What Are SEO and SEM Anyway? What Do They Stand For and What Do They Do?

All of the experts in the internet marketing field including myself tend to forget that not everyone out there in the world knows what the acronyms SEO and SEM stand for. People that know what they stand for often don’t really know exactly what the purpose of these programs are. This Article will attempt to explain what SEO and SEM are and why every business should be using them.

SEO = Search Engine Optimization

In its most basic form search engine optimization simply allows people that are looking for your services online to find them using a search engine. Sound easy, right? It takes hours and hours of hard work and research to get a website into a respectful position on Google. Google amounts for over 50% of the search online so I will focus on them. Google’s search engines looks extremely simple for the everyday user but when you actually start digging it is an unbelievably complex program that does amazing things. Google constantly updates their code leaving us online marketers running to catch up. For example a couple years ago Google implemented local search into their engine that gave a user relevant content based on the location they search from. This gave local businesses an edge when trying to compete with the national chains. Obviously there was a huge outcry from the major corporations but all Google cares about is that its users get what they are looking for. When this happened every SEO and SEM professional was hitting the books and trying to figure out why their rankings had gone down so considerably.

Since a website has absolutely no use unless clients are finding it SEO is probably one of the most important elements to a website. This is the reason I say every business should consider doing an SEO program on their website. If you know what you are doing and are willing to invest the time it takes most anyone can do this. It takes no actual design skill (other than being able to change text) but does take a considerable amount of research and forward thinking. Here is how it works…. Let’s go with the example of a business’s first website and they don’t have a domain yet. Step one is to consider your domain name very carefully. You should do some considerable keyword research on you industry before ever choosing a domain. One of the biggest relevancy factors that Google looks at is the domain name. Once you have a solid domain name registered Step 2 is in-depth keyword research. Most industries have terms and keywords that the average person will search for on the internet. You have to consider data that is available for your industry to find out what people are actually looking for. In our industry you might think people are looking for “web development” but the largest search term is “web design.” Step 3 is starting to create the website using the keyword research. To be seen as relevant in Google’s eyes your website content, page titles, meta keywords, meta tags, meta description must all be keyword rich and relevant to you industry.

The second most important factor in getting found is your page titles. Everything else must work in combination with your page titles in order to create “relevancy” in Google’s eyes. Your Meta description is the little blurb that allows users to get a sense of why they want to visit your site vs. your competition. Step 4 is designing the website to be visually appealing with strong calls to action in order to convert visitors into clients. If your website isn’t appealing and doesn’t tell people why they should buy from you then SEO is the least of your worries. Step 5 in monitoring how everything is working. This is a very important part of the whole process. Because things change on a daily basis online and consumers buying decisions are very influenced by many factors in the world you must stay on top of what is working and what is not. Having a program that allows you to see what visitors are doing on your site is very important. If it looks like something on the site isn’t working as intended you can change or update it. Step 6 is an ongoing SEM process in order to build inbound links and relevancy. More on this below…

This is obviously a very broad overview of all the steps involved in setting up an SEO program for your company. Implementing and maintaining an effective SEO program take a fair amount of time, effort and learning. For this reason many companies outsource to a company that can take care of this for them. The best use of a business owner’s time is generally running the business and outsourcing many of the marketing and technical projects.

SEM = Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is the term used to be all encompassing including the SEO spoken about earlier. Although you have a great website that is visually appealing and keyword rich this isn’t enough these days. With hundreds of thousands of businesses competing for the top spot on Google you have to do something to set yourself apart from the rest. Your SEM program is what does this. SEM consists of hundreds of strategies for article marketing, video posting, blogging, social networking, pay per click advertising and more. On a daily basis companies are developing new strategies in order to out rank and outwit their competition.

How this works is actually pretty simple. When Google looks at your website and the internet as a whole it finds every incoming link to your website. The more RELEVANT incoming links you have the more relevant you are considered to be by Google. If you are a nursery and a tattoo parlor links to your site that would not be considered a relevant link unless there is some relevant content to your site on their website. Google’s experts have also gone to great lengths to prevent people from illegitimately topping the search rankings by running “link farms” or other sneaky ways of trying to fool them. If a website appears to be attempting to trick the search engine in any way Google will simply remove that website from their listings until they explain themselves. Playing within the rules is very important because sometimes it can be very difficult to get Google to put your website back into the listings and since the high majority of internet searches are on Google you definitely want to be there.

All of the strategies in SEM simply have one purpose, to get traffic to your website. Whether it is a direct result of the strategy or an indirect improvement of your websites search rankings with incoming links. Each one of these strategies can be very complex so I am not going to go into detail on each one. Much of SEM can be done by anyone if they are willing to invest the time and effort just like SEO. Again many companies outsource SEM because it is a daunting task to stay on top of.

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