Should you focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or SEM (Search Engine Marketing)? The Wall Street Journal recently discussed this question in the context of small business decisions.
The goal of SEO is to have your Web site or blog appear close to the top of a search engine's unpaid (organic) results. The goal of SEM is have prospects click on your paid link, which appears next to or above unpaid search results.
WSJ advises small businesses to go for SEM, because the payoff is higher and people who click on paid links are closer to actually making a purchase, studies show.
Interestingly, a recent Google report says businesses can improve certain SEO properties to do better in search results. One suggestion, a real no-brainer: do a thorough job of describing your site in the title tag. Then, when your site appears in search results, searchers will have a better idea of what you're about--before they click through to your site or skip to another site.
In reality, businesses of all sizes should analyze the possibilities of both SEO and SEM to understand the implications for their own marketing situations. One online marketing strategy does not fit all. You might mix SEO and SEM within a single marketing plan or test one or the other within a particular product category or for a specific target audience. Dig into this alphabet soup and decide for yourself.