Depending on your short-term and long-term goals, it is important for you to understand that Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are closely related and symbiotic in nature.
SEM – Adwords, YPN, & site advertising, builds qualified short-term traffic. While it is possible to build steady, targeted traffic implementing SEM alone, it can be extremely expensive and is good only for as long as you pay for it. Once you stop paying, the traffic disappears. The amount and quality of traffic you receive depends heavily on targeting the correct keywords. Knowing what keywords to target is the most important factor in receiving lots of targeted traffic from your SEM campaign. When considering the costs of an SEM campaign, it is important to note that even if you have a unique edge, if you are in a highly competitive industry, the costs and competition for the targeted keywords and market will increase as well.
SEO will be a key factor in creating long-term, organic (natural) traffic. There are three characteristics of sites that have this type of traffic: First, a site should have good, relevant, appropriate content. Second, a site must be optimized for search engines; including site structure optimization, content optimization, link structure optimization, error free W3C compliant code, and offloaded scripts. Third, a strong number of back links (the number of links required to rank well for any one keyword), is heavily dependent on the market niche itself and requires a good bit of research. Retaining organic search traffic depends on whether or not search engines believe your site is still relevant when they periodically re-index. Sustained relevancy requires a modest effort in continued content building over a period of time. Capturing new, organic search engine traffic from this point forward, all depends on the relevancy of continued content creation as related to the terms by which people are using to find your site on an on-going basis. Building authority with the search engines and a strong web presence takes strategic planning.
Converting traffic to leads or sales depends on how professional and trustworthy your site appears to be to the traffic it receives. Just as a face-to-face meeting or a sales call, you have one chance to make a first impression. You have one chance to show a site visitor your product is the solution to their problem and that you can fulfill their need; that you are trustworthy.
An easy way to understand the difference between SEM and SEO – SEM is traffic that you are paying for and chase, while SEO is traffic that comes to you naturally. Having an effective online marketing campaign is not a static process. The dynamics change and it is important to be flexible and pro-active in your efforts. A combination of a good SEM campaign and solid SEO characteristics will enable you to have solid, long-term, convertible, profitable traffic. The more SEM you have to use, the higher your conversion costs are per new client.