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SEO vs. SEM

Which is better for your bank?

5/26/21

It’s no wonder many bank marketers balk at search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). The two are interrelated, and sometimes the terms are even used interchangeably.

Broadly speaking, SEM encompasses all marketing tactics that result in increased visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs), which certainly covers paid advertising but also technically includes organic search results — namely, SEO.

Feeling like a fish out of water?

For the sake of simplicity, we at BrownBoots define SEM as any paid tactics used to deliver search engine traffic to your bank website, such as Google Ads, while SEO refers to the unpaid updates you make to your site to raise SERP rankings organically.

But which is better for your bank or credit union website? Should you cast your nets wide with SEO? Or spend a little more money for the perfect lure?

It all depends on what you’re fishing for.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Think of SEO as a long, lazy weekend at the lake.

Oh, there’s plenty of prep before the trip itself. You must make sure your bank website is using the right words in the right places. That includes emphasizing your geography so that localized searches attract the attention of search engine users — because unless you’re a mega corporation, your website is something like a little fish in a big pond.

But over time, you’ll have enough lines using the right bait in the water. All that’s left is to kick your feet up and wait for the qualified visitors to strike.

When to choose SEO

Search engine optimization is a viable tactic when the following are true:

  • You’re casting your nets wide for a variety of qualified traffic for the long haul.
  • You have the time and capability via a content management system to spread rich keywords strategically throughout your bank website.
  • You have opportunities to add new content that leverages those same keywords (e.g. blog posts, landing pages, FAQ pages).
  • You don’t have an ongoing budget for pay-per-click ads.

Learn more about SEO

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

If SEO is a slow-paced weekend on the lake, then SEM is an afternoon of constantly casting with your best lure, hunting that perfect fish.

Paid SEM lets you target a very specific type of customer, based on geography, age, interests and more. But all that fancy gear comes with a price, and it can be all too easy to spend money on ads that will catch an old shoe as easily as a trophy fish.

While SEM might take some extra time, energy and money, the results tend to be more reliable and effective in the short term.

When to choose SEM

  • You’re fishing for a certain type of customer for a specific period (e.g. increase loan applications by X%).
  • You have the capability via a content management system to create custom landing pages that include conversion-friendly calls to action.
  • You have the time and skill set to not only create a digital marketing campaign, but also monitor it daily and adjust your settings as needed.
  • You have an ongoing budget for pay-per-click ads.

Learn more about SEM

When it comes to bank website traffic acquisition, no one wants to think about the one that got away. Knowing when to use SEO or SEM — or both! — shouldn’t be a can of worms. It’s all about using the right tool for the job.

Do you have bigger fish to fry? We’re happy to help you with SEO, SEM or any other digital marketing tactic!

Let’s take your bank website to the next level!

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