What is the difference between SEM and SEO?
These two terms are often used, if not interchangeably, then certainly in unified fashion, but there are differences between these approaches. “SEO,” or “search engine optimization,” focuses upon building your Website (and filling it with content) in such a way as to encourage search engines to pay more attention to it. It’s the man in a costume standing on a streetcorner, extolling the virtues of his employer’s business to passers-by. SEM, or “search engine marketing,” is the shady fellow who quietly slips individual customers who look like they’re considering going in a $5 or a $10 bill -- in return for their going in and having a look around. It involves paid advertisements that appear at the top of search results.
Is SEM effective by itself? What should I combine it with for the best effect?
SEM is effective, although it’s more of a short-term boost to your website’s traffic than a long-term one. To make it long-term, you’ll want to combine your SEM campaign with a good, SEO-optimized online presence. To help retain the traffic that you pull in through the use of your combined SEO/SEM approach, you’ll want to have a strong content strategy and an inbound-focused philosophy. Like the tools in a handyman’s toolbox, each of these items has a specific function… but to build a house, you’re going to have to put them all to work.
How important is SEM, really?
You can never have “enough people” giving your website thoughtful consideration. Traffic boosts sales, but a visit to your website is no guarantee that a person is going to spend money. Whatever your turnover rate, you want that traffic flow -- the base from which all other considerations are derived -- to be as high as possible. Since many of the methods used to boost traffic are passive, and once implemented can have long-term effects on the sustainability of a heightened traffic flow, it makes sense to focus on having as strong a search-engine marketing strategy as you can muster.