SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Best Option During COVID-19?

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March 23, 2020

Now, more than ever, businesses are left scrambling trying to decide what to cut out of the budget- and what not to. With COVID-19 essentially closing the world down, many consumers- if not all- are turning to online. Let's go over SEO vs. SEM so you can make a choice that's best for you and your business during these uncertain times.

When using a search engine like Google, you get two results - paid and organic. The paid result seems obvious, but the organic result is more involved. You can use a combination of SEO, PPC, and SEM to rank in search results. Knowing the difference between SEO vs. SEM can help you make an educated decision to help your business stay in good ranking even if you're closed down.

What is SEO?


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search engines look at hundreds of factors to choose which website pages rank for searches. Nobody knows exactly what the factors are, but they can be ranked into three categories. On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, and Technical SEO are three categories that can help your ranking.

1. On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO is the process of optimizing your individual web pages. This can include, but is not limited to the following:

Exploring a Topic In-depth

You’d be surprised how good a well-written article can be for your website. Oftentimes, people searching will be looking for information, not necessarily looking to buy. The articles you post on your site will bring them to your website. Your product will keep them there and help them find what they’re looking for.

Inserting Keywords in the Most Important Places

Writing in-depth articles includes researching and choosing the right keywords. These keywords will help your search engine results work their way to the top.

Using Appropriate Alt Descriptions Under Images

Alt descriptions for images are a great way to get website traffic. When people search for images, they want the picture itself, embedded in your webpage. Alt descriptions turn the images on your page into hyperlinked search results. This is one more way to get visitors to your website.

Matching Search Intent

This helps search engines choose the most relevant websites per search. Google wants to make sure that the searches match up with the right results. Searchers looking up “replacement parts for Chevys” don’t want a hit on "Chevys Fresh Mex.”

Writing Simple Content That is Easy to Read

The average reader reads at an eighth-grade level. This means that content has to be simple enough that most anyone can read it. People don’t want to struggle through an article with a dictionary by their side. Make it interesting without making it difficult to understand.

Using Short and Eye-Catching Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are the webpage summaries that sit underneath the link in the search results. Have you ever looked at the meta description to help choose the link you want? The perfect meta description is the difference between Googlers choosing your website over your competitors.

Writing Eye-Catching Title Tags

Title tags are the HTML that you use to specify the title of the webpage. An enticing title tag adds to what the searcher can see on the results page. If the title tag is interesting, there’s a better chance of it being clicked on.

2. Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is the process behind the scenes of the website that improves its rankings. This can include the following:

  • Using backlinks from relevant and trusted websites
  • Gaining brand mentions
  • Creating citations
  • Obtaining positive reviews
  • Giving your Google My Business Listing a boost in optimization

All of these factors will show search engines that your website is worth indexing. You aren’t a random company just trying to get hits on the search results. Instead, you have a reliable website that anyone can use to find what they need. Searchers want to get in and get out feeling like they accomplished something.

3. Technical SEO

Search engines crawl, index, and rank your content. Crawling is when the search engine looks over your website. It then brings the contents of your page into its index. The bigger your site is, the longer it takes the search engine to crawl it. Technical SEO makes technical changes that help the search engines crawl more efficiently. Other technical optimizations include:

Applying Hreflang Tags for Multilingual Content

If your webpage displays content in many different languages, you’ll need to use hreflang. It specifies the geographical targeting and language of a website. You use the hreflang tag so Google knows you have content in multiple languages. If a search occurs in Spain, Google puts your Spanish content on the results page.

Utilizing Canonical Tags

To keep duplicate content from showing up in a search, websites use canonical tags. If you have duplicate, near-duplicate, or similar pages, that’s alright. Just add the canonical tag, a small piece of HTML code, to your main page. That tells the search engine the main page you want it to index.

“Noindexing” Thin Content
Noindexing keeps search engines from indexing pages you want to keep out of the search.

Enhancing Robots.txt for Crawl Efficiency

Robots.txt files tell the search engines which pages they can access and which they cannot. It lists the content you want to keep away from search engines.

What is SEM?

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. It combines SEO and PPC to get you results for your website. SEO vs. SEM, therefore, might be the wrong answer. If we had to choose we would pick SEO, but combine the two and you're going to see great results.

What is PPC?

PPC stands for Pay Per Click. It’s advertising that businesses pay for to get their website clicks within platforms like search engines. For example, the top two hits on Google are paid for by their companies. PPC is a part of SEM.

SEO vs. SEM: Which Should You Use?

You might be thinking, “Organic results seem a lot harder than what I can handle. If I can pay to put my results on top, isn’t that easier?” While paying for results is quick and easy, it’s not always the best solution. As soon as you stop paying, those results go away.

Using SEO brings your website to the top of the results list, where it stays. SEO can put your website on the top and keep it on top. SEM means paying for SEO and PPC, doubling your cost. While this is a great short term solution, it's unrealistic long-term.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the SEO vs. SEM decision, you’re not alone. Optimizing your own website takes time and knowledge of the process. That’s where ALYKY comes in. We audit your site, analyze the data, and strategize to put you ahead of competitors. We can show you the ropes to SEO and save you money in the process.

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