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SEO vs Google Ads (SEM)? What grows your business more?

Here we are several months into the corona virus pandemic, and the second wave has arrived. What does this have to do with SEO vs SEM? Businesses internationally are looking for ways to digitally market their brand, products and services. Gone are the days of door to door knocking. Gone are the days of shaking hands with prospective clients. Welcome to 2020. Where your digital presence is your key tool to attract leads and build your business.


Google has two types of search results: paid and organic. Paid results show up when companies pay Google for clicks. Organic results are the ones that Google deems most relevant for the query and these clicks do not incur a cost.


If you're a business owner, you can boost your website traffic by appearing in organic and paid results using SEO and SEM. To simplify the discussion, we know that a well managed Google Ads campaign is KING of SEM, so we will compare SEO vs Google Ads.

The obvious question comes to mind for any business owner... Should I invest in SEO or Google Ads?


Well, the answer is BOTH!


Lets have a look at the differences and why the smart business never puts all its eggs in one basket.


First, here are the basics:

What Is SEO?


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the ability to optimise your local map listings and website in a way that Google believes you are the best result when people are searching.

SEO Pros:

  • Free, unlimited clicks

  • Cost-effective

  • Long-term strategy

  • More people click organic results than Google Ad results

  • Increases traffic

  • Increases branding

SEO Cons:

  • Can take a very long time

  • Big investment if you are in a competitive niche

  • Google algorithm changes


What is SEM(Google Ads)?


Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is marketing method where you can pay to have your company listed on top of other search results. Google Ads is a type of SEM and the most effective.


SEM Pros:

  • Fast rankings

  • Easy niche targeting

  • Keyword targeting

  • Fast results

SEM Cons:

  • Pricey

  • Difficult to manage

  • Competition also has access

And some more useful comparisons:

  • Google Adwords ads appear on the top and bottom of Google Search Results and under certain conditions you can get one of those ad positions, but with SEO you have to work much harder to get one of the top positions in the organic search results.

  • Google Adwords is more immediate than SEO since you can create advertising campaigns almost instantly and start getting targeted traffic while with SEO you need a lot more time (especially for new websites) to get good rankings and traffic.

  • With Google Adwords, it is easier to calculate the ROI (return on investment) while with SEO it is more difficult because there are a lot more factors that play a role and not just ad spending and revenue.

  • When you stop your Google AdWords campaigns, traffic also stops but once you start getting organic traffic with SEO, this will continue long term.

  • With Google Adwords, you can target many keywords at the same time while with SEO you need to focus on a few keywords for best results.

  • With Google Adwords, you can advertise on other Google websites, but the results from SEO only show up in the Google search results page.


Now that we know the basics, lets get back to the question. Which is better for your business? Like we said earlier, the answer is BOTH, but not always. It all depends on two critical factors:

Factor 1: How much competition is there in your niche industry?


Here is a simple example. If your business sells basic 'black shoes', Google returns 1.46 BILLION results....with a B! Obviously you have a lot of competition to sell your basic black shoes.

Now, if your business sells 'black shoes with carbon fibre soles', Google returns only 8 Million results worldwide. That means your competition is 99.995% LESS than basic black shoes.


How this simple example translates into SEO vs SEM is simple, and is a good general rule of thumb for your business too (take note folks).

1) For industries or keywords that are too competitive: Invest more in Google Ads, and invest less in SEO initially. Ramp up your long-term SEO investment gradually.

2) For industries or keywords that do not have much competition: Invest in a lightweight Google Ads campaign. Invest heavily into SEO from the start.


Factor 2: Short term vs long term results.

Paid ads usually charge you for a click, while SEO doesn’t require you to pay for impressions or clicks. However, do keep in mind that quality SEO isn’t exactly free. You will have to invest time and money into getting the desired results. That result should be increasing your ranking in google search results for your products and services. If you’re not an SEO expert, then you would have to work with a reputable SEO company to manage it for you.

Having said that, search engine optimisation can give you a better return on your investment when compared to paid advertising in the long term. It lets you tweak your efforts and improve your results over-time without losing much. What’s more, with a bit of patience, it even gives better return than pay per click advertising in the long run. However, it will pay off! And the cost in the long term is also generally lower than paid advertising.


So, lets just summarise:

SEO Strategy is for the long-term.

Google Ads Strategy is for the short-medium term.

Again, your business must obviously weigh up its short term and long term goals and with that in mind, work with an experienced digital marketing agency to follow through and implement a sound strategy.


The ones with guts and courage get to the top of Google. The ones with guts and courage and patience have what it takes to follow through with a plan. Just ask Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos. Once upon a time, this man was so hard up that he didn't have money for a business banner. Amazon is now #1 in all SEO organic search engine results in basically ALL industries worldwide. He had to spray paint his business name onto his garage wall. He had a vision. He partnered with intelligent agencies. He succeeded.


Be like Jeff.

Finally, digital marketing isn’t a never-ending tug-of-war between SEO and Google Ads. Knowing when and how to use each one is the key to reach your business goals.

Sometimes SEO is the best, sometimes Google Ads, and sometimes both.


Looking to learn more about SEO? Read This.

Or more about Google Ads? Read This.

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