I'm having a problem that I suspect many marketers share. Quite simply … SEO or just buy the traffic. I noticed that you switched to SEO because you like the passive income component. But when I consider ALL the work and ongoing moving parts to SEO .. visions of the hamster on a treadmill appear in place of couch potato cash. Have you noticed that there is always something new to do … now it's Google+ ect. and "more to do" is surly on it's way. It's reached the point where it's mind numbing.
SEM is the wider discipline that incorporates SEO. SEM includes both paid search results (using tools like Google Adwords or Bing Ads, formerly known as Microsoft adCenter) and organic search results (SEO). SEM uses paid advertising with AdWords or Bing Ads, pay per click (particularly beneficial for local providers as it enables potential consumers to contact a company directly with one click), article submissions, advertising and making sure SEO has been done. A keyword analysis is performed for both SEO and SEM, but not necessarily at the same time. SEM and SEO both need to be monitored and updated frequently to reflect evolving best practices.

Facebook Ads and other social media ad platforms, for example, are pay-per-click platforms that do not fall under the SEM category. Instead of showing your ads to people who are searching for similar content like search ads do, social media sites introduce your product to people who happen to be just browsing through their feeds. These are two very, very different types of online advertising.
As a SEO analyst the fact that recent changes Google has made has made it hard for websites to rank scares me a bit but on a second thought I see a lot of opportunity here for growth. Because as SEO gets more challenging true meaningful strategies are now needed to optimize a site rather than just link building and basic on page. SEOrs really need to understand the nature of a client’s business, work on their buyer’s persona & understand their clients Goals. I am a big fan of Point #2 & #3 you highlighted under potential solutions. Local businesses (LB) really need to setup up and take full advantage of Google My Business (unfortunately I don’t see many LBs doing that). With point #1 i.e. demand generation, I am bit confused about how that strategy will unfold for small businesses. This would mean a lot more investment from their end on building their brand equity and brand awareness, but some businesses don’t really have that kind of funding. I mean yes, they can implement aggressive social media strategies and take advantage of GMB but that will still be very challenging I feel. Maybe a bit more information on how we can generate demand for small businesses be helpful!
Often the line between pay per click advertising and paid inclusion is debatable. Some have lobbied for any paid listings to be labeled as an advertisement, while defenders insist they are not actually ads since the webmasters do not control the content of the listing, its ranking, or even whether it is shown to any users. Another advantage of paid inclusion is that it allows site owners to specify particular schedules for crawling pages. In the general case, one has no control as to when their page will be crawled or added to a search engine index. Paid inclusion proves to be particularly useful for cases where pages are dynamically generated and frequently modified.

This refers to your ability to rank for certain keywords. For instance, say you sell shoes online, you will need to optimize your site, backlinks, website speed and much more so that you can “rank” high for certain keywords that are highly relevant to your business. Relevant keywords may include “buy shoes,” “shoe sale,” “where to buy shoes,” and so on. Once you can rank high (top page) for these keywords, you will enjoy an increase in traffic and business as a result.
Search engines reward you when sites link to yours – they assume that your site must be valuable and you’ll rank higher in search results. And the higher the “rank” of the sites that link to you, the more they count in your own ranking. You want links from popular industry authorities, recognized directories, and reputable companies and organizations.
Small business owners sometimes think that search engine marketing (SEM), also known as pay-per-click advertising (PPC), is not lucrative option for them. They may think they can’t afford it, or that their online presence is not important if they are a local or service-based business. The truth is, as search engines have undeniably become a part of our lifestyles as consumers, there are many ways to leverage them for businesses of any size. This post will introduce you to the basics and benefits of search engine marketing (SEM).
Paid marketing, on the other hand, allows business to target, reach, engage, and convert their audiences quickly and directly. Instead of waiting – or hoping – for someone to find your blog post in organic search or on social, paid marketing has you “pushing” content – mainly in the form of ads – directly to your target audiences. As such, it’s much more sales-forward and focused on driving specific actions, like making a purchase or attending a webinar. Here’s an example of this in action:

Facebook ads contain links back to your business’s page. Even if the goal of your ads is to get people to click on a link that takes them off of Facebook, there’s a chance they’ll go directly to your Facebook page to learn more about you. If your page is empty or outdated, that’s where their curiosity ends. If you’re spending the time and money to advertise on Facebook, make sure you follow through with an up-to-date Facebook page.
Earlier I touched on using ultimate guides to shift the awareness of the reader to facilitate a conversion. That’s a solid example. Your content can serve any number of goals including sales, lead generation, etc. You could even use it to warm up a cold audience before you expose them to a paid campaign. It can lower your ad costs and increase your click-through rates. The utility of content is endless. You decide.
If you take full advantage of social media to promote your top quality content, you want to keep in mind that engagement matters for SEO. Engagement helps to not only improve your online reputation but also to make connections and generate leads for your business. Content that gets tons of engagement on social media platforms will rank for the topics they cover. According to Moz, “to determine success, an algorithm looks at whether users engaged. If more people engage that’s a clear sign that their algorithm is showing this right content; if not, their systems will audition other content instead to find something that generates that interest.”

Rand, by all these gated searches and search cards etc are google effectively taking our homework ( in this case in the form of webpages / content), scribbling out our name and claiming it for their own? And then stopping users getting to the actual page? and if they are planning on removing organic traffic would they not suffer with regards to their ad revenue? Or is all this tailored for "ok google" and providing a more friendly search result for voice commands etc? Love Whiteboard Friday BTW, James, UK

BrightEdge research supports that a blended approach is best for delivering high performing content. Not only will combining organic and paid search increase website traffic, but it will offer a bigger return on the investment. Take Retail, Technology and Hospitality industries, for example — organic and paid search combined make up more than two-thirds of their total revenue.
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