Search engine optimization, or SEO, is changing – search engine marketing is now the face of SEO. While the two terms share many similarities, it’s more aesthetic than actually working the same in practice. Search engine optimization still has its place and it’s an important one, but for your website or business to really prosper online you need to combine SEO with search engine marketing.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

As the name implies, search engine marketing, or SEM, is simply marketing for the various search engines. While this may sound identical to search engine optimization, there’s a very big difference between the two (although both should be used side-by-side to truly maximize your online presence). Whereas SEO is a combination of optimizing the web pages you can see as well as behind-the-scenes of a website (meta tags, meta descriptions, image links, etc), search engine marketing takes SEO and expands it into numerous different areas.

While SEO will help you gain the eyes of the search engines as far as straightforward ranking goes, search engine marketing actually builds your online presence and enhances any SEO tools that you have in place. This in turn offers your website and associated offshoots – a blog, for example – as a far more authoritative source of information, which then helps you gain the trust of the all-important web users. Search engine marketing methods include:

Developing your online brand or name via a dedicated online profile – social media networks, blogging, article submission, etc. It’s important not to saturate the market though – choose two or three respected social networks, article directories and blogging communities and start developing your profile. Show that you’re an expert in your area and offer useful advice that other people can use.
External links back to your site are another important area of search engine marketing, but only if these links are quality-led and relevant. Many webmasters make the mistake of buying into “link farms” – websites set up purely for exchanging links. While this approach may give you a fast hike in your rankings, Google and the other search engine providers will soon recognize the links as being false and ignore them, therefore taking away any benefit you might have imagined having. Quality links are where other webmasters or Internet users recommend your website as a source of information – this is where the value of developing your online brand comes in.
Being pro-active in making your website or business visible and watching trends so that you can act upon them before they become the norm. For example, Google Alerts is an excellent way of keeping up-to-date with what’s happening around the world regarding key phrases. Yet there is a way to take this even further – use Google employees as your Google alerts. Anytime a new update is released from Google regarding the way rankings work, etc, it’s from a named source at Google. Adding that name to your Google alerts will ensure that whenever that person posts something, you’ll know about it – and that could lead to some undiscovered gem that offers you an immediate advantage online.
Email marketing is another excellent form of search engine marketing, as long as you do it professionally and ethically. Place a newsletter sign-up form on your website for visitors to subscribe to – this ensures they actually want to hear what you have to say, as opposed to viewing emails from you as Spam. When you send a newsletter out, include offers and advice and links back to your site where these offers/advice can be found. This ensures an instant and interactive call-to-action where your newsletter reader sees something and acts on it – for online businesses it offers an excellent method of increasing sales.