Acronyms are a favorite among marketers and it can get confusing figuring out what’s what and how a particular acronym can help your firm reach its goals. Two terms that are very closely related and sound similar are SEO and SEM. Standing for Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing respectively, these terms are similar but hold very different meanings.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it is more often referred to, is the practice in which a site is built, maintained, and updated to rank highly within search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and more. Google, as you have likely assumed, holds an overwhelming majority of the market share for search engine users, and most Search Engine Optimization is catered to their algorithm.
Many individuals have heard of SEO, but may not know all that it entails or how long it can take to drive traffic to your website. When a site is being built, factors such as site architecture, the code itself, site speed, location, URL, content, building internal link structures, and gathering external links are all taken into account for SEO purposes. Of course, these factors range in impact, but all are considered in Google’s algorithm to determine your ranking among search engine result pages (or SERP if you want another fun acronym). This practice will result in your site ranking as what we call an organic result, for a wide array of search terms or keywords because your site is relevant to that search.
What is SEM?
Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, on the other hand, is paid advertising through a search engine. This can be done in Google Ads, Bing Ads, and more search engine-specific tools. Google actually has an array of ad services such as the standard Google Ads, Local Service Ads, Display Ads, and even YouTube Video Ads since that is a part of Google as well.
Each tool has different pay calculations and what you’ve possibly heard is, get ready for another acronym, PPC or pay-per-click. Pay-per-click is used in Google Ads which essentially places your ad at the top of the results page and charges your campaign for each click the ad gets within your provided budget. Other tools like Local Service Ads (LSA), which is a Google Maps integrated ad that is placed at the very top of a results page, use a pay-per-lead model. This means that you are only charged for prospective leads that contact you via the ad.
Should You Use SEO or SEM for Your Marketing Campaign?
SEO is a long-lasting way to improve your site’s online presence and get you more traffic and coverage over a wide array of keywords. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be built to drive quality leads overnight. It takes a while to build your site up with content, get links from credible sources, and cater to a variety of searches to show on the first page for search terms. The effort required to build and maintain an SEO campaign is well worth it, but it does take time to get results.
SEM, on the other hand, is essentially instant. You choose what search terms you’d like to appear for, provide a budget, and your ad(s) is displayed accordingly. The downside is that unless you are spending very large quantities of money, you will not appear for as many searches as you could for organic since you are choosing keywords to bid on. You also get what you pay for, so if you are not spending enough the process could be a lot less beneficial. SEM definitely serves the purpose of getting you leads, or at least traffic more quickly, but it is specific and not lasting.
Law firms that use both often see the greatest results — a successful dual campaign that provides your practice with leads now and later. We call those SCC, or Super Cool Campaigns.
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If you’re looking for a marketing agency that can help your law firm with SEO and SEM campaigns, our expert marketing team can develop a customized plan that brings in traffic and leads. Contact us today to get started.