• Lauren Tooley

What is SEO and SEM?

Elevate Your Brand

Rise above the competition and the noise



We all want to be #1, right? This mindset applies to many aspects of your business, including your digital marketing. More specifically, it is the name of the game for search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). We're about to dive in with definitions, acronyms, and helpful strategy tips for your business; however, putting this knowledge to work can still be time consuming and difficult. The Meridiem Marketing team is here to help you in any way we can, which is why we love publishing these blogs for small business owners, but if you are interested in investing in some search action but don’t feel like taking a dive into the search world, let us take off the stress and do it for you.


Now, onto the good stuff.


SEO and SEM are important because, together, they can increase the traffic to your website and, in turn, generate more customers. Using search engines is a great way to find new customers who may not be aware of your brand yet.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


SEO is a strategy to increase your website’s rank for search results. This increases organic, or unpaid, traffic to your website. The platforms for this strategy are search engines, most popularly Google. Since Google is the most common platform, that is what these tools will focus on. Typically, SEO is divided into two categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.


On-page SEO includes high quality page content, page titles, meta descriptions, mobile responsiveness and site speed. These are all aspects that can be controlled from the backend of a website.


Off-page SEO includes backlinks, brand mentions, influencer marketing, and social media. Perfecting off-page SEO is a bit more difficult, as it involves a third-party.


In normal people’s terms, this is how SEO works: Google has little bots that “crawl” (look around) the web for web pages. When they find a page, they read a few things off of it such as the URL, title, subtitle, keywords, loading speed, mobile-friendliness, etc. All of these factors go into a huge index. Then, when a user searches on Google, it scans through its index to find the websites it thinks the user wants to see. Because it is based on user experience, Google matches the search terms from the user with the keywords on the web page. It also factors in the user friendliness aspect such as loading speed, mobile friendliness, relevance of the content to the keywords, etc.


Again, it sounds overwhelming but fear not! GoDaddy has a great video summarizing how SEO works that we have added for the video learners out there. We also wanted to highlight a couple of simple changes you can make to enhance your website.


SEO moves to make


Backlinks: Backlinking is when you link to other websites and other websites link back to you. There are quite a few ways to do this, but one of the easiest is to make a high quality blog. In blogs, linking is necessary to give credit for the information. If you create standout blogs in your industry, others will use it on their own and link back to your page.


Image descriptions: Writing descriptions for your images is really important because it makes your site more readable for the Google bots (not to mention, more accessible!). Most website platforms, such as Wix, Wordpress, or Squarespace, have an option to add the description for an image. Another note: Google bots can’t read images so avoid having text on images. Instead, try to put it on your webpage directly as text.


Website platforms SEO: Many website platforms have built in SEO tools. We use Wix for our website, which has an option to edit the SEO for each page including the title (and how it shows up on Google search), description, and an option to add our own HTML tags. For the website overall, you can add keywords that apply to your business overall.


Keyword search: Using the Google Keyword Planner, you can find a variety of keywords in your field. Once you choose a few that have high search traffic and low competition, you can optimize your web pages for these keywords. This includes adding them (naturally, not forced) to your webpages, especially at the top of the page.


Content: Beyond working keywords into your content, it is also important to have searchable titles. Oftentimes, this means questions (admit it: you’ve searched “how to get stains out”). Many people use this format to search, so answering common questions in your field is a great way to increase your website traffic.


Tools in your SEO toolbox

A screenshot of Meridiem Marketing's Google Search Console dashboard.

Google Search Console: Google has a ton of free programs that are so helpful for digital marketing. Google Search Console is the first place I would look for help with SEO. After you verify the ownership of your website, Google Search Console shows the data and analytics for the performance of your site on their search engine. It will show you which keywords people are searching to find your business, the impressions and clicks from the searches, whether your pages have been indexed by Google, and so much more. This easy-to-understand platform acts as a roadmap for how to improve your site.


Google Analytics: We plug Google Analytics at least once a week, but it's because it is so amazing. On your Google Search Console, you can connect your Google Analytics so all of your search data will show up in your Google Analytics reports. Seeing your search data next to your website data will paint a more complete picture on ways to improve your website for top performance.


Google Keyword Planner: As mentioned above, Google Keyword Planner is another amazing free tool from Google. Learning what is being searched by potential customers is important because you may have the best optimized website, but if it is towards an irrelevant set of keywords it won’t generate any relevant traffic.


Keywords Everywhere: Another keyword tool is Keywords Everywhere. They have a Chrome extension that analyzes web pages for keywords. This is great to analyze the keywords of your own site to make sure your content is doing what it should be. It also is useful to analyze your competitors to see what the industry is looking for in their search terms.


Google My Business: When you search a business, one of the first results is the Google My Business listing. Through a very simple process, you can register your business on Google so users can quickly find your website, reviews, photos, and more.


Search Engine Marketing (SEM)


SEM, like SEO, helps your web pages rank higher on a search engine results page. However, SEM requires less time and more money. Search platforms allow websites to bid on keywords and if they win the bid, the platform will show their ad near the top of the page (as seen in the red box).

A screenshot of a Google search for "keyword planner" with the advertisement for SEM Rush in a red square.

Again, there are many search platforms to use for SEM, but I am going to focus on Google as it is the most common. Google Ads is Google’s platform for both search campaigns and display campaigns (the banner ads). For the time being, we will just focus on search ads.


When you create a search campaign, the first question Google will ask is what your goal is. This could be page views, calls, purchases, etc. It will then walk you through how to build the campaign, including keyword targeting, geographic targeting, budget, and writing the ad (the text that comes up in the search results).

After you launch your campaign, you can see the results in the Google Ads platform or link Google Ads to your Google Analytics to get a full picture of your digital marketing. Our best practice is optimizing your ongoing campaigns once a month, meaning checking in on them to make sure your targeting is effective and your ads are enticing enough to earn a click from a user.


Pro tip: Google Ads Editor is a great app that you can download to your desktop to edit your campaigns and make changes across campaigns.


Time to SE-Go!


That was cheesy, but the excitement is real. Utilizing search platforms can change your website performance in a big way. However, the information I wrote up here is not comprehensive of the strategies needed to be successful. Amazing SEO and SEM strategies take time and money to get great results. If you don’t have the time, we are happy to say that we do! Reach out and we can discuss the best way to elevate your brand.

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