With the birth of the Internet and World Wide Web, search engines were created to assist users to find information. Prior to search engines, the Internet was a collection of File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites users would have to manually navigate to find specific files. Search engines grew out of the need for users to more easily navigate the web servers and files on the Internet.
As new search tools were created with unique algorithms for collecting, organizing and ranking information discovered on website URLs, web page designers became more aware of the need to cater their websites toward receiving superior ranking by various search engines. Generally, as better-quality rankings were obtained for specified keyword phrases, more visitor traffic was also received. Accordingly, the study of search engine optimization (SEO) grew out of the desire by web page designers to gain top rankings on keyword search inquiries; hopefully increasing the number of visitors to their sites.
SEO is a part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and SEM forms a part of the expansive field of Internet marketing. Internet marketing, online marketing and web marketing consider all factors related to the marketing of products or services over the Internet. Internet marketing is not just promoting a website. It also includes all the creative and technical aspects of design, development, advertising, and sales on the Internet.
SEM is a more expansive term than SEO and describes all strategies ensuring your website ranks well in search engine rankings and increases the number of site visitors. By extension, SEM can include social media optimization (SMO) and social media marketing (SMM). SMO is the use of social media to spread news about your website by participating in social networks. SMO and SMM are basically forms of viral marketing techniques hoping that a buzz is created about your website causing a serious growth in the number of visitors and goal conversions. Social media includes technologies and practices used by people to network with others around commonalities of opinion, insights, experiences and perspectives around shared content and multimedia. Thus, online social media results in social networking services in which groups of people are connected by some type of social common interest.
SEO can be described as the art and science of maximizing search engine rankings and goal related conversions. Maximization of rankings involves assessing all of the on-page and off-page elements considered valuable to search engine algorithms. Elements include content and design considerations such as site structure, entry and exit pages, graphics, titles, and written text. SEO evaluates all elements of a website with the goal of obtaining high search engine rankings. Some purists consider SEO to only include natural web page factors and thus make a distinction between organic (natural) and inorganic forms of website optimization. Inorganic optimization techniques consider pay-per-click (PPC) and other forms of paid advertising and content strategies.
The term Web 2.0 is used to describe a new generation of development in which websites will be structured around using the web as an application in the way people interact. As such, SMO and SMM will become a greater part of how websites are created and promoted as part of SEM strategies. At the same time, SEO will evolve to correspond with the changing importance of variables assigned by search engine algorithm to maximize rankings and conversions.
In conclusion, SEO and SEM are closely related efforts within Internet marketing. While SEO is more of a technical science than SEM, both are important to increasing the number of visitors and goal conversions from Internet marketing. While the specific definitions of SEO and SEM are often intertwined, they each seek to increase the overall results from a comprehensive Internet marketing campaign.