Is SEO and SEM overhyped? Simply put, No.

In today’s cluttered and noisy digital environment, SEO and SEM are more important than ever. But, what the heck even is SEO and SEM? These acronyms may seem complicated and scary, but when you break it down to the basics, it’s not as complicated as it seems.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Forbes defines SEO as a “complex system of digital techniques, strategies and practices designed to increase the quantity and quality of online traffic to your website through organic search results.”

More simply, SEO is a way to generate traffic to your website through consumer searches on Google (or Bing for those 2 Bing users out there). Focusing on SEO efforts will expand your company’s reach, increase visibility and brand awareness, and strengthen your company’s position against competitors.

For small business who don’t have a large marketing budget, SEO may seem overwhelming. But there are a few easy steps you can take to improve your SEO foundation that can have great long-term effects.

Forbes outlines the following simple steps that can establish a strong SEO foundation.

  • Create a Google My Business account. This will help with local business searches. Be sure to also claim a physical address on Google Maps.
  • Research your audience and target keywords. Understanding how people search and the keywords they commonly use will help you focus your digital efforts. You want to use the keywords that people are searching within your website, especially within headings and subheadings.
  • Create social media accounts (duh).
  • If you have the time and energy, blog. Blogs provide content that can boost SEO and indirectly guide customers to your product or service. However, if you are not able to maintain the blog, then hold off until you can. No one likes a stale blog.

What is SEM?

While SEO involves unpaid techniques to drive traffic, SEM is used to drive traffic through paid efforts. SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and “is implemented through techniques such as pay-per-click marketing, paid search, display advertising, and remarketing ads.” Effective SEM campaigns will drive targeted consumers to your site, ultimately leading to increased sales. SEM helps insure that your company’s information appears at the right time and in the right place.

So, which is more important – SEO or SEM? Both.

Individually, SEO and SEM will produce results. However, when used together, greater profits will be realized. SEO and SEM have a common goal of driving traffic to your website. SEO is a long-term game, crafting keywords and messaging to lure consumers to your site overtime. SEM produces fast results by placing visible ads in the right place at the right time. The long-term effects of improving your site's SEO will support the short-term success of your SEM efforts. When carefully intertwined, SEO and SEM will produce stronger results and develop quick growth as well as long-term success.

Moral of the story, don’t be intimidated by complex acronyms and big words like “optimization.” When you break SEO and SEM down to the basics, it really isn’t all that scary. And the benefits of focusing efforts on these two strategies can be…in the words of Donald Trump…HUGE!

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