In this article, we’ll discuss three key reasons why you should be investing in SEO over SEM.
Updated Article: Complete Guide to SEO vs SEM
The Case for SEO
Sustained Value: Good SEO can generate sustained long-term value once established, where SEM requires continued spend to generate returns.
Trustworthiness: Organic results come with inherent trustworthiness to the users relative to SEM as it cannot be paid for.
Cost: While SEO involves work, there is no cost associated with doing SEO, whereas SEM accumulates a cost-per-click.
SEO vs. SEM
SEO, search engine optimization, is the practice of optimizing your site to rank higher on search engines. We all know how important search engines are in our everyday life and that is the primary reason why Google, the leading search engine, is worth almost a trillion dollars. Search engines have changed the way we use the internet and if you are anything like myself, you probably perform a Google search at least once an hour. With search engines being so prevalent and a primary source for shopping and information, it has become increasingly important for businesses to maximize their rankings in the search engine. Every time a user makes a search, there are tons of businesses competing to show up in that result for the opportunity to make the sale or deliver the relevant information.
On a given SERP, search engine results page, there will usually be a handful of paid results in addition to the organic or unpaid results. SEM, or search engine marketing, is the practice of paying to show up in the search engine results for a given search. SEO and SEM both take place in the search engine results page and are both looking to achieve similar goals, but SEM requires businesses to pay for each click while SEO does not.
Search Results Example
See below for a sample search result - the first 3 results indicate ads and the following results are organic results.
Now that we know the difference between SEO and SEM, we may be wondering which one is right for us. In this article, we’ll focus on 3 main benefits of SEO over SEM. While a combined search strategy of SEO and SEM is likely the right long-term solution, we will discuss the benefits of focusing on SEO first.
1. Sustained Value
The first, and arguably, the most important reason to focus your efforts on SEO first is the sustained, long-term value that comes with SEO. While SEO comes with a “price” of its hard work and a long haul, the value generated from good SEO can drive sustainable long-term benefits for a business. Investing in technical SEO, building backlinks, and creating relevant content will stay with your site forever and hopefully continue to land you at the top of the search results. If you are able to do this well, your website alone will have intrinsic worth because of how it ranks in the search engine.
Having good SEO can bring you a continuous flow of new traffic to your site that you can optimize on and give you new opportunities for growth. The more authoritative and respected your site is, the more easily you can expand into new opportunities. Say you are a well-respected website for car buying, you will likely have an advantage over a new player if you both were to enter the market for car rentals because your site is already respected within the car industry and has that authority and expertise established.
Trustworthiness is another key reason for choosing SEO over SEM. Oftentimes, users are skeptical of advertisers and are less willing to click on advertisements because they know they can be bought. People generally trust the organic results more and understand that those are hard-earned and created by Google’s algorithms. We heavily rely on search engines like Google because we trust that they will return us the best and most relevant results, which is why we as searchers, might have a propensity towards organic results. While there are plenty of people clicking on search engine ads, there is inherent trustworthiness to a good organic presence on Google.
The last and most obvious reason one would want to invest in SEO before SEM is that it is technically free. While SEO does not come without work and effort, there is technically no cost to doing SEO well. On the other hand in SEM, you will be paying for every click that comes through your door which will ultimately raise the cost-to-acquire for new customers. This can be especially difficult for a new business that does not want to spend a ton of money on paid advertising and is looking to drive organic traffic to their site.
Investing in SEO with your time and effort can pay off big in the long run. Having the expertise, trustworthiness, and authority in the search engines can drive continued value and growth for your site and business. Even on the Netflix show, Tiger King, they stressed the value of SEO. In episode 4, one guy kept driving home the point of how crucial it is to be the number one result every time someone searches for “big cat rescue” on Google. Joe Exotic even made his domain name a similar name to the competitor so he could reap the benefits of their SEO.