Tuesday, October 25, 2005

SEO and SEA Comparision

There is a great deal of confusion about terminology in the search engine space, with marketers frequently using terms interchangeably and inaccurately.

To get on the same page, here are definitions for Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is the broad term that covers any type of marketing via search engines, and the two disciplines that comprise it: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Advertising (SEA).

SEO / Search Engine Optimization, makes a website more attractive to the search engines. The key areas of importance to search engines:

  • page-specific title tags
  • visible text (the copy that a person would read on a web page)
  • in-bound links from quality sites
  • Clean programming
  • Fresh content

You will frequently hear SEO results called “natural,’ “organic,” or “editorial” listings because these are the results that the search engines pull up themselves—no one has paid the search engines for the rankings or positions in the results.

Search Engine Advertising, also called SEA or “Pay Per Click” Advertising, on the other hand, is advertising. Specifically, it’s purchasing, through a real-time auction process, keywords on the major search engines. When a potential buyer enters, for example, “widgets,” ads for widgets would appear near but not mixed in with the “natural” listings generated by SEO. With SEA, you only pay for the ad when the consumer clicks on it.

Below is a graph showing where on Google, as a search engine example, the results of optimization and SEA campaigns appear:

So how do marketers achieve these positions in the search engine listings?

Like public relations or media relations programs, SEO campaigns take time to take hold, with success building steadily over several months. SEO is a new and detailed discipline requiring experts who invest heavily in constantly researching to stay abreast of the changes the search engines make to their algorithms that determine which sites get the highest rankings.
Also, like public relations, SEO is not a one-time event. Ongoing work is required to generate in-bound links from other sites, analyze the competitive environment, optimize new site content and make recommendations for improving performance through a variety of on and off-site programs.

SEA is a highly dynamic environment, with advertisers continually updating their bids, jockeying for position in the paid listings, and rewriting their ads to get a higher ROI. This means that you should be actively monitoring your ads, adjusting bids to maintain optimal positions (not just clicks, but conversions too) and suggesting copy changes on a regular basis to ensure your programs are delivering for you.

Here is a snapshot view of the SEO=PR/SEA=Advertising comparison that many marketers have found useful:


Studies repeatedly show that most consumers click on SEO results before they will click on paid ads (SEA) and that once SEO takes hold, for most categories it is more cost-effective than SEA.

That being said, many marketers are finding that SEA is great for launching or increasing a presence on the search engines and using it as a complement to their SEO programs.

No comments:

Post a Comment