So everyone wants to drive more traffic to their websites, right? But the real question there is how should you go about that process? Of course, there are multiple options – integrating social media, inviting guest bloggers to write for you, among others. However, perhaps the most popular option is to start up an advertising campaign. This is an easy way to drive the most people to your website. Unfortunately this brings up another set of options concerning how to go about the ad campaign. In this post we will delve into two options: search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

What is SEO?

At its simplest, search engine optimization is the process of making your website more visible when people use a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo). Website owners don’t have to pay anything to use it, and it involves using “organic” or “natural” keywords and links.

This begs another question: what do the terms “organic” and “natural” mean in this sense? In essence, it’s advertising you do yourself. In order to appear at the top of search results, you must utilize key words, titles of blog posts or articles, and take full advantage of back linking. Back linking is the act of using a hyperlink that connects back to your website. Many search engines consider websites with more back links to be more relevant and thus places them higher in search results.

What is SEM?

Search engine marketing is the paid, older brother of SEO. While SEM is the broader term, it mainly refers to paid ads that website owners purchase in order to position their website higher on search results. Through programs like Google AdWords, you can pay per click, and choose where your ad appears, as well as set a budget and track who is clicking on your ads. This allows you to create ads for select groups of people and only show the ads in certain places.

So which should you use?

There are many debates today about which of the above strategies is better in the long term for an ad campaign. Each has its own set of distinct advantages. SEO certainly takes a longer time to show any return on interest, however, if done right, you can reap the benefits. You just need patience, and somebody who knows the system. SEM, on the other hand, can be considered almost instant gratification. Anyone with a credit card can pay per click and then place their ads where they want them and see instant results.

You will need to sit down with your business plan and decide which of these options is for you. Many websites employ both of these, using SEO all of the time, and constantly improving on it, while they use SEM on a case-by-case basis. Any way you spin it, using SEO or SEM (or both!) will help to increase traffic to your site and improve visibility of it on search results.