SEO, SEM, What are they?


What is SEO and SEM

And how do they help my business

SEO is Search Engine Optimisation

SEM is Search Engine Marketing

The two terms are often used interchangeably by some people who approach small business owners. They are in fact not the same thing. Very often they are also accompanied by the promise or guarantee of 1st place on google, ranking on page 1 etc. These sorts of statements should be approached with a fair amount of skepticism. Especially if your industry is in a competition heavy keyword category.  Often what is more important for your business is the amount of keyword search volumes that your primary and long tail keywords return, the click through rate and the conversion rate once on your website.

SEO is a fairly complex, ongoing list of tasks that aim to increase the technical aspects of your website as well as the over all search visibility for your brand and associated online profiles. SEO falls into two areas, technical or on-page and off-page while SEM different again.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO otherwise known as on-page SEO is all about making sure the infrastructure is aligned and working. There is no point asking the search engines to crawl and rank your website if it isn’t upto what they expect. Search engines use complex algorithms to determine the rankings for a website when certain keywords and phrases are entered into a search box. These search algorithms are proprietary information but are discussed, dissected and reviewed constantly. Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s web spam team – currently on leave) being the most obvious one. Take a look at Matt’s blog here. From this information we have the understanding that what helps a website and its content rank best is making that content for users. And making that content easy to find and easy to understand.

An excellent example I came across the other day of how not to do on-page seo went a little like this. The site had a lovely big image of a product taken straight from a camera that came in at 1.5MB’s and took 10 seconds to load, and was called 34332432aabvddd.jpg with no description what so ever.

What was wrong with this is, the time to load, the file size, the lack of a description. Trying to load this on a mobile device would have chewed through bandwidth, and while the picture looked pretty most people would not have stuck around to wait for it to finish loading. Generally as a good rule of thumb you have about 3-4 seconds to make people want to stay on your website. They came there to get information what ever that information may be, they want it, if they don’t get it quickly they are off.

So what is Technical SEO?  It can be simplified into a list:-

  • Technical state of website – metatags, Alt’s etc
  • Keywords – Volumes, competition etc
  • Content Strategy – Blogs, images, new content
  • Analytics – Understand the current traffic, sources, conversions
  • Webmaster/search Console – Current links, actions, alerts, previous history

On-Page/On-Site/Technical SEO is roughly 35% of how search engines rank your site. It is an Investment that will continue to provide returns over time. And something that if your serious about your online website you need to work on for the long term.

Off-Page SEO

Off-Page SEO is pretty much well everything about your website that doesn’t involve being on your website. Off-site or Off-Page means just that, things that can be done to help your website’s search visibility outside of the page. This would include link building, content sharing on social media networks, online directories, bookmarking sites, customer reviews, and brand mentions. And lastly guest blogging.

This is a fairly wide ranging set of tasks that cover a broad reach. Blogging alone is something that can create a huge amount of interest and buzz around your brand if it is done right and shared. Blogging on another website such as an industry blog would allow many more people to see your brand mentioned than if you simply shared on your social media pages. And these people would often be ones who aren’t currently following or aware of your business.

Online directories, Yelp, Hot frog the Sensis network as examples allow people to search for your type of product or service with out actually having to know specifically about your business. It is another resource, to get your name, your brand into the online market place.

And all those links from all those websites, give your website positive ranking power back to your page and site. This is one of the many factors that Google and others look at when determining your ranking.

Off-Page SEO is what makes up the other 65% of Search Engine Rankings. While it may seem the greater value and therefore the one you put the most effort into, you can’t have one with out the other. 


Search Engine Marketing is a term that is often used interchangeably with SEO. There are some similarities but essentially SEM is paying for ads. These ads are usually on the search engine results page or a search engine partner page.

SEM can include aspects of SEO. Google and in there Adwords platform do indicate that a landing page for an ad that uses words and themes that are the same as or similar in the ad copy are more likely to be selected in a Pay Per Click campaign and can help reduce the cost per click. You also have other platforms, Facebook, Twitter that are also open to SEM.

Unfortunately a large majority of SEO companies call SEM, SEO, and charge for the advertising rather than doing any of the SEO work that is often needed on web pages. And when the business stops paying for the work to be done they see a sudden drop in their rankings – that is the ad disappears from the results – and the websites organic SERP hasn’t changed and hasn’t increased.

So how does this help my business website?

Business owners who have been around for awhile often look at people offering SEO and SEM services as part charlatan and part mystic. SEO is a service that any business requires to get their product and brand out into the world, though it is one that little is often known about by those not in the field. Often as not those of us working in SEO find that many of the people who have put a shingle up claiming to be SEO experts or gurus (or rock star ninja gurus depending upon which lame HR guy wrote the copy) are simply clueless as to what should be involved in SEO.

Before you talk with some one about SEO and SEM have a list of questions and goals you want to achieve for your business. Sit down talk to the the SEO consultant, explain your position. A good SEO consultant will take your questions, answer them and come back with some of his own so they have a better understanding of what you are looking at and what sort of Key performance Indicators your need.

Good SEO is all about the long term. The long term goals of any SEO or SEM package should be to make your website technically sound, have great content to share both on your website and on your social media platforms. High quality content ensures high quality links and this can not be achieved over night.

If you want help with your content strategy or SEO and SEM contact us today 1300 737 601 or Email.


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