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SEO and SEM Defined

SEO and SEM Defined

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

is the use of search engines to draw traffic to a web site. It is the technique of attaining a higher ranking in search engines and directories via changes to a site to make it more search engine compatible.

Mainly, it deals with spider-based search engines (i.e. those that find, read and index your site automatically). However, if your site is content-rich and well optimized, it will also gain a lot more weight when a human editor browses your resource and ranks it appropriately for a directory. With the directories, it is as important as with the spider-based engines that your site is error-free, your content is relevant, and your link popularity is considerable.

Search Engine Optimization is important as it helps you get traffic for free. You may discover that you can obtain the same or even more visitors by optimization alone, without having to pay for advertising. Many Web surfers tend to ignore paid (sponsored) results displayed by the search engines, yet if your site appears on the top of the first page of SE results for their query, you are almost certain to turn those searchers into visitors.

It is vital for every business, small as well as medium and large, to take into consideration how its Web site ranks in the major search engines and directories. Many companies underestimate the importance of search engines and fail to understand the ranking process so they end up ignoring what may be the most crucial ingredient of Internet marketing strategy.

Unless you sell something so unique you've got no competition, there will always be at least hundreds of sites offering the same products and services. Actually, depending on the specificity of the offering, the number of competition may vary from thousands to millions. Most of them are taken into consideration by the search engine together with your site. Did you ever ask yourself how high your chances are to bring your message to the casual Web surfer searching Google for the keywords denoting your service? If you are reading this material, you probably have.

A recent U.S. study has found that the World Wide Web contains more than 2.1 billion documents and is growing at the rate of seven million pages per day (according to

If you work for or run a large company and its rankings are not in the top-10 for the related keywords, your company's prestige and reputation is seriously damaged. If a business's rankings for related keywords are lower than top-30, it might as well be invisible on the Web. Research has shown that users hardly ever go beyond the top 30 search engine rankings for a single search (according to Forrester Research Inc.). It is estimated that the top 30 results receive over 90% of search traffic.

Here's how Internet consumers mostly find Web sites, according to the survey of Forrester Research Inc.:
Search engines: 81%
Link from another site: 59%
Viral marketing (word of mouth): 56%
TV: 48%
Guessed URL: 41%
Online advertising: 20%
Radio: 19%
Direct mail: 10%

So, SEO is what helps you bring your message to the broadest and most targeted audience. SEO helps you not to get lost in the huge amount of competition.

The other reasons to consider are listed below:


SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Search Marketing has become a buzzword that is now heard from hither and yon many times a day. Here we give you an exact definition of what it refers to, and an idea about how it relates both to Web Search and Web Marketing.

Search Marketing is also known as Search Engine Marketing, so we will refer to is as SEM throughout this course. The definitions that follow are the basics; if you are an expert / advanced Search Marketer, you can skip these terms; otherwise we recommend that you read and understand them.

Search Marketing is a part of a business's marketing efforts that is aimed at increasing the traffic (number of visitors) to your Web site from the search engines, as well as their conversion (the percent of visitors who become buyers). The first is achieved by increasing your search engine visibility, i.e. the position of your site in the search engine results for certain keywords people type in the search box to obtain these results. For instance, if someone wants to find and buy a digital camera, they will go to a search engine such as Google and type "digital camera" in the search box. Google will list, in this case, 42 million results (these are the real figures extracted while creating this course). If you sell digital cameras or offer any services related to them, your site may be listed among these 42,000,000 results. And here, everything depends on how deep you are. If you are on the first or second page of the search results, it's more likely that such visibility will bring you many visitors and customers from Google. If you are the 300th result, it's unlikely that anyone will come to you from Google at all.

Together with the power and size of your banner / ad network, the SE visibility makes part of a broader concept – Web visibility (aka Online visibility).

Let's return to Search Marketing. Mainly, it comprises two ways to increase your search engine visibility, traffic and conversion. One of them is improving your organic search engine rankings, the second is paid listing and advertising.

Organic rankings are what you get for free. That is, you create Web copy and publish it, then after a certain period of time a search engine robot finds it (either by itself or as a result of your submission). Finally, the robot reads your content and puts your site into its index. Now your site will be found by this search engine when people query for some words contained within your pages. Obtained this way, your positions in the result list are called your "organic search engine rankings".

Paid listings are different: you pay the search engine and it guarantees the inclusion of your site in the index. Moreover, many search engines offer advanced pay-for-performance programs, such as showing your site / ad in the search results for the keywords of your choice. These are the so-called "sponsored" results. Most commonly, you will have to pay a specified rate for each visitor that comes to your site from this search engine by clicking on these ads.

The aim of SEM is to find a proper balance between organic and paid listings. This goal is broken down into several more specific aims in both directions:

For organic listings:

  1. Improve traffic quantity: get as much traffic as possible;
  2. Improve traffic quality: get high rankings for exactly those keywords that bring you visitors with the best conversion rate.

For paid listings:

  1. Decrease expenditures by switching off advertising for underperforming keywords;
  2. Improve conversion by choosing the right keywords to target (as well as the right search engines themselves, of course).

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