I’m not on vacation but I feel a little like sailing today, so you’ll have to excuse my poor attempts to try out some maritime language and themes. Let’s see how long you can handle it. When I started in digital marketing I directly heard of SEO, that was like 12 years ago but only since a short while I have been dabbling in SEA and I know how it feels when you don’t know which is which – so here’s my article for you, that you can look up when you’re not sure about the difference of SEO and SEA and I’ll not tell anybody. We’ve all been there. Online I can find a lot of SEO vs SEM content but this didn’t make sense to me as I consider SEO as part of SEM. This is why I took some time to prepare a SEO vs SEA article and hope it’ll be useful for you.
What’s the difference between SEA and SEO
Every fresh sailing recruit of digital marketing has to start somewhere. Navigating the stormy seas of digital marketing can be a daunting task. With so many acronyms floating around, it’s easy to feel lost. But fear not, we’re here to help you steer your ship toward the shores of online success. Let’s set sail and explore two essential components of search engine marketing (SEM): search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine advertising (SEA). This article is more of an explainer and maybe the next time we will talk about SEO strategies and beyond just knowing what the acronyms entail. If we look at SEA and SEO as a big part of the SEM family, and digital marketing as a discipline on a high level, how can we distinguish SEO from SEA?
Anchoring your presence with SEO
Think of SEO as the anchor of your digital marketing strategy. But you want to anchor in your favorite spot, being most likely as high up on a search engine results page (SERP) as possible. It’s about playing the long game, steadily building up your website’s appeal to search engines like Google. As your site becomes more attractive to these online giants, you’ll start climbing higher in search results, which can lead to an increase in organic traffic. Even if you decide to hire an SEO agency or a partner to support you with digital marketing services, it’s better to know what the terms mean before you outsource marketing or hire a company for SEO services.
Navigating SEO waters
So, how do you support SEO? It all starts with keyword research. Understanding the terms your target audience uses when searching online is crucial. These keywords are like the coordinates guiding your SEO journey. Next, you need to create high-quality, relevant content that incorporates these keywords. This content is your compass, helping search engines understand what your site is about and pointing users in your direction.
Common platforms for facilitating your SEO efforts include Google Analytics, Moz, SEMRush, and others. These tools provide valuable insights into keyword performance, backlink quality, and other essential SEO metrics. If you’re already using HubSpot anyway, might also be worth checking into their new SEO tools as well – I thought those are quite helpful as well but this is not a platform recommendation article.
Setting sail with SEA
While SEO is your anchor, SEA is your sail. Or much rather your speedboat? It’s all about immediate visibility, harnessing the power of paid advertising to propel your website onto search engine results pages. Once your ad campaign is approved and launched, you’re off to the races.
Charting your SEA course
Supporting SEA involves crafting compelling ads and selecting appropriate keywords. These elements are like the wind in your sails, driving your ad campaign forward. Platforms such as Google Ads and Bing Ads are your navigation tools for SEA. They allow you to manage your campaigns, track their performance, and adjust your course as necessary.
Navigating regional currents
It’s important to remember that the digital marketing seascape isn’t the same everywhere. While Google may reign supreme in many parts of the world, it’s not the top dog everywhere. In China, Baidu takes the helm, and in Russia, Yandex holds the rudder.
So, your SEO and SEA strategies need to account for these regional differences. For more details and information on what search engines beyond Google are out there in the world, make sure you also read the TechAcute article on this subject “10 of the Most Popular Search Engines Globally“.
Predicting future tides: Bing on the horizon?
Some industry insiders speculate that Bing could gain more popularity in the future, especially with its integration of the GPT-4 powered AI chatbot. Google’s AI tool, Bard, hasn’t enjoyed the same warm reception, which could sway user preferences in the coming years.
Balancing SEO and SEA: A dynamic duo
Are you all SEO specialists yet? While SEO and SEA each have their strengths, the most effective strategy often involves a combination of both. Think of it this way: SEO is like a long-term investment, continually adding value to your website even after you stop actively supporting it. On the other hand, SEA provides an immediate return on investment, but its benefits dwindle once you stop funding the campaign. In other words, SEA might give you a bigger instant effect, but SEO has a longer-lasting value.
By balancing long-term organic growth with immediate visibility, you can create a robust, sustainable digital marketing strategy that rides the waves of online success. If you have to decide on only one of the two disciplines I would put all my effort into SEO, but if you have extra budget, you can definitely leverage the best of both worlds but you have to be smart about it. Remember, whether you’re anchoring your presence with SEO or setting sail with SEA, both strategies are vital in navigating the vast ocean of digital marketing.
Photo credit: The feature image is symbolic and has been done by Christopher Isak with Midjourney for TechAcute.