What is SEO, SEM, and PPC?

Looking to learn what SEO, SEM, PPC mean for marketing your business online? Read on to learn definitions and how to talk to marketers about what you need.
What is SEO - Man raising one eyebrow while reading a map

So you’re looking to grow a local business. You know you need to make it look good, and you need to spread the word to new clients. Maybe you read our previous post about why Digital Marketing is essential for businesses, and you know that online marketing is the way to go to land among top results on Google, or to gain followers on Facebook and other social media sites.

But how do you talk to a digital marketing agency about what you need if you don’t know what to ask about? Terms like SEO, SEM, PPC—they start to look more like alphabet soup than crucial marketing tools. At Red Arrow Marketing, we are all about creating the most direct approach to helping you succeed. So read on for a handy guide to defining some of our most common industry terms, and check back for future posts as we continue to expand our glossary of terms.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

This is an overall term regarding a subset of digital marketing dealing specifically with search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc). You might have an award-winning website, but it will never make money for your business if people can’t find it online. Search engines are how most people (and potential customers) will find your website, and it’s the job of any good marketing agency to develop a strategy to help them do so. Make sure you discuss SEM with anyone you plan to have market your business. Find out what their plan is to deliver results.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

When you search on Google, it returns thousands of results and webpages matching what you’re looking for. Those first five links may be perfect for what you needed, but it didn’t happen by chance—those sites made it to the top of the list through a lot of behind-the-scenes work to become the most relevant answer.

Things like keywords, linking to other sites, and off-site advertising all contribute to how credible and popular a website is in the eyes of search engines. It also directly determines where your site will appear in a potential customer’s search results. Search Engine Optimization is all about ensuring your site has these tools in place to rank high in searches and drive traffic to your business.

Paid Advertising:

This is a broad term for any kind of advertising you pay for. It includes everything from billboards and door-hangers, to pop-ups on websites. Paid advertising is a component of any successful marketing campaign to improve the visibility of your business, but you don’t have to drop thousands of dollars a month in order to be successful.

We are in favor of using your dollars wisely in terms of when and where your paid ads are seen. Digital ads are one of the top ways to see a valuable return on your investment, measure customer response, and be able to course-correct and optimize your advertising as you go in order to get the most for your money.

PPC: Pay-Per-Click

This is a type of paid advertising that you probably see every time you use a search engine or open your browser. These are sponsored ads that appear in search results, and drive traffic to websites. Every time a user clicks the ad, the advertiser pays a small fee to the service where the ad was displayed.

This may sound costly on the front end, considering you pay for clicks whether or not the user opts for your service. But consider this example: if you gain 30 new visitors to your site at $1 per click, then you spend $30. If only 5 of them opt to do business with you, but your service averages $1,000 per job, you’ve only spent $30 in order to make $5000. And you’ve gained valuable traffic that boosts your visibility and makes paid advertising less necessary in the future. This is one strategy we recommend for many businesses, especially if you provide labor-intensive or contract-based services where earning new clients means a big payoff.

Organic Advertising:

Organic advertising encompasses all the ways you can promote your business without spending money for advertising. Things like word-of-mouth, social networking, in-person networking—these all spread the word without costing money. That is not to say that they’re free, however. Organic marketing takes a lot of work to be successful, and is much more hands-on than the passive nature of a billboard or PPC ads.

Things like blogging, posting on social media, and even mastering hashtags (what many know as the pound symbol #) can all bring visitors to your site if you’re willing to invest the time writing and connecting with your customers. For those of you who like the more personal approach of organic advertising but can’t spare the time, some digital marketers, including Red Arrow Marketing, offer blog and social media management as part of their marketing packages so your money funnels into keeping your current customer base happy and informed, and most importantly, telling their friends about you.

Keep in mind…

We love our work and never want the jargon to get in the way of people reaching out to us or asking questions. Our in-person meetings with clients are always clear-cut, and we don’t throw out terms expecting people to follow along. But we also know it’s easier to start a conversation armed with knowledge about the topic, so whether you’re interested in consulting with us on how best to grow your business’s online presence, or just looking to inform yourself better on digital marketing strategies, we aim to help you achieve your goals! Check out part 2 of our ongoing blog updates where we look at terms relating to SMM (Social Media Marketing), how hashtags work, and more.

If you liked this article and want to read more like it in the future, follow us on social media or check out our other free articles at the Red Arrow Blog!
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