The ROI Myth Busted: SEO vs SEM

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are both intrinsic components of Internet marketing efforts. But there is some confusion regarding which is a better strategy in return on investment (ROI) terms.

THE ROI Myth Busted:  SEO vs SEM

SEO ProcessReturn on investment (ROI) is one of the deciding factors for any strategy involving investment of resources. For quite sometime now, a debate has been raging on whether search engine optimization (SEO) has a better return on investment (ROI) than search engine marketing (SEM).

It has actually become a bit of a myth that it is easier to obtain good ROI through SEO than it is to gain the same ROI through SEM. Two facts have helped develop this myth — SEM involves click costs while SEO works through free traffic.

If you take a closer look you will see that this myth doesn’t have any truth in it and there are many reasons for this. However, in this article, we will address just one reason: the ‘landing page difference’.

In SEM, you decide the landing page your visitors will see. In SEO, a search engine spider decides on the landing page visitors will see. There’s a difference in control, and that distinction makes all the difference in the world. That’s why serious search engine marketing service providers choose full blown SEM rather than just SEO.

Using a good search engine marketing strategy can optimize your landing page. A search engine spider won’t.

Searchers, after all, are people with itchy back-button fingers. If they go to a site and don’t think it’s the very best site for them, they’ll revisit the search engine results page – and visit your competitors’ link – in a matter of seconds.

But if your landing page is optimized for the keywords the searchers choose, and the ad copy the searchers see, then you have the opportunity to tell a new visitor, immediately, that he/she’s arrived at the right place.

SEM Campaign CycleNo matter how amazing your site is, that’s a message that visitors want to hear. Because people don’t just want to see a good landing page, they need to see a relevant landing page.

In both SEO and SEM, you only hit ROI if your searchers convert. A search engine marketing service provider might require a higher initial investment than an SEO firm does (because SEM requires the management cost, plus the PPC cost; while SEO only costs the price of management alone) – but you’re also likely to gain better conversions through SEM, because you’re likely to acquire better landing pages through SEM. And it’s only conversions that will get you ROI.

And that makes a huge difference when it comes down to ROI.

Am I saying that getting the best optimal SEO possible isn’t worthwhile?

Absolutely not!

The more real estate you take up in the search engine results page, the better. It will plant your brand in the psyche of the browsers making your website easier to recall when they would require services/products you offer.

So good SEO is absolutely vital to strong internet marketing! But saying that SEO will get better ROI than SEM – because organic traffic is free – ignores one of the most important element of SEM: control. And its that control that makes all the difference between getting traffic, and getting traffic that converts.


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