SEM – otherwise called Search engine marketing, covers both SEO – search engine optimisation which is “organic” or “free” growth and paid search, also called ppc “pay per click”
It is important to understand the difference between the two which can be broken down into
With PPC you can increase the amount of traffic to your site much faster than with organic search. You can set up campaigns easily through google analytics or msn or yahoo.
However, if you have built your site to be seo friendly, then you will see people click on your organic search listing in google. Studies have shown people are more likely to click on the organic listings than the paid listings.
This brings us on the point 2.
The paid ads are located in the top ad sections on a search result and in the right hand column where it says sponsored links.
The organic listings are below the sponsored link section. Most people only view the first page, so it is very important for your ad to appear on page 1. Anything lower down may not be seen,
PPC stands for pay per click, everytime someone clicks on your ad, it costs you. The cost per click is dependent on the compeittion for the keywords you have bid for. The trick is to bid for the keywords that have the highest search volume but the lowest competition. Easier said than done, I know. With PPC you need to monitor your keywords closely, as competition for the words can change, one day it could be 25p a click and the next it could be 75p.
SEO costs in terms of time. You need to build your site to be seo friendly from day one, which means including the meta data, increasing links to your site. If you do not have this, then yes it may cost you a lot to implement it. But if you start off from day one with SEO in mind then you will not have to encur expensive seo consultant fees.
This leads us on to the fourth and final difference.
With PPC you can get to a high ranking quite quickly. Simply open up an account with a search engine such as google adwords and bid for the keywords you want to use in your ad. You may need to pay a lot for your ad especially if there is a lot of competition, but then you will get a lot more traffic to your site.
SEO on the other hand, takes a lot longer. As I mentioned, you should build the site with SEO in mind from day one. Using all the meta data, submitting site map to google, updating the site with rich and dynamic content, maybe even having a blog. This way you will be able to create traffic to your site from day 1 and if you want to increase traffic for specific periods like Christmas or summer sales you could also use PPC.