The concept of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is generally used in digital marketing to describe a process by which multiple methods are utilized to improve market visibility and exposure for a brand, product or service. Through SEM strategies, it is possible to increase traffic and conversions using keywords and keyword analysis, building ads and content for geo-targeted ads and local listings, also investing in pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns. Which is why with the broader concept of ‘SEM strategies’ is normally labeled as all the activities that allow marketers to obtain a greater visibility on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, by placing their content up-top on the page, for a cost.

At netamorphosis we would use SEM in tandem with thought-through analytics and SEO (Search Engine Optimization), to also inform content creation and design with the overarching objective of reaching end-users in the right context, at the right time. SEM can in fact significantly help marketing and sales KPIs achievement, as what it ultimately does is driving qualified traffic to a website or eCommerce.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

Both SEO and SEM are part of search marketing, and in our experience should actually work together towards the same overall goal, which is owning SERP on the first page of Google, and through that, generate leads and conversions to a digital platform.

More specifically, search engine optimization allows to improve a site in order to increase organic search engine rankings by placing keywords strategically throughout the site, fostering link building, using meta data and establishing site authority, for both Google and its end-users. Conversely, a SEM strategy allows marketers to pay to be on the SERPs, and for their ads/sponsored content to be seen by users who are actively searching for the keywords the marketers are targeting.

By using SEO, a marketer or digital agency would be earning traffic through unpaid or free listings, while with SEM, they would be buying traffic through paid search listings, with a pay-per-click purchasing model. As a consequence, traffic obtained through SEO would be considered as organic, while SEM traffic would instead be labelled as paid.

Even if the difference between SEO and SEM is evident, both are actually crucial in allowing us to ensure our neta client can achieve a solid digital footprint and through that, grow and groom their credibility, branding and positioning.

The benefits of implementing SEM services for an online business are numerous. Our top 3 includes:

  1. SEM is cost effective: with SEM the mechanism is not that of mere exposure, but that of PPC, so unless prospects click on the ad, it is free. SEM traffic is targeted and qualified, thus bringing higher ad-to-cost value and a higher conversion rate.
  2. SEM brings leads: people are going online daily to look for information, products, services. On Google alone, every day there are more than 3.5 billion searches. SEM allows to capitalize on that and increase visibility for a brand or service for it to appear in front of the right type of end-users.
  3. SEM is measurable: through SEM analysis it is possible to track, pull and assess SEM campaigns. This helps marketers and digital agencies like n e t a optimize keywords, content, and budget continuously and on-the-go. It also supports more informed decision-making, which is based on historical data, and not on assumptions.

Evidently, SEM strategies can be crucial in allowing for a business to show up on the first page of Google.

On a high-level, it might seem that SEM marketers can just pay for the service, and then benefit from it. However, that possibility is not always available, as sometimes Google might require extra certification, such as asking entities operating within a specific sector to get an official certification via LegitScript. This happened in 2017-2018, when Google revealed a new vetting process for addiction treatment facilities, as a consequence of growingly strict limitations for the sector which were released at the end of 2017 because of recurrent malpractices, which resulted in a full ban in January 2018.

This example proves how navigating this sector and managing to build efficient SEM services can actually be a rather complex task to achieve without the right type of equipment or knowledge.

Our primary role as a digital marketing agency is clearly that of advising on strategy, and based on that, build the best SEO vs SEM efficiency through content and design alike. What we would also do however, is put at the service of our clients the years of expertise we have in key market sectors—including that of adult and rehab/treatment space—to help guide them in dealing with the intricacies of building and managing their digital assets, but also in obtaining any type of certification that might be needed for them to fully unlock all opportunities.

Staying ahead of the curve with search engines and consumer trends, as well as understanding the most strategic way to leverage all available assets by building omnichannel types of experiences, is what has allowed us to create engaging user journeys for all of our n e t a clients. And to ultimately help them achieve outstanding results, such as a +37% (average) conversion rate after 12 months.