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Five Ways Search Engine Marketers and Search Engine Optimizers are Different

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By Melanie Yunk | January 16, 2012

People are often confused and often ask us the difference between a Search Engine Marketer (SEM) and a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO).

We're excited to include this post from guest blogger, David Rodnitzky. David is the CEO of PPC Associates and he, as you'll read below, has some big opinions about the differences between SEMs and SEOs and, lucky for us, we get to read about it here. Enjoy!

Five Ways Search Engine Marketers and Search Engine Optimizers are Different

I frequently get referrals from well-meaning colleagues that start with an introduction that sounds something like this: “I want to introduce you to David Rodnitzky, CEO of PPC Associates. David and his team are SEO rock stars and will be able to help your business out a lot!” While I do think my team is chock-full of rock stars, we’re SEM folks (paid search jor search engine marketing), not SEO (organic search or search engine optimization). Granted, the two terms sound very similar, but then again, so does neurology (study of the brain) and nephrology (study of the kidney). Believe me, if you had a kidney stone, you wouldn’t want a neurologist.

SEO and SEM are similar in that they both involve working with search engines, but beyond that, they are completely different arts and sciences. Indeed, the DNA of a good SEM and SEO practitioner is diametrically different. Here are a few of the primary differences:

  1. SEOs love content; SEMs hate it. A good SEO page has lots of, um, what do you call those things? Oh yeah, “Words.” SEOs love to build “keyword density” on pages, meaning that they write long articles filled with words (repeated numerous times) that they hope will help them get a particular page ranked highly in the search engine results (SERPs).SEMs crave simplicity. The fewer the words, the better. A sparse page that pushes users to do just one thing (fill out this form! Buy this product!) is the preferred landing page for SEM.
  2. SEOs understand code; SEMs don’t. SEOs spend much of their time optimizing a site’s meta-data– things like meta-titles, meta-descriptions, and meta-keywords. On top of that, they think about how your code is organized, like whether your javascript pixels will slow your page load time and impact your organic results.SEMs are blissfully unaware of all that HTML and PHP taking place behind a page loading. We do care that tracking pixels are properly installed (though we would not deign to actually do the installation ourselves); but beyond that, whether you use a H1, H2, or H134 tag for a headline doesn’t matter at all to us.
  3. SEOs are patient; SEMs want immediate gratification. SEO takes a long time. Sometimes the work of an SEO expert might not drive results for a client for three to six months. SEOs have to counsel their clients to be patient as well (and still collect their checks in the meantime). [Editorial Note: Ouch. MEOW, David!]SEMs want results immediately. We check AdWords multiple times a day to see how many conversions we’ve received, and we get frustrated with “high-latency” conversions that take up to 30 days to close.
  4. Google tolerates SEMs; Google hates SEOs. Google has a general disdain for search engine marketers, but they know it pays the bills so they placate us. The founders of Google originally envisioned a search engine free from the shackles of Madison Avenue. As Larry and Sergey noted in their original academic paper describing Google, “We believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.” A few private jets later, they’ve modified their viewpoint, albeit slightly.There is little to no love for SEOs at Google. Oh, sure, Matt Cutts is friendly with a cadre of top SEO folks, but at its heart, Google spends a lot of cycles updating its algorithms to punish or pre-emptively fight SEO. We SEMs get wined and dined by Google’s ad team quite frequently – SEOs are lucky to get invited to lunch in the Google cafeteria.
  5. SEOs are lone wolfs; SEMs are herd animals.SEOs strike me as the guys in college who would rather play video games than go to a party. SEMs are closer to drunken, albeit still awkward, frat boys (the less awkward ones become sales guys, I think). SEOs typically like to do stuff themselves, which is why so many of them are solo consultants. SEMs like to interact with different internal teams and socialize. Yes, I know, this is a gross generalization. [Editor's Note: Uh, general, ya think?]One commonality shared by SEOs and SEMs – we both hate it when people confuse our respective professions! And on that note, I’ve got a little bit of a headache. I’m going to take two aspirin and call my nephrologist in the morning.

- Guest Post by David Rodnitzky, CEO of PPC Associates

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