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For our first post of 2007, we thought we would step back for a moment and talk about the differences between Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing, and which is best to concentrate on.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of optimizing your web pages/site to increase search engine visibility. This includes things like web page title optimization, keyword density analysis, stragic use of headers and bold text, etc.

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, can be defined in two ways. Often, it refers to general marketing methods of increasing search engine visibility, increasing traffic, sales, etc. This may include pay-per-click, blogging, newsletters, message boards, and other techniques. The term “Search Engine Marketing” can also apply specifically to marketing via sponsored search results.

For purposes of our discussion, we are going to go with the more narrow definition of SEM to apply specifically to pay-per-click, or sponsored search, marketing.

So the question then really becomes: which is better, and which should you concentrate on: natural search or sponsored search.

All else being equal, a natural search result is probably better than a sponsored search result. However, it could take you a long time to generate that natural search result, and you have no control over how your site listing will appear. Hopefully your web page result has a strong title which will be displayed on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), but you are at the mercy of the search engine. With SEM, you have control over where your ad will appear in the results, when it will appear, and what information will be displayed.

Sponsored search results cost money. Natural search results are free. But to get that natural search result, you are either going to have to put a lot of time into optimizing and promoting your web site or hire an outside firm to do it. So although the actual listing is free, the amount of effort required to get there is not.

So which is better, and which should you concentrate your efforts on? Both.

You can use sponsored search ads to generate immediate traffic to your site, which will generate not only traffic, but information that can be used for purposes of natural optimization. For instance, you can analyze the data from your sponsored search campaign to know what search phrases convert the best. You can then optimize some of your web pages specifically for those phrases. Long-term, if you can achieve high natural search rankings and then combine that with sponsored search listings, you will own more “shelf space” for relevant search queries. The term shelf space refers to the amount of space on a SERP occupied by your business. If you have two natural search listings and a sponsored search listing on a SERP, then you have a lot of visibility on that page and a good chance of getting someone to click through to your web site.

Contact Work Media at 888-299-4837 or info@workmedia.net if you need some help implementing your own Internet marketing plan.