The Difference Between SEO & SEM? (and Which is Right For Your Firm?)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are often confused. Though many use the two interchangeably, there are some major differences that set them apart. To figure out which is right for your firm, you’ll first need to understand what makes them different.

What’s SEO?

SEO is actually a component of SEM. SEO is focused on organic search. The goal of SEO is to gain traffic to your firm’s site from organic search results on search engines. Organic search results are free and natural, meaning you don’t pay for their positions on search results but instead algorithms are used but the search engines to establish which results are the best for the query. For example, if someone were to search “lawyer for workplace injury” and your firm appears in the results below all the ads, this would be an organic search result.

SEO is continually changing to keep up with Google’s algorithm updates. It is made up of both on-page and off-page tactics. On-page SEO consists of adding keywords into title tags, meta descriptions, alt texts, content, etc. If your firm handles personal injury cases, making sure you have keywords such as “auto accident lawyer”, “slip and fall attorney”, “personal injury attorney” and other similar keywords and phrases scattered throughout your site is on-page SEO. Your firm’s high quality blog posts and other content on the site contributes to SEO along with the formatting of your URLs, page speed, social media, and much more. Off-page SEO includes your firm’s link building efforts, or any links that point back to your firm’s site. Basically any unpaid optimizations made to your firm’s site are under the SEO umbrella.

What’s SEM?

SEM is a type of Internet marketing that encompasses both organic (SEO) and paid efforts to get more traffic to your firm’s site. The paid portion of SEM consists of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertisements and listings. PPC is a form of advertising that allows you to buy advertising space on search engine results. Instead of your firm organically ranking high on search results for free, you pay for your firm to appear above the organic results for keywords and phrases you bid for. You’ll then pay a set cost per click to your firm’s ad (hence the name).

For example, if someone were to search “social security disability lawyer”, and you bid on that specific keyword, your firm’s ad would often appear above or below the organic search results. You would then pay for each time someone clicked on your firm’s ad. You can narrow your paid efforts down the geographic area your firm takes cases in as well. So if your firm only takes cases in the Chicago area, your firm’s ads would only appear there.

Which should your firm use?

The choice for which is right for your firm is entirely up to your firm’s needs. SEM is beneficial in instances when you need new clients fast. If you just launched your firm’s site, getting traffic will be faster through PPC then it would be for SEO. If your firm does choose to set a PPC campaign, you cannot forget about it. It will need to constantly be monitored to ensure that it optimized properly.

On the contrary, even though SEO may take longer to optimize pages and see results, it is more budget friendly. If your firm takes cases in a congested area of law, such as personal injury, your firm won’t be the only ones bidding on keywords. The more people bidding, the more expensive the ad will get.

If neither SEO nor SEM seems like the best course of action to help increase your caseload, consider lead generation! Here at eGen, we have teams dedicated to both SEO and SEM, so you won’t have to think about it. We offer Social Security disability, personal injury, creditor harassment, and workers’ compensation leads. Give us call today at (617) 800-0089 to find out more about pricing and leads in your area!