Search engine optimization and search engine marketing both are intrinsic part of Internet marketing efforts. But there is some confusion as to which one is better strategy in return on investment (ROI) terms. This article helps clear some of the doubts.

SEO vs. SEM – The ROI Myth Busted

Return on investment (ROI) is one of the deciding factors for any course of action involving investment of resources. For quite sometime now, a debate has been raging on whether search engine optimization (SEO) has better ROI than professional search engine marketing (SEM).

In fact it has become a bit of a myth that it is easier to get good ROI through SEO than it is to get the same ROI through SEM. Two facts have helped evolve this myth – SEM involves click costs while SEO works through free traffic. Let’s see whether this myth holds any water.

Well, a closer look tells us that this myth doesn’t have any truth in it and there are several reasons for that. In this article though, we will deal with just one reason: the ‘landing page difference’.

In SEM, you decide the landing page your visitors will see. In SEO, a search engine spider decides on the landing page visitors will see. There’s a difference in control, and that difference makes all the difference. That’s why serious search engine marketing services providers opt for full blown SEM rather than just SEO.

Searchers, after all, are people with itchy back-button fingers. If they come to a site and don’t think it’s the best site for them, they’ll return to the search engine results page – and click on your competitors’ links – in a matter of seconds.

But if your landing page is optimized for the keywords the searchers choose, and the ad copy the searchers see, then you’re able to tell a new visitor, right away, that he/she’s come to the right place.

And no matter how amazing your site is, that’s a message that visitors need to hear. Because people don’t just want to see a good landing page, they want to see a relevant landing page.

But only a good search engine marketing firm can optimize your landing page. A search spider won’t.

In both SEO and SEM, you only hit ROI if your searchers convert. A search engine marketing services provider might require a higher initial investment than an SEO firm does (because SEM requires the management cost, plus the PPC cost; while SEO only costs the price of management alone) – but you’re also likely to get better conversions through SEM, because you’re likely to get better landing pages through SEM. And it’s only conversions that will get you ROI.

Are we saying that getting the best SEO possible isn’t worthwhile?

Absolutely not!

The more real estate you take up in the search engine results page, the better. It will plant your brand in the psyche of the browsers making your website easier to recall when they would require services/products you offer.

So good SEO is absolutely vital to strong internet marketing! But saying that SEO will get better ROI than SEM – because organic traffic is free – ignores the most important element of SEM: control. And its control that makes all the difference between getting traffic, and getting traffic that converts.

And that makes a huge difference when it comes to ROI.