SEA, SEO and SEM Explanations

SEA, SEO and SEM rule the online world. But: what is SEO actually? And above all: what is the difference to SEA and SEM? We explain the basics for your B2B online marketing!

1. What is SEM?

“SEM” means Search Engine Marketing for short according to Abbreviationfinder. But what is search engine marketing really? The term is often incorrectly equated with pure search engine advertising (SEA) or search engine optimization (SEO).

In fact, SEM combines both disciplines: Search Engine Marketing is the head of all measures for marketing a company via search engines like Google.

Marketing via search engines is becoming more and more interesting for SMEs in times of digital brand management. Having your own website has long been a must-have. However, the website is only useful if the right visitors find their way there.

Who still enters a URL today?

None! For 85% of users, a potential purchase or conclusion of a contract begins with entering keywords in a search engine – in Germany almost exclusively via Google.

The Google search bar now dominates user behavior – an opportunity and a challenge for companies at the same time.

According to statistics, only what is at the top is clicked and seen. This is exactly what search engine marketing is all about: using paid and unpaid measures to achieve the best possible placement on the first Google results page.

Professional search engine marketing – what’s behind it?

The website serves as an important means of communication for 88% of German SMEs . It is an ideal customer and information touchpoint – especially for products that require explanation in the B2B segment .

But how do you get found on search engines like Google? The answer sounds simple: through SEO and SEA.

We want to clarify the difference between the search results of SEO and SEA with the following graphic:

2. What is SEO?

SEO is the abbreviation for “search engine optimization” translated: search engine optimization ‘. In contrast to SEA, SEO is the unpaid variant of search engine marketing.

The goal of SEO? Encourage the user to click on their own website through unpaid measures on the search results page. However, this only works through

  • good rankings in the organic search of Google and Co.
  • appealing snippets with headings and text that encourage the user to click. A concise call to action (in technical jargon: “Call To Action”) is essential.

Example of a snippet: Headline, website link, brief description and a clear call to action: “Buy an apartment in Augsburg now”

How do you achieve good rankings?

When placing on the results pages (in technical jargon: SERPs) one speaks of rankings. SEO therefore offers great potential, especially for small companies with a low budget. For 85% of potential customers, the buying process begins with entering search terms on Google.

If your website appears at the top, the searcher is very likely to click on your search result. Because: According to a study by Sistrix, 99% of users never reach the second page . And: only 2% are still interested in the result in 10th place.

In a nutshell, SEO works like this on Google:

  1. At the beginning there is a research of search terms (technical jargon:keywords ) that (potential) customers enter into the Google search bar.
  2. These are evaluated and increasingly integrated into the website texts
  3. Through regular website visits (in technical jargon: crawling), Google examines your website in terms of content and structure
  4. When a keyword is entered, it is compared with the crawling results in the Google database and evaluated for matches
  5. Google wants to offer its users the best possible content. If there is a good match, your website is classified as relevant to the search term entered and offered to the user as a result

But it’s not that simple after all. For a ranking in the first places, many other Google ranking factors such as backlinks and unique content play a role . Only the combination of the so-called on- and off-page optimization will bring you top results.

3. What is SEA?

SEA stands for “Search Engine Advertising”, ie search engine advertising. The ads are at the top of Google, above the organic search results or at the bottom of the SERPs. In contrast to SEO, you have to pay for this according to the so-called cost-per-click model (CPC for short).

How does SEA work?

Compared to SEO, SEA is less time-consuming and quick to implement. If you want to advertise your website for a specific search term in the advertising area, this works via Google AdWords.

Every keyword has its price.
Specific keywords or keyword groups are set for each ad . But: Keywords cost differently. Depending on the popularity and competition, prices from a few cents to just under € 60 per click are possible. As soon as a user clicks on your ad, the specified amount is due and debited from your campaign account.

When do you need SEA?

The question for small business owners in the B2B sector should rather be: When do you not need SEA? Practice shows: The right combination of both SEO and SEA campaigns is optimal.

However, you should be clear about the goal of your website :

  • Do you want to increase the number of visitors to your website in the long term and save your budget? Then you should continuously rely on SEO, supported by individual SEA campaigns. Because: SEO takes time. Successes are often only visible after a few months, but they are particularly efficient.
  • Do you want to create a high profile for a new product in a short period of time?
    Here you should increasingly rely on SEA campaigns at the beginning. You will quickly achieve high reach and clicks on your website. But: In the long term, you shouldn’t leave out the optimization of your website through SEO measures.

4. SEO and SEA for small B2B

Both variants of the SEM offer great opportunities for small B2B companies in particular to achieve great success with a low budget . The target group can be perfectly narrowed down through the precise selection of keywords and regions.

For professional campaigns, whether SEO or SEA, you should rely on the help of experts. Google wants to make ads as easy as possible. However, it is not uncommon for campaign budgets to be misjudged due to lack of knowledge – and the desired success does not materialize.