviously one of the crucial ways to get to this position, but SEM is pretty important too.

You may have noticed that the top result in most search engines has a little note beside it stating that it’s an ad. For some search engines, this will apply to the top three or so results. Basically, SEM is like buying a billboard to plaster your company across Google and make sure the whole world (or at least the relevant potential customers) sees your product!

“Sometimes SEM is referred to as pay-per-click advertising, because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. SEM is a really good way to pull in customers fast, especially if you don’t have a ready network or email list you can turn to to market your products,” says Bill Adams, a tech blogger at Originwritings.

What’s The Difference Between SEO and SEM?

The main difference is that SEO is about getting Google (or other search engines) to rank your website highly based on keywords, good content, and satisfied readers – demonstrated through a low bounce rate (viewers who click off your site soon after opening it).

SEM is about paying Google to advertise your product. With SEO, you’re trying to generate organic leads by proving your value to the search engine, while SEM is about paying the search engine to send traffic your way. Both have their place, but understanding their differences is crucial to using them effectively. There may be times when SEO is what mattes to your business; at other points, you’ll want to utilize SEM to capitalize on some particular market trend or opportunity you’ve spotted.

Pros And Cons Of SEO

As with any technique, there are good and bad aspects of SEO. It’s a great way to boost your brand awareness; it’s about providing quality content which encourages customers to come to your site because you are providing them with something genuinely useful. This is the best way to build long-term customer loyalty.

The downside of SEO is that it can take a long time to start seeing rewards from your hard work. You need to get people clicking in order to rank highly, and this can be a slow process. It’s also tricky to keep up with SEO trends at times; search engines update often, and you have to keep tweaking your approach to stay relevant.

Pros And Cons Of SEM

SEM is a great way to see quick results. It will allow you to pull in lots of relevant traffic fast, and this can give your business a real push when it needs it most. It’s also easy to see if your money is generating returns, whereas money invested in SEO techniques can be hard to measure. Furthermore, you aren’t going to see your ad disappear just because search engines have updated their algorithms!

An obvious major con is that SEM has a direct cost, and many people simply scroll past ads, no matter how relevant the ad is. If your campaign takes off and you get a lot of clicks, it can also become expensive – fast. If it doesn’t take off, is it really worth the investment?

The Conclusion:

Both SEO and SEM have their place for businesses, and will likely continue to do so throughout 2021. SEM can offer a fast boost to your business, but has major downsides of being cash-hungry and short-term, while SEO often means a slow start, but can generate bigger rewards if you’re successful. Many businesses combine the two for the best and most flexible approach to a constantly changing and very competitive online market.

Guest Article by George J. Newton
George J. Newton is a writer and editor at As a business development manager, he helps companies improve their marketing strategies and concepts.

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