So the quick answer:

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

The difference between the two is SEO refers to optimizing a page or a website, whereas SEM refers to setting up a marketing campaign around the optimized page utlizing search engine ranks (i.e. other websites pointing to your content) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) online advertising.

How it Works

Let’s say I’m opening an ice cream parlor and I am in direct competition with Carl’s Ice Cream in downtown Fredericksburg. Carl’s is super established – they’ve been around since 1947! So how are you going to compete with a company that old with such a devoted following? You try to rank for the search term “ice cream in Fredericksburg, VA,” and probably similar long tail (phrase-style) keywords.

The Fredericksburg SEO Way

The SEO way to attack this would be to optimize your website, or webpage, to qualify for that long tail keyword. You would include the Fredericksburg centered phrase on your page, in the title and subtitles, throughout the page itself, with a focus on making it actually useful content. Sure, you want to include this keyword, but at the end of the day a human is reading this. Not to mention Google figured out long ago how to combat what’s called “keyword stuffing” pages. The more helpful you make your page to a real-live person, the more you can count on Google and Bing rewarding you in the search engine rankings.

The Fredericksburg SEM Way

Now SEM is a little bit of a different tactic, but the easiest thing to remember is SEM includes SEO. Search Engine Marketing is the using other factors to influence your site’s page rank outside of optimizing the page itself. SEO is part of SEM because before you can do anything else, you have to first have the optimized page. You can’t market without a product, and that completed page is your product.

So what does SEM include?

SEM includes things like getting your site listed in online directories – local Fredericksburg business directories, address directories, and review sites (i.e. Yelp, BBB, or Manta). The idea is to have your business’ name show up in whatever page gets clicked. For example, CreationDepot may not rank in the top for all Fredericksburg web design keywords, but Yelp does – and we’re #4 on there! So a user could click the Yelp link, and we’re still right there at the top beneath competitors who are paying for those top spots! SEM would also include Fredericksburg specific PPC ads to your site. You could setup ads, directed at the local Fredericksburg and surrounding areas (i.e. Spotsylvania and Stafford Counties) and drive traffic to a specific product page on your site. This would be just one part of a total SEM campaign.

Example of a Fredericksburg friendly SEM-Centric Campaign for a Fredericksburg Ice Cream Shop
  • Complete optimizing a website or page for specific long tail keywords
  • Get listed on local and national directories that also show up in the search results for your keywords (Yelp, Fredericksburg local business associations/directories)
  • Get listed with review apps, even if you’re not a restaurant or walk-in type of business
  • Find Mary Washington University’s student and faculty directories and explore getting added to their databases
  • Distribute flyers on all the college campuses around Fredericksburg
  • Run a Facebook ads campaign for a free scoops for kids day to drive foot traffic
  • Generate social buzz by advertising that free scoop for kids day to Facebook mom groups, directing them back to your website to sign up for that free coupon (and in the process join your mailing list)
  • Send out eBlasts to your mailing list with a call to action that gets users to visit your website. The increase in traffic will help your rankings.
  • Setup affiliate coupons with other local businesses like furniture stores and antique shops. Offer them one time free ice cream scoops for their employees if they give out your information to their customers.
  • Offer free samples to mom’s in parks with business cards and send them to your store and your website.
  • Establish a rewards program that they can only join by going to your site and joining your email list.

Wrapping it Up

As you can see SEM is more of a campaign that benefits your search engine ranking because all those actions above make you more relevant to the Fredericksburg community. Remember, Google wants to show its visitors the most relevant search results, the highest quality sites and content, so even these offline means will help get you noticed because it pulls people to your website, which in turn also promotes online social media sharing.

Pro tip: Always, always, always direct people back to the website.

So now I am hoping you’re able to see how a Fredericksburg specific SEO plan falls under the umbrella of a SEM campaign. Sites that really thrive don’t just create the search engine optimized page and call it done, they really compete for those Fredericksburg keywords by driving other online and offline traffic to that page to make Google think, hey, this page is really relevant so let me show it more often and higher up in the rankings.

And that’s where we’ll leave this for now. Of course if you have any questions please hit me up over on Twitter at @creationdepot, or on our Contact page. If you do call us at (703) 957-9323, please be sure to leave a message! We’ll be notified immediately by email.

Take care!

Your Friendly Fredericksburg Web Designer