SEM vs. SEO – What B2B Marketers Really Need to Know

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These days, everyone knows their B2B company needs a website.

Most would also love it if traffic came to their website through search engines, too. Otherwise, their sites amount to little more than an expensive business card. It’s only ever seen after someone from the company tells prospects where to look.

That’s hardly ideal.

It is understandable, though, given the confusion about how to earn traffic. For most marketers, it comes down to SEM vs. SEO.

SEM vs. SEO: What’s the Difference?

As with so many other terms in marketing, people have different definitions for these two, so let’s start by agreeing on what they mean.

Despite the fact that SEM and SEO are often treated as one-in-the-same, the truth is that there’s a slight difference between them.

Traditionally, SEM was meant to refer to any method of using a search engine to market your company. This included SEO, but it also included paid traffic.

While SEO has always referred to organic traffic from search engines, most marketers now take SEM to cover only strategies for paid traffic.

SEM vs. SEO: Which Is Better for B2B Companies?

So, which one is best for your B2B company, SEM or SEO?

Here are the arguments for each.

Why SEM Is Such a Powerful Tool for B2B Companies

If your B2B website isn’t already receiving a regular source of leads, that’s obviously something you want to change ASAP. Again, without traffic, your website is just a bad an investment that shows very little in returns – if any.

This is why so many B2B companies opt for simplicity and buy the traffic they need with paid advertisements. According to an expert in content marketing, Neil Patel, relying on SEO takes two years to pay off. That’s two years of regularly posting content before you’ll see any ROI.

Furthermore, despite what a lot of marketers say, organic traffic isn’t “free.” You have to pay an expert who understands SEO and copywriting to create the content your site needs. Even if you do both yourself, there’s still the time it will take to create this kind of content continuously.

So, either way, you’re paying for traffic. The difference is that, at least with SEM, you’ll see that traffic much, much sooner.

Aside from the obvious reason, this quick turnaround is also important because it will show you what you need to fix on your site right away. Imagine posting content for two years only to finally realize that your service pages don’t sell well, or no one’s interested in your lead magnets.

The case for SEM is simple: spend the money now to see the results now.

Why Your B2B Company Should Invest in SEO

Still, do you really want to pay for your traffic every single week, year-after-year?

While SEO isn’t “free,” it does turn into a passive source of traffic. Once your pages begin ranking, they’ll continue drawing leads to your B2B site for as long as they maintain their rank. Keep adding SEO-optimized pages to your website, and you’ll continue seeing this kind of valuable traffic show up.

Furthermore, blog posts that rank well can earn you backlinks, something you won’t ever get from paid ads. Those backlinks mean more traffic and exposure as an authority in your industry, an invaluable commodity.

Finally, unlike passive traffic, SEM can actually become more expensive over time. You need to bid for the keywords you want and, as more companies want the ones you have, prices will go up.

SEM vs. SEO: The Winner

The winner is actually both.

When you’re first starting out, split your budget with the majority of it going to SEM. This will give you some initial traffic and early returns. It will also give you that initial feedback about what’s working and what’s not

At the same time, use some of your budget on regular blog posts and creating SEO-optimized webpages. As time goes on and your website starts enjoying organic traffic, tip your budget in favor of SEO.

While it may always be a good idea to spend some of your money on SEM, always try to earn your traffic through organic searches.

How to Get the Most from SEM and SEO

With all that said, the debate between SEM vs. SEO doesn’t matter much if the winner only wins traffic. Unless that traffic turns into conversions, your budget is going to waste.

That’s why Hushly was designed to take your preexisting content and immediately increase its ROI. If you want to turn more of your website visitors into customers, contact us today.

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