Big business, small business, and every business in between all have one thing in common, an online presence is mandatory if they want to maintain profitability. Worldwide, the internet has changed the way people shop, hire contractors and live their everyday lives and if you want to sell your product/ service, you have to go where the people are.
You created the website, it is professional looking and well laid out so how do you get people to visit? Something has to point the way to your particular corner of online real estate and the travel guide is the internet search engines, the most well-known of which is Google.
Search engines use complex algorithms to determine who ranks where. This is done through a combination of factors such as keywords, inbound and outbound links and much more.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a process by which you or a professional of your choosing revamp your business website to make it as friendly to the search engines as humanly possible while maintaining a customer focus. This is done through the proper use of H1 and H2 headers, keyword involvement, links and backlinks, a well-formatted URL and so much more.
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a much simpler process by which you simply pay to get your website link placed at the top of the search engine results. It is not free as you will pay every time someone clicks on your link, thereby giving it the name pay per click (PPC).
Which is Better?
Many small online businesses will utilize both processes, but if you are in the position of deciding on one over the other, the answer is what do you hope to accomplish? SEM will get you near-instant results and the bulk of your traffic will be targeted. This can jump-start your cash flow and really put you on the internet map. Of course, as soon as you stop paying for the campaign, your visibility vanishes.
On the other hand, small business SEO is a long-term strategy to build your visibility somewhat organically. Climbing up the internet search engine results is rarely a sprint. It will take time but once you reach the top, you will have a much easier time staying there and your traffic will not cost you on a per click basis.
The real question is do you have to choose? Both small business SEO and SEM have associated costs and accomplish the same goal, getting traffic to your website, so why not use both? As you are optimizing your website with SEO, utilize SEM to get some immediate results, and once you are organically at the top of the search engine, you can drop the pay per click model.
If you simply have to choose between SEO and SEM, the smart money is on small business SEO. Search engine optimization is a long-term solution but it also provides long-term results. Small business is like any other business today, you have to be approachable online. Once upon a time, business was conducted locally but today it is conducted at least nationally, if not globally, which means an online presence is mandatory to stay competitive.