The Internet is a fully stocked department store: within it are all the necessities a person would ever need. But the Internet, like a giant department store, is vast and hard to navigate. The same way department store shoppers use aisles to find what they’re looking for in the store, Internet consumers use search to find what they’re looking for on the Web.

Search engines employ advanced algorithms to deliver exactly what consumers are searching for based on the searchers’ keywords. Search engines deliver two types of results based on the consumers’ keywords: SEO and SEM.

The Organic Market

Search engines deliver organic results based solely on sites’ content. Search engines attempt to match SEO results as closely to the customer’s search terms as possible. By analyzing what people search for and click on, search engines compile data to deliver the results that people most want to see. But search results are wholly based on the searchers’ keywords. SEO results are limited in this way. There is not much wiggle room to stray from the keywords when results are strictly keyword-based.

For example, if a searcher types in the keywords “Honda Civic,” sites that feature content about Honda Civics will dominate the organic results page. The searcher receives results that directly correspond to these keywords. Likewise, if a shopper in a department store steps into the automotive aisle, this shopper will find all sorts of automotive items. With SEO, the keywords yield directly corresponding results.

You Didn’t Know You Wanted This

SEM results, however, do not always directly correspond to keywords. In fact, the smart SEM marketer tries to target a type of customer and not that customer’s search terms. A good SEM marketer can show consumers something they didn’t know they wanted. Search engine marketing is like the checkout counter at the grocery store. Filled with batteries, candy, and other assorted accouterments, it reminds shoppers of extra things they could always use.

But SEM results work much better than those impulse-buy items at the checkout counter because search engines customize SEM results. Based on searchers’ keywords, search histories, and other data search engines can deliver tailored results to each searcher. If a searcher enters the keywords “Honda Civic,” he or she may receive SEM results for a similar car, say, the Toyota Corolla. The SEM marketer knows that many of those who are searching for a Honda Civic might find a similar car, the Toyota Corolla, a relevant result too.

A searcher may even find SEM results to be more relevant than SEO results. How could paid results be more relevant than natural results? Because of the marketer’s flexibility in creating SEM ads. SEM takes into account more data and thus more about the searcher than SEO does. SEM can thus yield results that are not limited by keywords, results that take into account more information about the searcher.

Getting What You Want

Both SEO and SEM give consumers what they want. While SEO offers results that correspond directly with keywords, SEM considers searchers’ implicit desires. For this reason, marketers must approach SEM and SEO differently. SEM marketers need to find out who their customers are and what types of things these customers are looking for. When marketers do this they can start expanding keyword lists to reach consumers on a broader plane.