Thanks for the helpful information discussing the differences and similarities between SEO and SEM. The information was enlightening because a search engine optimization company like the one that I own is relatively new at starting. We believe everyone should always check out their sources because every different perspective is very different so all approaches can be understood differently.

But be aware! You can’t just blindly trust the search results because Google tailors them to your personal search history, which means your site will come up higher for you than for others doing the same search. You can get around this by searching in incognito mode, although there’s still a local search component even in that. If this’s likely to be a problem for you, consider using a VPN to conceal your location.


Big sites can rank for the most general terms. Smaller sites within a very specific niche can do the same. Of course, it’s also easier if you’re writing in a language that is not spoken all over the world. For most smaller sites that are writing in English, however, the general rule of thumb is this: start with a big set of long tail keywords which have little traffic, but you can rank for more easily. Then, work yourself up to the rankings step-by-step. Once you’ve gained some SEO authority, start optimizing for more general keywords. And in the end, maybe you will even be able to rank for your head keywords!
Hey Sharon, great post! Re. dwell time – I’ve read conflicting opinions, some saying that Google DOES consider it an ‘important’ ranking signal, and others saying that it doesn’t, because dwell time can sometimes be a misleading indicator of content quality. For example when a user searches for something specific and finds the answer immediately in the recommended page (meaning that the content on the page is actually spot on) so he returns to the SERPs very quickly. I have been unable to locate any definitive statements (written/spoken) from anyone at Google that suggest that dwell time IS still a factor in ranking considerations, but it makes sense (to me, anyway) that it should be. Do you have any ‘proof’ one way or the other re. whether Google definitely considers dwell time or not?

Comparing your Google Analytics data side by side with the dates of official algorithm updates is useful in diagnosing a site health issue or traffic drop. In the above example, a new client thought it was a switch to HTTPS and server downtime that caused the drop when it was actually the May 6, 2015, Google Quality Algorithm (originally called Phantom 2 in some circles) that caused the sudden drop in organic traffic – and the problem was probably compounded by unnatural linking practices. (This client did eventually receive a penalty for unnatural links when they ignored our advice to clean up).
Google WILL classify your site when it crawls and indexes your site – and this classification can have a DRASTIC effect on your rankings. It’s important for Google to work out WHAT YOUR ULTIMATE INTENT IS – do you want to be classified as a thin affiliate site made ‘just for Google’, a domain holding page or a small business website with a real purpose? Ensure you don’t confuse Google in any way by being explicit with all the signals you can – to show on your website you are a real business, and your INTENT is genuine – and even more important today – FOCUSED ON SATISFYING A VISITOR.
You likely have a few keywords in mind that you would like to rank for. These will be things like your products, services, or other topics your website addresses, and they are great seed keywords for your research, so start there! You can enter those keywords into a keyword research tool to discover average monthly search volume and similar keywords. We’ll get into search volume in greater depth in the next section, but during the discovery phase, it can help you determine which variations of your keywords are most popular amongst searchers.

Repeat this exercise for as many topic buckets as you have. And remember, if you're having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, you can always head on over to your customer-facing colleagues -- those who are in Sales or Service -- and ask them what types of terms their prospects and customers use, or common questions they have. Those are often great starting points for keyword research.
An SEO meta description is a brief description of content found on a web page. The meta description is shown to users in search engine results pages to help them decide which search result to click on. Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor in the eyes of a search engine, but they can influence how many people click on a result -- which directly affects the result's organic ranking.
QUOTE: “Think about whether or not this is a link that would be on your site if it weren’t for your actions…When it comes to guest blogging it’s a situation where you are placing links on other people’s sites together with this content, so that’s something I kind of shy away from purely from a link building point of view. It can make sense to guest blog on other people’s sites to drive some traffic to your site… but you should use a nofollow.” John Mueller, Google 2013
I used to think it could take more to get a subfolder trusted than say an individual file and I guess this sways me to use files on most websites I created (back in the day). Once subfolders are trusted, it’s 6 or half a dozen, what the actual difference is in terms of ranking in Google – usually, rankings in Google are more determined by how RELEVANT or REPUTABLE a page is to a query.

Online reviews, then, have become another form of internet marketing that small businesses can't afford to ignore. While many small businesses think that they can't do anything about online reviews, that's not true. Just by actively encouraging customers to post reviews about their experience small businesses can weight online reviews positively. Sixty-eight percent of consumers left a local business review when asked. So assuming a business's products or services are not subpar, unfair negative reviews will get buried by reviews by happier customers.
QUOTE: “Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected doorway pages on xxxxxxxx – Dear site owner or webmaster of xxxxxxxx, We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, your site may have what we consider to be doorway pages – groups of “cookie cutter” or low-quality pages. Such pages are often of low value to users and are often optimized for single words or phrases in order to channel users to a single location. We believe that doorway pages typically create a frustrating user experience, and we encourage you to correct or remove any pages that violate our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results. If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.” Google Search Quality Team, 2011
Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) is the search provider most commonly used for this strategy. With this tactic, brands conduct keyword research and create campaigns that target the best keywords for their industry, products, or services. When users search for those keywords, they see the custom ads at the top or bottom of SERPs. The brand is charged each time a user clicks on the ad.
SEM search placements include an “Ad” designation. SEO does not. Search results that appear as a result of SEM or SEO look different on SERPs. Paid ads that receive placement through SEM tactics are often identified as an ad (e.g., by an icon appearing next to the placement), whereas the search results that appear as a result of organic SEO are not marked in such manner.
While the obvious purpose of internet marketing is to sell goods, services or advertising over the internet, it's not the only purpose a business using internet marketing may have; a company may be marketing online to communicate a message about itself (building its brand) or to conduct research. Online marketing can be a very effective way to identify a target market or discover a marketing segment's wants and needs. (Learn more about conducting market research).
Search engine marketing (SEM) is related to SEO in that they both deal with digital marketing outreach on search engines like Google and Bing. However, SEO typically refers to internal, organic website optimization while search engine marketing is commonly known as advertising through a paid media budget. While SEO will help your website traffic increase through natural algorithmic means, SEM earns traffic through the process of purchasing ads on search engines. In the image to the left, you will see a search engine results page that is the result of typing the keyword “digital marketing” into Google. The top four results have a small green box that says “ad” underneath the primary title link. This signifies paid advertising, or search engine marketing, where a brand or business has paid Google to display their ads at the top of the page for that specific keyword.

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NOTE, in 2020, the HTML title element you choose for your page, may not be what Google chooses to include in your SERP snippet. The search snippet title and description is very much QUERY & DEVICE dependent these days. Google often chooses what it thinks is the most relevant title for your search snippet, and it can use information from your page, or in links to that page, to create a very different SERP snippet title.
Off-page SEO builds a website’s reputation and authority by connecting it to other high-quality websites. Off-page SEO techniques include: link building (acquiring high-quality backlinks) from other websites and managing local listings and directory profiles. When many websites link to a brand’s website, it shows search engines that the brand’s website is trustworthy, reliable, and reputable, which increases its search rankings.
QUOTE: “Well, I think you need to look at the pages in an overall way, you should look at the pages and say, actually we see this a lot in the forums for example, people will say “my text is unique, you can copy and paste it and it’s unique to my website.” But that doesn’t make this website page a high quality page. So things like the overall design, how it comes across, how it looks like an authority, this information that is in general to webpage, to website, that’s things that all come together. But also things like comments where webmasters might say “this is user generated content, I’m not responsible for what people are posting on my website,”  John Mueller, Google 2016

QUOTE: “Cleaning up these kinds of link issue can take considerable time to be reflected by our algorithms (we don’t have a specific time in mind, but the mentioned 6-12 months is probably on the safe side). In general, you won’t see a jump up in rankings afterwards because our algorithms attempt to ignore the links already, but it makes it easier for us to trust the site later on.” John Mueller, Google, 2018
This is especially important if you have superiors to which you must report about Internet marketing. Although you may be able to turn data into a strategy easily, reports and graphs are essential in order to communicate that data to people who control the budget. Spend time making comprehensive reports and perhaps making a PowerPoint presentation based on your research.
A website or URL’s ranking for keywords or keyword combinations varies from search engine to search engine. A domain may rank for a certain keyword in the top 3 on Bing, but not even be on the first page of the Google search results for the same keyword. Of course, the same is true of all search engines – Bing, Google, Yahoo and every other search engine uses its own method for calculating rankings and therefore ranks websites differently.
While the obvious purpose of internet marketing is to sell goods, services or advertising over the internet, it's not the only purpose a business using internet marketing may have; a company may be marketing online to communicate a message about itself (building its brand) or to conduct research. Online marketing can be a very effective way to identify a target market or discover a marketing segment's wants and needs. (Learn more about conducting market research).
I prefer simple SEO techniques and ones that can be measured in some way. I have never just wanted to rank for competitive terms; I have always wanted to understand at least some of the reasons why a page ranked for these key phrases. I try to create a good user experience for humans AND search engines. If you make high-quality text content relevant and suitable for both these audiences, you’ll more than likely find success in organic listings and you might not ever need to get into the technical side of things, like redirects and search engine friendly URLs.
QUOTE: “To summarize, a lack of helpful SC may be a reason for a Low quality rating, depending on the purpose of the page and the type of website. We have different standards for small websites which exist to serve their communities versus large websites with a large volume of webpages and content. For some types of “webpages,” such as PDFs and JPEG files, we expect no SC at all.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2015
Content Marketing: Writing articles or blog posts related to your business and submitting them to be published on other websites is another great way to reach your target market for free. Although mass distribution of a single article across the web doesn't have the same SEO benefits it once had, submitting exclusive articles to a specific site can still reap many rewards including SEO, boosting your credibility, and reaching a market that might not otherwise know about you. Because writing can be time-consuming, you may want to consider how you can repurpose what you write into other forms of content or with new angles for other audiences.
You don’t have to be better than your competition at absolutely everything, so long as you identify enough points to build a keyword strategy around. For smaller companies, this means that you probably have to be better at the things the bigger fish haven’t thought of or aren’t actively looking to do. If you can’t think of anything at all then you have a much bigger problem than just coming up with keywords…
Understanding the balance of terms that might be a little more difficult due to competition, versus those terms that are a little more realistic, will help you maintain a similar balance that the mix of long-tail and head terms allows. Remember, the goal is to end up with a list of keywords that provide some quick wins but also helps you make progress toward bigger, more challenging SEO goals.
The higher the search volume for a given keyword or keyword phrase, the more work is typically required to achieve higher rankings. This is often referred to as keyword difficulty and occasionally incorporates SERP features; for example, if many SERP features (like featured snippets, knowledge graph, carousels, etc) are clogging up a keyword’s result page, difficulty will increase. Big brands often take up the top 10 results for high-volume keywords, so if you’re just starting out on the web and going after the same keywords, the uphill battle for ranking can take years of effort.
If you are using Responsive Web Design, use meta name="viewport" tag to tell the browser how to adjust the content. If you use Dynamic Serving, use the Vary HTTP header to signal your changes depending on the user-agent. If you are using separate URLs, signal the relationship between two URLs by tag with rel="canonical" and rel="alternate" elements.

Before you do anything, and this is key, you need to know what makes your company unique. You need to have a clear concept of the mission of your company. You need to determine exactly what you have to offer because that’s what’s going to make you rank. It’s that simple. SEO is just like regular business. If you’re doing everything on the same or inferior level as your competition, you’re not going to stand out. If you’re not the best result, why should people want to find you? Why should Google rank you? This seems simple, but this factor is often forgotten.
Kelly Wilhelme currently manages all of Weidert Group's marketing efforts. Through her past experience as an inbound marketing consultant on our client service team and, prior to that in financial services communication, she has a deep understanding of complex businesses and a desire to help them grow. Kelly has a passion for communication strategy, layout and design, as well as writing and content creation.
Off-page SEO builds a website’s reputation and authority by connecting it to other high-quality websites. Off-page SEO techniques include: link building (acquiring high-quality backlinks) from other websites and managing local listings and directory profiles. When many websites link to a brand’s website, it shows search engines that the brand’s website is trustworthy, reliable, and reputable, which increases its search rankings.
QUOTE: “Over time, we’ve seen sites try to maximize their “search footprint” without adding clear, unique value. These doorway campaigns manifest themselves as pages on a site, as a number of domains, or a combination thereof. To improve the quality of search results for our users, we’ll soon launch a ranking adjustment to better address these types of pages. Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.” Google, 2015
Ideally, you will have unique pages, with unique page titles and unique page meta descriptions . Google does not seem to use the meta description when ranking your page for specific keyword searches if not relevant and unless you are careful if you might end up just giving spammers free original text for their site and not yours once they scrape your descriptions and put the text in main content on their site. I don’t worry about meta keywords these days as Google and Bing say they either ignore them or use them as spam signals.
Consider how well you know your industry. If you have been in business for a while and already know what your customers want and how to best reach them, you may want to start to build a long-term SEO strategy that will provide value over time. If you aren’t sure how customers and competitors will respond to your offerings or content, you may want to consider an SEM campaign that allows you to test your ideas, products, and services. Use these sites for market research to better understand your target audience and your position in the industry.
I’ve always thought if you are serious about ranking – do so with ORIGINAL COPY. It’s clear – search engines reward good content it hasn’t found before. It indexes it blisteringly fast, for a start (within a second, if your website isn’t penalised!). So – make sure each of your pages has enough text content you have written specifically for that page – and you won’t need to jump through hoops to get it ranking.
If you’re new to internet marketing and wish to get online as quickly and inexpensively as possible you can start with a social media platform like Facebook - you can create a business Facebook page in less than an hour. However, if you want more control over your online presence, a customized website is more appropriate. Ideally you should have both a website and a social media presence, with each linking to the other.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is related to SEO in that they both deal with digital marketing outreach on search engines like Google and Bing. However, SEO typically refers to internal, organic website optimization while search engine marketing is commonly known as advertising through a paid media budget. While SEO will help your website traffic increase through natural algorithmic means, SEM earns traffic through the process of purchasing ads on search engines. In the image to the left, you will see a search engine results page that is the result of typing the keyword “digital marketing” into Google. The top four results have a small green box that says “ad” underneath the primary title link. This signifies paid advertising, or search engine marketing, where a brand or business has paid Google to display their ads at the top of the page for that specific keyword.
Additionally, there are many situations where PPC (a component of SEM) makes more sense than SEO. For example, if you are first launching a site and you want immediate visibility, it is a good idea to create a PPC campaign because it takes less time than SEO, but it would be unwise to strictly work with PPC and not even touch search engine optimization.
Some page titles do better with a call to action – a call to action which reflects exactly a searcher’s intent (e.g. to learn something, or buy something, or hire something. THINK CAREFULLY before auto-generating keyword phrase footprints across a site using boiler-plating and article spinning techniques. Remember this is your hook in search engines, if Google chooses to use your page title in its search snippet, and there is a lot of competing pages out there in 2020.
A satisfying UX is can help your rankings, with second-order factors taken into consideration. A poor UX can seriously impact your human-reviewed rating, at least. Google’s punishing algorithms probably class pages as something akin to a poor UX if they meet certain detectable criteria e.g. lack of reputation or old-school SEO stuff like keyword stuffing a site.
Expertise and authoritativeness of a site increases its quality. Be sure that content on your site is created or edited by people with expertise in the topic. For example, providing expert or experienced sources can help users understand articles’ expertise. Representing well-established consensus in pages on scientific topics is a good practice if such consensus exists.
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