Searching for Oneself – The Battle of SEO Vs. SEM

The first words a company – whether it’s a one man operation or an international conglomeration – is going to ask its marketing department when starting a campaign is typically, “How much is this going to cost me?” In today’s world of social media presence being “THE” thing, and search engines like Google running the place, the answer to that question isn’t always straightforward. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, always seems like the best answer, especially if your marketing department consists of, well, you. It’s free and relatively easy, right? Not always. And let’s not forget the old adage, you must spend money to make money. That is where SEM, Search Engine Marketing, comes into play. And spending that little bit can get you big returns quickly.

While SEO doesn’t cost you hard, cold cash at its offset, it DOES cost something that may be just as, if not more, valuable – time and energy. If you are working to build a small local business, something that generates traffic to your website organically, rather than through paying for advertising, may seem like the best – sometimes only – option. However, chances are you are working day and night at the business side of your business, with little time to spare on blogging, ensuring your website is relevant and current, and developing keyword search strategies with the analyzed data that you collect every day. And, yes, in order to see long term returns on your investment into SEO, those are just the beginning. When I say “long term”, I do mean it – as Charlie Rose notes in his 2018 article “SEO 101: How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working?”, those seeking to see results from their hard work at SEO shouldn’t expect to see them for four to six months – at a minimum (Rose, 2018). Rose also links the graphic below from Search Engine Land, which is a great tool to helping folks begin their SEO journey, as well as getting a comprehensive checklist of what the right stuff is. It can be done – with little to no upfront capital – but unrealistic expectations can frustrate the best of us, and this is a long haul approach to marketing.

When you get to that final page of Google Ads asking you to enter your credit card information, you cringe while doing it. What if there are a ton of clicks that lead to nothing? The truth is, this is a possibility – however highly unlikely. With the right keywords, targeting your market well and efficiently – partnered with great content written, a strong social media presence and a killer website – the PPC (pay per click) approach is a very wise and low risk financial investment. But wait? Everything mentioned is exactly the same recipe for a great SEO campaign too, right? That’s absolutely correct. The key is a combination of these two – developing a great SEO strategy can help your business retain its growth in the long term, while SEM can help cut down on the time it takes to build that momentum, by placing your business front and center quicker.

The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Rose, C. (2018, January 15). SEO 101: How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working? • SEO Mechanic. Retrieved from


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