Why SEO and what about SEM? How important is it really?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are the two gateways that help users find your website.

Pintle SEO

Search engines define them as “organic” and “paid advertising” results. Where SEM is something you pay for in terms of buying keywords that would define your business, SEO is how well your site is optimized in terms of coding, content, server performance, links etc. Actually there are many factors that is taken into account when search engines “rank” your site. We will run a few here and explain why it’s so important to have an optimized website when it comes to attracting your potential new clients attention.

How search engines rank your website continues to change and recently Google introduced a new perspective that takes on another angle, the user perspective. What this tells us is that, websites are ranked based on how valuable your content is to your users.

So let’s say that you run a webshop and to attract users you display your products directly on google. However if the user clicks the product and goes to the website to see that the product is out of stock or the price is not the same anymore, the user backpedals to Google to find another listing. This will be noticed by Google and will rank your website lower because the user behaviour tells that the information was not what the user was looking for.

“together with the quality of content, the user signals generated by interactions – like Click-Through Rate (how frequently search results are clicked on, also CTR), the Time on Site (how long a user spends on a page) and the Bounce Rate (percentage of single-page sessions) – can now be considered amongst the most important ranking factors”
– Source, searchmetrics

Although the platform, performance, content and links are still the primary ranking parameters, it’s becoming more and more clear that Google and other search engines are analyzing user behaviour and utilizing it in the index ranking.

So why is SEO so important?

Well to answer that question, we need to look at some data. Many companies spends lots and lots of money on paid advertising such as Google AdWords. Depending on the keywords they buy it can become a rather costly affair. But is it a good investment?, maybe? but would it be just as good to have a SEO optimized website that ranks your website in top on relevant searches?
Let’s look how SEO compares to SEM and if they are actually comparable to begin with.

One thing is for sure. We as users have become much better in distinguishing relevant content from irrelevant, by just looking at the search results. A study made by Inbound CPH in 2016-2017, a Danish seo based company, shows that 42 % of 50,5 millions visits to 21 danish major websites came from “organic” search. In comparison only 23,9 % came from paid search.

Interestingly it also shows that the bounce rate is remarkably lower for “organic” results. So users already know that “organic” results are more likely to give them what they need. It seems users has a subconscious way of choosing the “organic” results in favor of the “paid” ones.

On top of that users generally clicks more and spends more time on the website after clicking an “organic” result.

So does this mean that we can conclude that SEO is better than SEM? Well no, unfortunately it’s not that simple. Why? Well users are smart that’s why!

Users search all the time for everything. It’s become their second nature and they research much more now because the internet gives them access to all kinds of information.
When a user is interested in a product they conduct online research on price, reviews and store acknowledgement.

81% percent of shoppers conduct online research before they make a purchase. 60% begin by using a search engine to find the products they want, and 61% will read product reviews before making any purchase. On average, a consumer will visit 3 stores before making their purchase.
Source: adweek

WPP in London made an analysis that proves that users are very research orientated before making a decision to purchase a product. A customer journey generally starts with research where most of the traffic comes from organic results. Less comes from paid results because users realise that organic results doesn’t try to sell them something and because the user is still in research mode organic results are prefered.

When the user becomes more interested and goes from the initial research state into the consideration and compare state, they are more inclined to click on paid results than before. So something happens in the research phase, that triggers a different search approach. Usually the brand awareness increases, and when users search for brands in particular they are ok with clicking paid results more. In fact users are more inclined to click on paid results than organic ones when they are in purchase mode.

Conclusion

Users are very smart. They will not fall for your marketing stunts. Spending lots on paid search will not do it alone, however neither will increasing the seo performance on your website. The answer lies in the combination and always providing users with anticipated content when they use either gateways. User signals caused by interactions tells google and thereby everyone else whether your website is providing what the users want.

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