B1 Intermediate US 51 Folder Collection
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The difference between SEO and SEM is simple.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing content to be discovered through
a search engine's organic results.
And SEM or Search Engine Marketing, is traditionally SEO plus Pay-per-click advertising,
but some people just look at it as PPC today.
Now, you might be thinking that SEO is the way to go
since organic traffic is free, consistent, and passive.
But it'd be short-sighted to think that it's the only way to grow your business through search.
So today, we're going to be talking about some search engine marketing strategies and when
and where you should be using SEO, PPC, or both.
Stay tuned.
[music]
What's up SEOs?
Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research
your competitors and dominate your niche.
Search engines are in my opinion, the best traffic source.
In fact, around 5 billion searches happen on Google every single day.
It's also been reported that search engines drive 10 times more traffic to shopping sites
than social media.
And for you local business owners, 72% of consumers who did a local search
visited a store within 5 miles.
Now, to explain why SEO and PPC are both important, let's play a game of "would you rather."
Would you rather be able to instantly rank #1 for any keyword
or have an unlimited PPC budget to pay for ads?
Why SEO of course…
[audience cheering]
Naw bruh. PPC.
[audience cheering]
Now, I certainly don't have an answer to this, but let's unpack both sides.
From a pure SEO perspective, you need to remember that search engines are businesses.
They need to make money in order to operate.
As a result, most, if not all platforms will give premium placements to paying customers.
For example, commercial keywords like "insurance," have a ton of value and therefore, a ton of competition,
so the entire fold is pretty much covered in ads, making organic results near invisible.
So assuming you ranked organically for this keyword,
a searcher would have to scroll down for a while
before even entertaining the thought of going to your page.
Now, let's make a case for PPC.
Sure, if you had an infinite budget, you'd be ranking #1 at the top of every page, right?
Nope!
Google doesn't show Ads on every page for every search.
There needs to be some sort of commercial intent in order for Ads to appear.
For example, key in something with clear commercial intent, like "buy red sox tickets,"
and you'll see Ads galore.
Type in an informational query, like "what to do in Boston," and you won't see any Ads.
So if you were to opt-in for an infinite Ads budget, but no SEO, you'd be missing out
on a ton of opportunity to get traffic.
And another thing to note is that commercial keywords generally have less search volume
than informational ones, which would even further limit your pool of relevant traffic.
As you can see here in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer, the informational query gets searched nearly
27X more than the commercial one.
So now I'm guessing that your answer to unlimited SEO traffic vs PPC traffic is probably tougher
than you might have initially thought.
But this is why we have yet another acronym, SEM, where we can combine the two strategies
and truly take our search engine marketing to another level.
Let's go through a few strategies that should give you a good idea of when and why to implement
SEO, PPC, or both.
First, try running Ads for keywords that are too competitive to rank for... at least for now.
There are likely keywords in your industry that you won't be able to rank for in years.
For example, if you were creating a brand new supplements store and you wanted to rank
for things like "buy protein powder," then your chances of a Top 3 ranking are slim.
You'd be competing against the likes of Amazon, GNC, and Walmart to name a few.
Now, it doesn't mean that you should abandon SEO altogether and just run ads.
But since ranking for competitive terms will likely be a long play,
PPC can help get the ball rolling immediately.
And there are three massive benefits to using PPC while you're working to rank your pages.
First, you can immediately start generating revenue since you're paying for traffic.
This will hopefully help get some cash flow coming in, but do note that just because you advertise,
it doesn't mean you'll have a positive return.
Oftentimes, it can take months and a lot of lost dollars to find a campaign that works for you.
Second, you get an opportunity to test and optimize for conversions.
Most ad platforms have conversion-tracking features.
Afterall, if publishers can see that their ad spend is returning positive ROI, they'll keep spending.
So use this as an opportunity to get insights on things like the average cost per conversion.
Run controlled tests to improve your conversion rate.
And as you start producing profit from your ads, scale out to other platforms.
And third, you can get valuable keyword data.
Within Google Ads, they have a report called, "Search Terms."
Within this report, you can see keywords that people are bidding on and see conversion numbers with them.
This can help you get an understanding of whether the keywords you want to target
will actually produce conversions.
As a hypothetical example, let's say that you were bidding on "protein powder," and getting
a ton of traffic because it's a popular query.
But in terms of net profit, you weren't profitable.
Within the Search Terms report, you might find that a keyword like "grass fed whey protein"
sends a lot less traffic but converts at a much higher rate.
So what I recommend you do is to export the search terms report from Google Ads.
Then use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer, where you can paste up to
10,000 keywords at once and get all their metrics.
Now, I don't have an Ads campaign on protein powder, but to illustrate my point,
you'll see that the Keyword Difficulty score is much lower for "grass fed whey protein."
So it would be worth investigating and potentially creating a new page for.
That way you'll likely be able to get some traffic from organic search faster.
We have a full tutorial on keyword research where I outline a detailed step-by-step process
to assess ranking difficulty, so I highly recommend checking that out.
Now, another reason you might use both SEO and PPC is if the search results pages are covered in Ads.
As you already saw in the "insurance" example, competitive keywords generally have a lot of people
willing to pay top dollar to appear at the top.
And even if you're ranking #1 through SEO, the organic results are so far down
that they may not even get clicked.
Now, to put this into perspective, you'll see that on average, we've ranked in the #1 position
for the keyword "local business seo."
But if you look at our Click through rate, Search Console tells us that people only
click our result 0.5% of the time!
And if we look at the search results, you'll see that there are a bunch of ads,
making it look like our #1 organic result is actually #4.
As you can see, the majority of ads are for local SEO services, so if we had an agency
offering services like this, I'd definitely consider putting some money into ads to get more clicks
to our pages, and hopefully more customers.
Finally is to own as much real estate as possible.
And this is similar to the strategy that we've just went through, but for a different reason.
These days, a typical SERP will have some Ads at the top, some SERP elements like featured snippets,
"People also ask" boxes, and then the organic search results.
Now, while this might feel annoying for SEOs in particular, I want you to look at this as an opportunity
to rank in SERPs with monopolization in mind.
For example, you'll see that The Blog Starter is paying for Ads, owns the featured snippet,
and has the #1 ranking position.
And to me this makes a lot of sense for him to put his time and effort into since he's likely making
a lot of his money from this page.
At Ahrefs, we're fully committed to providing the best educational resources on SEO.
So you'll see that for the keyword "SEO tutorial," we own a spot in the video carousel and then
the #1 organic ranking position.
And if we decide to go the online course route,
I'm sure we'd put money into testing ads for various keywords.
Another example of us using SEM is on YouTube.
Last year, we made a video that's been really helpful to those who are new to SEO.
And since our main KPI for YouTube is engagement,
we advertise for that keyword and we own the #3 organic position.
So the way I like to look at the topic of SEO vs. PPC is not so much which one should you use.
It's more about looking at the differences and seeing how they complement each other to create
a dominant search engine marketing strategy, aka. SEM.
Now, if you're relatively new to SEO, I highly recommend watching some of our videos
which I'll link up in the description.
Or if you want to see us make some PPC tutorials, let me know in the comments.
And if you enjoyed this video, make sure to like, share and subscribe for more actionable tutorials.
So keep grinding away, go and dominate your industry, and I'll see you in the next tutorial.
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SEO vs. SEM: Whats the Difference and Why You Should Care

51 Folder Collection
Lynn Chou published on December 5, 2019
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