If you should be an e-commerce professional without living in stone, you’re plagued by the SEO vs. SEM debate. SEO and SEM are terms that will mean different items to different people. So allow me to clarify what I am talking about by those terms. Certainly not are these expected to be comprehensive definitions, but they serve the objective of accuracy and simplicity.


Activities you undertake on your website, such as, for example, maintaining a specific keyword density, or on other websites, such as, for example, link building, to rank higher on internet search engine results pages, is named Search Engine Optimization (SEO).


Paying search engines to send qualified traffic your way, probably employing a pay-per-click mechanism, is Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

It can certainly be argued that SEM is much broader than what I have just described and includes SEO practice. So that we can come to some actionable conclusions, I’m isolating SEO from other SEM activities.

Which One Is Better for E-commerce Businesses?

If I had some method of convincingly answering this question with a “that one,” I would be one of the most sought-after e-commerce marketers. Not surprisingly, the clear answer is more of a “depends.” I know that sounds unhelpful, but don’t worry. It gets better.

SEO Is Better Because…

  • you expend resources once and reap benefits forever.
  • Once you achieve success in your SEO, it is just a formidable competitive advantage that’s not easy to reproduce in a short period.
  • E-commerce websites generally have inherently poor SEO. Consequently, even only a little effort can bear substantial fruit.
  • Users who can distinguish between organic results and ads tend to get more credible organic results.
  • It’s expected that in the long run, the cost per visitor is a small fraction of that which you can become paying for SEM campaigns.
  • In specific verticals, SEM spending has turned prohibitively expensive.

SEM Is Better Because…

  • SEM campaigns start yielding results instantly, while SEO usually takes months.
  • You realize precisely what you are paying for, and you can measure the return on investment (RoI).
  • Your SEM spend won’t suddenly be worth zero when search engines like Google tweak their algorithm
  • once you hit the winning formula. You can keep scaling up your SEM strategy with great ease.
  • It’s in your control and is not determined by the whims of a few Stanford PhDs and their cronies.
  • Most e-commerce businesses observe that, on a per-visitor basis, PPC traffic converts a lot better than organic search traffic.
  • You’re able to control how your manufacturer and other attributes are treated.

So Which One Is Best?

The pros and cons introduced by the lists mentioned above are compelling. E-commerce businesses cannot entirely overlook either SEO or SEM. Below are a few conclusions you can draw:

If your e-commerce website is new, you can’t watch for SEO success to kick in. Consequently, most of one’s resources, say 90%, must be used on SEM exercises, and the residual 10% on SEO.

As time progresses and you find some SEO success, you can gradually increase the allocation of resources to SEO.

Considering that there will be something you want to promote “today,” you will have to lean on paid traffic forever. In the long run, you can desire to stabilize at a 50-50 investment in SEO and SEM activities.

Word of Caution

Getting stuck in an SEM-only approach is straightforward, as that’s what bears fruit initially. But the cost per click might soon rise to levels your business might not be able to sustain. So it is good to construct your organic leg too. Also, SEO is turning out to be an irritatingly moving target. Think of using content marketing as an SEO approach. It sure seems like content marketing has lots of steam left.

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