Pest control in the US is a $20.4 billion business. The industry has grown significantly over the last five years. It registered a 5.5% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2017 to 2022.
There is a lot of revenue to capture in the industry. But the competition is fierce. To get your slice of this billion-dollar market, your marketing has to be bar none.
That is where SEO or SEM can come in. These two digital marketing strategies are essential in today’s online world. Yet, before you can start using these tools, you need to understand the difference between SEO and SEM.
Today, we want to help you do just that. This complete guide will explain SEO, SEM, and the most important distinctions between them. Plus, we will tell you which strategy works best for pest control companies like yours.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell, this digital marketing strategy enables companies to get their websites ranked higher on Google.
And ranking higher on Google can help you get more website traffic. For example, ranking first in organic Google search results has been shown to cause a click-through rate (CTR) of over 39%.
But how exactly does SEO work? It starts with optimizing your website. You can optimize your website for SEO using keywords (e.g., “pest control”), location tags (e.g., “pest control near me”), and more.
The overarching goal of SEO is to increase your online visibility so that you can reach your target audience better. SEO gets you organic traffic, too, which can generate 2x more revenue compared to alternative marketing strategies.
On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO
We generally distinguish between two types of SEO: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
Most SEO happens on your website. This is known as on-page SEO. On-page SEO includes tasks like writing keyword-optimized blog articles or improving the speed or mobile accessibility of your website.
Conversely, off-page SEO strives to increase your site’s visibility by means of social media, shared content, and more. Off-page SEO has very little to do with your actual website.
What IS SEM?
SEM is an abbreviation for Search Engine Marketing, but it is also known as paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. SEM can be part of your organic SEO strategy, though many companies use SEM alone.
The goals of SEO and SEM are the same: to increase traffic to your website. However, SEM does not just do this via organic traffic. It also sends paid traffic to your website.
Here’s how it works. Companies bid for a relevant keyword (e.g., “scorpion pest control Los Angeles”). When you win your bid, Google places an ad at the top of its search results for that keyword, and you pay per click.
PPC is one of the top generators of online traffic. It generates around 28% of all website traffic, including traffic to pest control business sites like yours.
Types of SEM
Like SEO, there are different ways to do paid advertising. Though SEM is often considered synonymous with pay-per-click (PPC), this is just one type of search engine marketing. The other four common types of SEM include:
- Local search
- Display Advertising
- Product Advertising
You could argue that local search is actually an SEO strategy. Using location tags or geotags on your website would be a form of on-site SEO. However, using location tags in your ad campaign is a type of SEM.
The Difference Between SEO and SEM
Over 68% of all website traffic comes from a combination of SEO and SEM. According to the latest statistics, 40% of website traffic comes through organic search. And as we mentioned, up to 28% comes directly from paid search.
Yet, SEO and SEM are two completely different strategies. They may have the same goal (to increase traffic to your site). But as we have alluded to, they go about achieving these goals in very different ways.
SEO primarily focuses on website optimization and, secondarily, off-site SEO. Meanwhile, SEM focuses on placing ads in Google search results.
What are the other factors that make SEO and paid search so different? We are going into detail about three of them next.
If you are looking for immediate results, you may be wondering: how long does SEO take? In terms of result time, SEM is far superior to SEO.
With SEM, you can see increased traffic as soon as your ad goes live. You have to wait to see an uptick in organic traffic when you use organic SEO strategies alone.
Experts estimate that SEO can take up to six months to work. If you use expert SEO services from an agency like Marketing Pests, you could see results in as few as three months.
Of course, these timelines are not always exact. For instance, pay-per-click advertising could take longer than a few minutes to work if you need to run an A/B test. Still, SEM will almost always be faster than SEO.
One of the first questions businesses ask us (and rightfully so) is, how much do SEM and SEO cost? SEO is virtually free. On the other hand, the cost of placing ads on Google can rack up fast.
We said “virtually” in reference to the cost of SEO because this strategy is not actually free. You have to pay your SEO team or agency.
But the same is true of SEM: you have to pay your paid search marketing team. And this cost is in addition to the price you must pay per ad click to keep your top-ranking spot on Google.
On average, SEO can cost around $2000 per month. You can pay even less when you outsource to an SEO agency. SEM, though, can cost as much as $10,000 per month.
Is your company short on time and resources? Then you probably want to know how much time and resources your will need for SEO vs. SEM.
You will need more time and resources to run an SEO campaign compared to doing pay-per-click. SEO campaigns require keyword research, content creation, link building, social media management, and much more.
With SEM, you only need someone to purchase the ads, write the copy, and include a link. Of course, adding processes like A/B testing can increase the administrative needs for this marketing strategy.
But SEM is still typically less labor-intensive than SEO. However, you can make SEO more cost-effective and less labor-intensive by outsourcing. Then, you will know the exact cost for SEO upfront and in full.
SEM Benefits vs. SEO Benefits
By now, we hope you understand the main differences between SEM and SEO. We even brushed on some of the advantages of SEM over SEO and vice versa. Here are some more benefits of these marketing strategies.
SEM Campaigns Are Highly Targeted
Pest control companies need to target a niche segment of the market. And if you offer services specific to the types of pests in your area, your niche is even smaller.
For this reason, SEM can be a great tool for pest control businesses. You can create an ad campaign for each pest your company can deal with. Further, you can geotag your ads to show up only for users in specific regions.
If you are a national pest control company, this benefit is even more pronounced. You can create local ads for potential customers in each area your serve.
SEO Targets Top and Mid-Funnel Audiences
Remember how we mentioned that SEO helps build trust with your audience? This implies its usefulness in top-of-the-funnel marketing campaigns. But SEO is also great for targeting middle-of-the-funnel consumers.
Top-of-the-funnel marketing materials work to improve brand awareness by building trust. SEO does this in the way we mentioned. It gets you to the top of the organic Google search results and frames you as an industry leader.
The goal of a mid-funnel marketing campaign is to help consumers who want to research and compare products or services. SEO-optimized content on your blog can help enable these members of your audience.
Why is this so important for pest control companies? Top and mid-funnel marketing efforts help you identify and nurture new buyers.
SEM typically only works for bottom-of-the-funnel consumers. And these consumers know about your brand and have most likely made a purchase already.
SEM Is More Trackable
Data collection and analytics are becoming increasingly important in today’s online world. Having data on your audience and potential customers can help you improve your strategy, reach more customers, and boost your bottom line.
With SEO, it can be difficult to collect reliable data. After all, SEO results usually take months to deliver. So, how do you know which of your organic marketing efforts are working and which are not?
SEM delivers results that are closer to real-time. And this leads to stronger, more reliable data.
What’s more, real-time data can help cut the high costs of search engine marketing efforts. You can use the data you collect to adjust your strategy, leading to fewer failed ad campaigns.
As you can imagine, it is much easier to track return on investment (ROI) with SEM. That is why companies looking to make the most bang for their buck often choose paid search over organic SEO.
SEO Builds Customer Trust
It is no secret among digital marketers that organic search earns far more customer trust than paid ads. And this increase in trust is known to produce a higher click-through rate in some cases and increase ROI in other cases.
Part of the reason for this is that Google offers high organic rankings to high-quality websites and content.
Frequent Google searchers learn to trust that the top organic results feature industry-leading brands with high authority and credibility.
What Strategy Is Best for Pest Control Companies: SEO vs. SEM
The best online marketing strategy for a pest control brand depends on the company.
If you must choose between the two for budgetary reasons, go with SEO. Organic results receive more clicks than ads and offer improved conversion rates. And you get all that for a fraction of the cost of SEM.
Plus, SEO offers compounded results that pay off long after you have finished your on- and off-site optimizations. Some studies have found that SEO offers a 6:1 ROI compared to paid search’s 3:1 ROI.
But, ideally, we recommend incorporating both SEO and SEM into your online marketing strategy.
SEM will give you the immediate results you need. That way, you can make a quick profit to fund future SEO or SEM campaigns. You can then supplement your SEM campaigns with free SEO for maximum impact.
Interestingly, there is also evidence that SEO and SEM together have a synergistic effect. Not using SEO with your paid search strategy can result in more expensive ads than using SEO and SEM in tandem.
Searching for Pest Control SEO and SEM Services?
The difference between SEO and SEM is that the former focuses on optimizing your website for Google rankings. SEM uses paid search ads to attract customers.
You may think you only need one of these strategies to differentiate yourself in today’s crowded market. But both SEO and paid search are critical if you want to stay ahead of the pack in the long term.
Are you searching for a digital marketing agency that specializes in pest control? At Marketing Pests, we can help you book more calls.
Contact us today to schedule a free strategy session with our pest control digital marketing experts!