You may be wondering, why pay to show up in search engines and have people click on your website pages? Can’t you just improve your website’s SEO and get online visibility and organic clicks for free? The answer is that organic search isn’t actually free. SEO strategies are very beneficial to your business, but SEO takes time to take effect, (up to 6 months) and the tactics involve a lot of work toward producing quality content. With SEM/pay-per-click advertising, you see results right away, in the form of your business name on page one of a search.
SEM is the wider discipline that incorporates SEO. SEM includes both paid search results (using tools like Google Adwords or Bing Ads, formerly known as Microsoft adCenter) and organic search results (SEO). SEM uses paid advertising with AdWords or Bing Ads, pay per click (particularly beneficial for local providers as it enables potential consumers to contact a company directly with one click), article submissions, advertising and making sure SEO has been done. A keyword analysis is performed for both SEO and SEM, but not necessarily at the same time. SEM and SEO both need to be monitored and updated frequently to reflect evolving best practices.
The typical Web user might not realize they’re looking at apples and oranges when they get their search results. Knowing the difference enables a searcher to make a better informed decision about the relevancy of a result. Additionally, because the paid results are advertising, they may actually be more useful to a shopping searcher than a researcher (as search engines favor research results).
In some contexts, the term SEM is used exclusively to mean pay per click advertising, particularly in the commercial advertising and marketing communities which have a vested interest in this narrow definition. Such usage excludes the wider search marketing community that is engaged in other forms of SEM such as search engine optimization and search retargeting.
So if you're in the local space and you're saying, "Gosh, Google has really taken away the ability for my website to get the clicks that it used to get from Google local searches," going into Google My Business and optimizing to provide information such that people who perform that query will be satisfied by Google's result, yes, they won't get to your website, but they will still come to your business, because you've optimized the content such that Google is showing, through Google My Business, such that those searchers want to engage with you. I think this sometimes gets lost in the SEO battle. We're trying so hard to earn the click to our site that we're forgetting that a lot of search experience ends right at the SERP itself, and we can optimize there too.
Paid search advertising has not been without controversy and the issue of how search engines present advertising on their search result pages has been the target of a series of studies and reports by Consumer Reports WebWatch. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also issued a letter in 2002 about the importance of disclosure of paid advertising on search engines, in response to a complaint from Commercial Alert, a consumer advocacy group with ties to Ralph Nader.
For example, we have seen retailers who produce seasonal items, such as ornaments, based upon data that they are able to find through the Data Cube. This information tells them about the themes and ideas that are popular throughout the year and during their peak selling seasons, helping them to know which items will be the most successful and the optimal names to select.
We also saw for the first time a seasonally adjusted drop, a drop in total organic clicks sent. That was between August and November of 2017. It was thanks to the Jumpshot dataset. It happened at least here in the United States. We don't know if it's happened in other countries as well. But that's certainly concerning because that is not something we've observed in the past. There were fewer clicks sent than there were previously. That makes us pretty concerned. It didn't go down very much. It went down a couple of percentage points. There's still a lot more clicks being sent in 2018 than there were in 2013. So it's not like we've dipped below something, but concerning.
All your content, social media, brand, and other online assets that you develop in that process are there to stay. And they keep going up in value as time goes by. Even if you stopped investing in organic search, these assets would still be working for your business. You’d get traffic because you’ve built an ecosystem that fuels itself. Now imagine that you’re generating traffic and you’re paying little to no money for it. Your cost per organic visitor will decrease by many factors as your return increases. Bear in mind that this is a cumulative effect that happens over time. Still, it’s a fantastic position to be in.
In 2014, BrightEdge published research that showed that 51% of channel traffic came from organic search and that it was far and away the largest channel. In the intervening years there were significant search algorithm changes that dramatically altered the layout and ranking of the search engine results pages and saw an increase in the space taken by Local, Videos, Images, Ads, and Quick Answers.
Search engine marketing encompasses a range of activities all centred around making your website more visible when someone uses a search engine. If someone is looking for your business on the internet, it is vital your website appears prominently in the search engines’ results pages, or it will never deliver the value to your business that today’s economy demands.
Organic is what people are looking for; the rest of these simply put things in front of people who may or may not be seeking what you offer. We know that approximately X number of people are looking for Y every day. So if we can get on front of those people, we have a much greater opportunity to create long-term relationships and increase our overall ROI.