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SEO, SEM, SEA – explanation and benefits

You may well get lost in the wonderful world of search engine marketing. Google – but also Bing! – turns out to be a mysterious gang of rules, algorithms, and settings. We unraveled the mystery, and I can tell you exactly what to do for optimal visibility in search engines (with SEA, SEO, SEM, and the rest) in the simplest way.

You can breathe a sigh of relief now because I can tell you one thing straight away: it’s not as terribly complicated as it seems. 

Search engine optimization – or “search engine marketing” as we prefer to call it – is accompanied by a lot of exciting-sounding abbreviations and the algorithm of online search engines is one of the largest mathematical machines in the world; it’s not all that bad. 

Because we can handle these abbreviations (we do it immediately) and the algorithms are now so ingenious that we don’t have to learn to deal with them (with a 1000 page manual), but that they do the work for us. And that makes it easier and easier to optimize your visibility in search engines. 

What’s a SEA?

SEA stands for “Search Engine Advertising”. So advertising on search engines. 

When you want to get fast and direct traffic to your website or a certain landing page, in most cases you use SEA. You will advertise for money so that you will be at the very top of Google (or another search engine) when someone enters a relevant search term for your product or service. 

For example, SEA works with cost per click (CPC). This means that you do not pay a fixed amount for an advertisement, as is usually the case offline. You pay for each time someone clicks on your link. Advantage: you only reach and pay for relevant people, in contrast to the old school media. And those amounts are on average around €1,- to €2,- but can vary from a few cents to tens of euros per click, depending on how fierce the competition is (about which more in a minute). 

Smart betting on SEA is therefore mainly about getting as many relevant clicks as possible at the lowest possible cost (about which we will be doing more in a moment). 

Benefits: Fast way to increase traffic, conversion.

So what is SEO?

They are very similar in terms of abbreviations and are also used interchangeably: SEA and SEO. You know the SEA now (remember: advertising). SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”: search engine optimization. That sounds a bit abstract, of course. More concrete: more visible in organic (!) search engine results. And organic means: unpaid, outside the advertisements. The ‘normal’ results. 

If your SEO is in perfect order, you’ll get to the top of Google without having to pay – right after the advertisements. And a bit of good SEO should take you at least to the first page, to the most relevant keywords in your industry. when was the last time you looked at the second page of the search results?

Benefits: you don’t have to pay anything to get on top of Google results. Also, it helps to increase organic traffic to your website.

What is SEM?

SEM may sound new to you because it is still an often unused term. Yet it is actually the best term of all three. SEM stands for “Search Engine Marketing”. An umbrella term that stands for SEA and SEO (and everything else that comes into play in search engine marketing). 

A good term, because they go hand in hand. You don’t just want to focus on SEA or SEO, you want to create a healthy mix. The most optimal output for input, through a good investment in different areas. Investment SEA, by using relevant keywords, the most advantageous CPC’s an investment in SEO, by getting good content higher in the organic results. The first is a direct input-output investment, which continues to cost money. The second is an indirect investment in more clicks, in which you initially invest, in order to gain more visibility in the long term, which remains the case. 

All forms of SEM are therefore interesting in their own way and have a different optimal mix for everyone to become visible in search engines. 

Benefits: great long-term investment and good to serve as a whole company’s strategy. Less exposed way of advertising online which helps to build good customer relationships (less obvious marketing strategy).

So, the SEA is becoming more and more prominent these days. One of the reasons for this is that Google makes its advertisements look less and less clear as advertisements. So, with SEA, you buy the first place on Google, as it were because it seems that these are organic results (SEO) instead of paid advertisements (SEA). 

A visitor searches, see the first results – organic or paid – and clicks on immediately. On the advertising results that resemble the organic results at the top of the list, but also, for example, on Google Shopping results. Clearly paid advertisements, but still very clickable for visitors looking for a specific product because it is at the top and immediately stands out.