I have not covered a lot of search engine marketing in our blogs and that’s mostly because we have, as a business, has always focused on the long-term effects of organic search rankings for businesses. When working with small businesses, SEM is hard to push forward due to the many limits that it gives the client. There’s only some websites that can pull it off, and it’s dependent on these 3 important factors.
Differentiating SEO vs SEM
If you are a beginner in the world of digital marketing, both search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are derivatives of the same concept, smoothing down on two entirely different faces of the same coin.
Understanding Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is a set of techniques that utilise the best possible combination of ranking elements and metrics on your website to generate organic search results and visibility. In simple words, you’re manipulating details in your website, from keywords to meta descriptions, so that you can rank higher on search engine results pages or SERPs.
This strategy is zero cost if you understand how it works and understands what are the relevant algorithms, albeit for a far slower showing of results. Your goal here is to make sure that all elements are just right so the search engine finds you relevant enough to show in the higher pages of their site.
Whilst this takes a lot of time, skill, intensive attention and technical knowledge, it creates a website that is both search-engine friendly and human-friendly, which can help in exponential ROI, a high ceiling on the returns and strong volume.
Imagine being given an empty museum and hiring a good interior designer to take care of the layout and maximise its appeal to your audience, who then gets your name around so more people come, until people talk about your museum some more and bring in more people to take a look. Hold on to that thought for now.
Maximising Search Engine Marketing
SEM, on the other hand, is what it is: paying for clicks. It’s the traditional style of advertisement that gets links to your business pushed up in the topmost portions of SERPs and in different sites that allow ads. Remember those pesky ads that you use that adblock for? Those are what people pay for in the form of Pay Per Click or PPC.
Every click is paid for a specific amount, tracked for performance, measured for value and ROI to the businesses that try it. Since Pay Per Click is controlled by the very websites that show the search results, this method is fast, efficient, improves your website’s visibility and, most important, is not affected by any type of algorithm.
It sounds elegant, right? You pay money, you get ads and be visible to everyone on the internet. Going back to the empty museum analogy, this is basically paying for ads so people see who you are and, if they are interested, go to your museum.
This is, however, not the answer to a lot of business’ problems and there are only limited uses to PPC for many small businesses. Here’s why.
PPC Can Eat Your Budget
Budget always factors into PPC and that changes depending on many factors, specifically with what keywords you are trying to bid upon. Keywords in SEM are sold at an auction system through the use of a Quality Score, providing better placement and lower costs.
Without going too complicated on you, Wordstream estimates the average cost per click (CPC) of a word in Google Adwords is between $1 to $2 on their domain. Campaigns tend to run between $9,000 to $10,000… US. This translates to AUD 11,250 to AUD 12,500… per month or around AUD 150,000 per year. This is only for small businesses. Most big corporations sink as much as 10 Million US Dollars a year.
If you have the money, go ahead. The average cost you can do per day for an initially testing the waters would be around AUD 12.50 a day minimum. If you don’t really have the money to push into such a campaign, stick with SEO.
Some Industries Have More Expensive Cost Per Click
As I have mentioned on the previous point, not all industries are created equal. The CPC on some more competitive industries are so crazy that you would want to use Google’s Keyword Planner to see if it will even be worth your time.
As example, the phrase “roller shutters” CPC goes on an average of AUD 14.25 according to Wordstream’s estimates whilst phrases from other industries can go as low as AUD 1 to 5. This makes the high-octane, strongly performing phrases too expensive for small businesses to reach.
If your industry is one of the high-powered industries in Pay Per Click, you might as well use SEO.
The Competitiveness of SERPs
On the other side of the fence, you would want to take a look on how strong are the leading websites when it comes to their competitiveness in the SERPs. You may want to use some keyword research tools to see an estimate of how long it would take for you to be able to displace somebody in the first page of your target keywords.
If the niche that you’re shooting for, like law and accounting pages, have too strong and too competitive keywords you are targeting for, you either have the choice to move to a different set of phrases or use PPC to bypass this since it would take a mammoth undertaking of time and effort before you can even rank for keywords dominated by industry authorities.
Making A Sensible Basic SEM Strategy
At the end of the day, SEM makes sense if you are starting out and you have a budget to spare for your advertising. This allows you to have an early lead and visitors who can go to your website and see the value that you provide in your products and services.
Regardless if you opt for PPC, you would still need a search engine optimised website that is human-friendly, ready to rank up and provides valuable content to its visitors. Once you’re well established, you can cut down on your use of Pay Per Click and rely on the ranking infrastructure that you have built.
If you think that choosing to pay for your ads means you can overlook your SEO campaign, remember that both are still just parts of the same coin and the bottom line is that people need to see you as a viable solution in a sea of products and services competing for their money.