Home Services Contact Info

Why SEO Is More Important Than SEM

Posted in: Google,Marketing,Search Engine Optimisation,Search Engines,SEO by Richard Hearne on November 1, 2006
Internet Marketing Ireland

Marketing your on-line property has never been so important. Think about it for a minute – if people cant find your website they cant find you and they cant buy your products.

Today there are multiple ways to get noticed on-line. For the vast majority of Internet users Search is predominant route taken to your website.

When it comes to marketing for Search Engines there are two techniques available to you:

  1. SEM Search Engine Marketing (e.g. Adwords, YPN); and
  2. SEO Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Marketing

The phrase Search Engine Marketing may not be well known to most, but I’m pretty sure that just about everybody who has gone on-line in the past few years has seen SEM in practice. When you use a Search Engine you are presented with a SERP (Search Engine Result Page) for your particular search phrase or word. Here’s an example of a Google search screen (with the SEM paid results highlighted):

SEM results example

Most people are very familiar with this image. To the right of the search results is a narrow column with a number of stacked text adverts. If you look carefully you can just about make out the ‘Sponsored Links’ title at the top of that column.

These adverts are displayed after an auction process – publishers pay Google (‘paid search’) to display their ad in this space, with the highest bidder receiving the highest placement.

Every time someone clicks on those sponsored links Google receives a payment form the publisher of that ad.

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO, on the other hand, refers to techniques used to achieve a higher ranking in Google’s main (‘organic’ or ‘natural’) results:

SEO results example

Google receives no payment for placement in these results. A website’s ranking is determined automatically by search engine algorithms. The higher your rankings the greater the traffic you receive relative to competitor sites.

Search engine optimisation is all about understanding the algorithms employed by the major search engines and optimising those factors that algorithmically enhance your website’s rankings.

Why SEO is more important than SEM

In a nutshell, SEM is a quick fix. The day you stop paying for those ads you will lose all new traffic.

Worse still, the day your competitors decide to bid 5c or 10c more for your keywords you will find that your ad has dropped off the first results page. You might be able to control the cost per click but you cannot control the cost of absolute traffic.

SEO can take time. SEO can be expensive. But when you do attain high organic listings your site cannot be toppled by a mere incremental bid.

Those trusted top organic positions are just that – trusted, and people see the paid listings for what they are – paid.

SEO is a sustainable long-term promotional strategy

SEM is great for the short-term promotion of a website. It gives your site that initial hit that can result in visitors and revenue. But at a cost.

In the long term sustainable high profit strategies convert into higher profit and lower acquisition costs. Those strategies are built around high organic placements and that’s why SEO is more important than SEM.

You should subscribe to the RSS Feed here for updates.
Or subscribe to Email Updates now:


  1. Isn’t it true though, that older domains and those that can afford affiliate links inevitably do better than newer sites and teething businesses that might not have the budget to advertise or get affiliate links on popular sites to boost their SE rankings? It seems like a catch 22 situation for many young sites/businesses if you ask me.

    Comment by Mojo — November 2, 2006 @ 10:57 pm

  2. Hey Mojo

    Everything takes time. You simply cannot expect to succeed overnight. The point I was making is that SEM/PPC is a good tool for young sites and properties that want quick results.

    In the long run organic is the way because good SERPs have a far higher ROI and lower risk than those sponsored slots IMHO.

    Remember that getting links is possible even for young sites if your cute about how you do it. Link bait is the perfect example.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — November 2, 2006 @ 11:14 pm

  3. Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Obviously every business has to start somewhere in both the ‘real’ and online worlds. Isn’t link bait a bit underhanded though, like spam? Unless you really are being honest and only posting links EXACTLY when and where they’re called for? I haven’t read much about link baiting though. I must have a look :o)

    Comment by Mojo — November 3, 2006 @ 9:50 am

  4. [...] With SEO, it is more of long-term commitment to achieve the wanted results. As usual, Red cardinal has made an excellent post on why SEO is more important than SEM which is something that should be taking into consideration before starting a pay per click campaign. [...]

    Pingback by Ireland SEO Marketing » Pay Per Click Advertising For Site Traffic — November 4, 2006 @ 2:25 am

  5. Richard, don’t mean to poke this at you but if you refer to : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_Engine_Marketing

    “SEM, is a set of marketing methods to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs). The three main methods of SEM are:”

    That goes back to the whole “SEO is a subset of SEM”.

    Comment by Dave Davis — December 7, 2006 @ 9:51 am

  6. Yeah Dave

    It really is a very grey area with different people referring to different things. I never really considered SEO to be a bubset of SEM. The you have people talking about ‘Search Maketing’. Personally all I know for sure is that SEO is about organic.

    Confusion reigns supreme :mrgreen:

    Comment by Richard Hearne — December 7, 2006 @ 10:02 am

  7. Dave

    Check out:

    Danny Sullivan apparently just discussed SEO as organic and SM as paid. Funny coincidence that this pops up in my reader :grin:

    Comment by Richard Hearne — December 7, 2006 @ 10:21 am

  8. Well, he didn’t actually say “SEM” just search marketing and Lisa probably didn’t quote him right. :P
    Potato potaaaato.

    Comment by Dave Davis — December 7, 2006 @ 10:32 am

Comments Feed TrackBack

Leave a comment