Imagine how your company would grow if you could figure out how to get more customer demand than you could keep up with. What would happen if new clients came knocking on your door, rain or shine, practically begging you to take their money?
While this may seem far-fetched for most businesses, a small percentage of companies do have a seemingly endless supply of customers. After working with a handful of businesses like these, we’ve found there are a couple of things they have in common:
- They’re always focused on strategies that future-proof their businesses
- They invest in short & long-term client generation tactics
In this article, we’re exploring two customer acquisition strategies that can produce tons of potential clients who are actively looking for a business just like yours: search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).
Which one is right for you?
Keep reading to see why we think that BOTH are the answer.
What Is SEO?
Organic results are the ‘real’ results that show up sandwiched between ads in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
For example, here are a couple of ways the organic search results can appear for a community bank in San Diego:
“Organic” just means that Google’s algorithm chooses the results because they provide quality information that is relevant to the searcher’s query and are deemed authoritative.
Doing SEO correctly requires optimizing your website (or on-site SEO) and making optimizations outside of your website (or off-site SEO) to improve your site’s trustworthiness, authority, readability, discoverability, and more.
Pros Of SEO
You can rank for high-value keyphrases without paying a search engine for brand visibility. All it takes is a clear marketing strategy and a bit of time.
Provides Long-Term Results
Once you start to rank for certain key phrases, you can maintain that ranking for years to come if you stay on top of your SEO best practices.
Showcases Your Authority
With SEO, you can involve employees, founders, and executives as subject matter experts who can share their insights and advice while helping the company website rank in search. Also, savvy searchers know that any company can pay for an ad click, but only the top companies will show up organically.
Low Competition In Some Industries & Locations
While some keyphrases are very competitive, there’s still potential to rank quickly in industries and cities all over the US and even the world, if applicable to your business.
Cons Of SEO
In low-competition industries, just updating citations might be all you need to do to appear at the top of Google. But in competitive industries, you need to invest time and resources into your:
- Strategy (targeting the right key phrases based on your business and your competition)
- Creating quality content
- Website optimizations (like title and meta tag optimizations)
- Guest posting on industry-related sites
- Backlinking to and from other websites to increase your site’s authority
Results Don’t Happen Overnight
Even when you do everything right, it still takes time for search engines to decide to rank your content over another site, especially if you have a low domain authority score. In many cases, it can take six months or more to rank, so SEO is definitely a long-term play.
Heavy Competition For Popular Keywords
In many industries, page one of Google’s search results is crowded with big-name brands, news sites, and aggregator sites like Yelp, which all have thousands of daily visitors. Knocking them off of page one is very hard to do.
Difficult To Measure Results
Often, companies will invest in creating quality content that targets specific key phrases, but they won’t set up Google Analytics tracking and goal metrics that help them measure results. You need an expert to help you attribute calls, contact form entries, video views, and other types of conversions from SEO. This is where partnering with an SEO agency can be beneficial.
What Is SEM?
Companies that rank on the first page of the Google search results get 90% of all traffic. That means if you’re not on page one of the search engine results, you practically don’t exist to potential customers.
Since it takes time for SEO strategies to get your business on the first page of search results, many companies turn to search engine marketing, or SEM, for a quick fix.
In addition to keywords, you can also narrow down who sees your ad by location, time of day, day of the week, and many other factors.
Here’s an example of what a paid search ad for a credit union in Fresno looks like:
SEM uses pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on platforms like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to put your ad in front of potential customers.
Many companies wonder how much they’ll need to spend on Google ads to see an uptick in customers, but the truth is that it varies. The amount that you pay per click is based on an auction system, and it varies widely from one industry or geographic location to another.
For example, the average cost per click for auto search ads is $1.43, while the average cost per click for legal industry search ads is $5.88. Take these with a grain of salt, as it truly can vary, and some companies may spend upwards of $100 per click depending on the competition in their industry. The upside is that you only pay for clicks on your ad, not the number of people who see it.
No matter the cost, SEM ads are a popular way to acquire new customers because they’re a highly effective form of advertising that puts your product or service in front of your ideal target audience at their moment of need.
Pros Of SEM
Fast Results (When Done Right)
When you target the right keyphrases and your ads are clear and compelling, you can get results (phone calls, contact form submissions, new customers) that very same day.
Easy To Measure
It’s easy to measure how much you’re paying for each new lead or customer when they make a direct purchase, fill out a form, or even call the number from your ad by utilizing the Google Tag Manager and a call tracking platform like CallRail. It’s also easy to tell if your ads are working because you’ll see a noticeable uptick in business (along with a rising PPC bill to Google), or you won’t.
Test Your Messages & Keyphrases
SEM can teach you a lot about your target audience. You can run A/B tests to see which ad copy performs best, then carry those lessons over to your website or other client acquisition channels. You can also discover which keyphrases are the most valuable and use those in future blog posts.
Cons Of SEM
Can Make You Reliant
When you’ve got a cost-per-lead or cost-per-customer that you’re happy with, it’s easy to put all your eggs in the SEM basket and not diversify. However, this can make it harder to scale if it’s your only marketing technique because you’ll always have to put more and more money toward your ads to get more customers.
Costs Can Go Up
You can control how much you pay per click and set a maximum daily budget, but you can’t control how much your competitors are bidding. It’s possible to see great results for a while, then get consistently outbid by your competition, which forces you to raise your PPC bid to stay on top for your desired keyphrases.
Can Be Very Competitive
In some industries, the cost per click can be so high that it exceeds the lifetime value of your client. In these cases, SEM should clearly not be your only marketing tactic.
SEO vs. SEM: Why These Strategies Are Erroneously Pitted Against Each Other
Some digital marketing agencies will tell you that SEO is better than SEM. They say it’s more effective and has a much lower cost.
Other experts will tell you the exact opposite. They’ll say that SEO takes too long or won’t get results at all. In their opinion, you should only invest in SEM so your ads appear in front of people searching for your product or service in real-time.
The issue is that what worked for these experts may not work for everyone! While it’s great to understand how they created a ton of customers for one of their clients, all of their tactics and best practices may not apply to your business.
In our opinion, you need both a short-term SEM plan and a long-term SEO strategy when future-proofing your business.
How SEO & SEM Can Work Together
SEO and SEM can work together by helping you prioritize short-term and long-term results and by showing you which keyphrases are attracting the majority of your new customers.
Your SEM and SEO strategists should communicate with each other regularly.
Your SEM strategist will learn new keyphrase variations because they can see what searchers are actually typing in. They’ll also know what keyphrases convert higher and are a good fit to target with blog posts or web pages.
When researching content ideas, your SEO strategist might learn what keyphrases competitors are targeting or might find great new keyphrase variations that you’ve overlooked, which would be great data to apply to your SEM campaign.
Immediate Results & Long-Term Investments
If you’re only implementing one of these strategies, you’re likely pouring most or all of your marketing budget into it. Yet when you manage both SEO and SEM concurrently, they force you to allocate your budget more strategically. Instead of only spending money on quick wins with SEM, you’ll also allocate some of your budgets to capturing organic traffic in the future.
Similarly, instead of just putting your marketing budget towards getting organic traffic, you’ll also be getting immediate results from SEM that can help you increase revenue and stabilize business growth.
Not Locked Into Just One Strategy
When you prioritize both SEM and SEO, you’re not locked into either one. Potentially, you can spend less on both strategies over time. Plus, you won’t find yourself suddenly stalled out with no traffic because of a change in Google’s ad or search policies.
Here are some examples of how your SEM and SEO can play off of each other:
- Dial down SEM spend as SEO starts bringing in more organic traffic
- As SEO brings in more organic traffic in your existing market, use SEM to target a new market
- Increase SEM spend for key phrases or current markets where SEO is too competitive, but use SEO and dial down SEM in other niches or markets
In most cases, you’ll want to decrease your reliance on SEM over time and possibly reallocate your SEM budget to go after new markets. Eventually, a strong foundation of SEO can support the majority of your needs for traffic, and paid advertising can be either reduced or phased out depending on your growth goals.
The question isn’t, “Which tactic should I choose?”
The question is, “How can I integrate both strategies to acquire new customers?”
SEO and SEM work together to future-proof your business by creating clients today and ensuring future customers will find you tomorrow.
We know you’re busy running your business and may not have the time or expertise to create and manage a strategy for SEO and SEM. That’s where a marketing company like Nettra can come in handy. We’re experts in helping businesses like yours bring in more of their ideal customers using SEO and SEM. If you’d like to talk about the possibilities for your company, get in touch with us.