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Wanting to understand the difference between using SEM and using SEO to market your travel business? Smart. When you own a travel-related business, it’s essential for you to choose the best marketing strategy to differentiate your brand from the rest. Making sure that the search and digital marketing strategies you choose are aligned with your goals will save you a whole lot of time and frustration. Here are the basics:


SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing.

This is a marketing strategy that uses paid advertising methods to drive traffic to your travel website. The most popular form of SEM is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which is an ad-based method of making a business stand out in search results.

When someone clicks on the online paid business ad they are immediately taken to the marketer’s website. Fees for this type of marketing are determined by how many times someone clicks on the ad, and marketers can set limits of how much they would like to spend on an entire campaign, per click, and per day.

SEM Pros
  • Can be used to rank higher than one’s competition, as businesses can bid on their competitions’ keywords to try to syphon off some of their traffic
  • SEM gives business owners the ability to retarget their customers, which means that their ad will appear on other websites the user is visiting with hopes of encouraging them to visit their website. If you’ve ever noticed a particular business following you around the internet, that’s what they used on you. The most popular one being AdRoll.
SEM Cons
  • Paid advertising is used so heavily now, people are becoming more and more immune to it. It’s becoming second nature to scroll past what everyone knows are paid ads to get to the organic information.
  • The process can be quite complicated, making it very time-consuming.
  • Many online visitors associate paid ads with spam or scams.
  • SEM can be costly and tends to only provide short-term gains.


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This marketing strategy is one that uses organic methods to drive traffic to your website. This is where it’s critical to research and use relevant keywords and phrases throughout your content so that it’s detected and indexed by all of the popular search engines.

Think about all of the terminology one might use when doing a search for a beach vacation. Terms like “best beaches” or “best beaches in the US” or “secluded beaches” may all be perfect terms to use if you’re trying to drive more traffic to your beach offerings. There are many sites you can use to try and determine the best keywords for your particular topic:


WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool makes it fast and easy to find the keywords your business needs to drive traffic through organic and paid search. [Read More About Wordstream]

KW Finder

Another awesome tool you can use to build your keyword knowledge and improve your site ranking. If you’re a blogger or a travel agency working in a crowded space, this could make the difference between your site being found and booked vs. your site collecting dust at the bottom of the search engine bin! [Read More about KW Finder]


This one is geared more toward bloggers and others who rely on affiliate marketing products as their main revenue drivers. This is not to be confused with some kind of MLM – this is where a blogger (or a travel seller) injects bookable links throughout their website so that when you mention that amazing tour you did in Rome, it links to a bookable product that drives both commission and affiliate dollars your way. [Read More About Jaaxy]

SEO Pros
  • You can expect higher quality leads, as effective SEO techniques will bring in more targeted traffic.
  • Websites that rank organically are shown to have more credibility and more authority, because it’s based on consistent, quality content rather than paid boosting.
  • SEO can also be used as a sales tool by using posts to link out to relevant affiliate products (think bookable content)!
  • Traffic is obtained at a lower cost and tends to work longer-term.
SEO Cons
  • SEO is time-consuming, as it takes an average of one year for a website to be listed in top search results
  • In order for SEO to work, the proper writing techniques must be used consistently across your website to make a real difference.
  • SEO can be costly during the first few months as you’re doing the most heavy lifting re-writing and re-organizing your content.

Other Digital Marketing Terms
You Need To Know

CPA: Cost Per Acquisition

A metric used to determine the cost to acquire a new customer. A good metric for ecommerce companies to pay close attention to and ultimately lower the cost of.

CPC: Cost Per Click

This refers to the dollar amount a business pays for each click in a Pay Per Click campaign.

CTR: Click Through Rate

A metric used to measure the success of a campaign. Typically used in conjunction with organic and paid impressions. Industry standard CTR of paid impressions is between 1.5% – 2.5%. An organic search CTR can range from 2%-35%.

Local SEO (AKA Local Directories)

It is like the Yellow Pages but in a digital format. In addition to search engines like Google there are online directories that specialize in providing local business and service information to customers that are searching for that information online. Examples of these directories are Google+ Places, Yelp, Local.com, and Yahoo Local. These listings are displayed separately from your website on a search engine.

Mobile Optimized Website (AKA Mobile Enabled Website)

This is a version of your website that is built to display correctly on internet enabled smart phones. Websites that are properly optimized offer an easier to read and navigate platform for users, and scales down images for viewing on a smaller screen.

Organic Result/Listing

These are search results that a search engine will present to users based on relevance to the search phrase. These listings appear below or alongside paid advertisements. Often times these listings displayed within the first results page are due to the effort of good search engine optimization.

PPC: Pay Per Click

PPC advertising is the process of gaining traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. In Google these ads are shown at the top of a search results page. The advertiser will pay a varying dollar amount every time someone clicks on the ad.

ROE: Return on Engagement

This phrase is the a buzz word in social media marketing. Like ROI, this measure takes into account the non-monetary return realized in social media campaigns. An example of a success metric here could be how many Facebook Likes you receive for 3 hours of time invested in Facebook.

ROI: Return on Investment

The financial or reward outcome, such as a qualified lead divided by the amount of time, money, and resources required to obtain that sale or lead. A positive ROI represents a positive outcome, and a negative ROI indicates that the resources (financial or otherwise) that were invested into the iniative outweighed the result.

Search Engine

Google, Yahoo, and Bing account for the vast majority of all online searches. With Google owning well over half of the market share.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

A marketing strategy that uses paid advertising methods to drive traffic to your website. Can also be an all encompassing term referring to the tactics involved with increasing a website search engine rank. Both SEO and PPC advertising are strategies used for SEM.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

A marketing strategy that uses organic methods to drive traffice to your website. This is the practice of designing, promoting and improving a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines such as Google. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to your site. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand.

SERP: Search Engine Results Page

The list of results a visitor uncovers when they enter a search on a search engine.

Social Media Channel

Any online destination where the main purpose is connecting with other people, brands, or companies in a social manner. These channels include Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Google+, Snapchat, and more.

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