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Search engine optimisationWhat is the difference between SEO and SEA?

SEO and SEA are online marketing measures to improve the visibility of your website. You can find a detailed explanation here...

Nana Nkrumah, 20.04.2023

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SEO and SEA are two different online marketing strategies. Both are designed to improve the visibility of your website in search engines. SEO (search engine optimisation) aims at the organic ranking. This means that your page lands high up in the hit list for a desired keyword without you paying for it. SEA (search engine advertising) means that you place paid advertisements: Then your website will appear above the normal hit list. SEA ads - for example, Google Ads - usually look the same as normal, non-paid hits. However, Google marks these paid hits with the label "Sponsored". Both measures can complement each other. You can find out how here - and in the summary at the end of the article.

If you want your website to appear high in the organic, unpaid search results, you need a number of SEO measures. Central, for example, is the use of keywords on your page. (Here you will find a detailed Keyword research guide). You should optimise all content and images with regard to the desired keywords. In addition, search engine optimisation also includes technical SEO. This means that your website must be technically designed in such a way that the search engine programmes (crawlers) can read your page well and evaluate the overall quality positively.

How do SEO and SEA influence each other?

If you achieve that your website performs well through SEO measures, this can lead to you having to place fewer paid advertisements (SEA) in order to achieve the desired number of website visitors. SEO can therefore help to reduce the cost of paid ads. Search engine optimisation is a measure that can take a relatively long lead time to take effect. From a cost-benefit perspective, however, a sustainable SEO strategy is much more favourable than permanently placing paid advertisements.

Conversely, a successful SEA strategy can help improve a website's SEO. When you place ads, you collect valuable data about website users or click behaviour. Advertising tools such as Google Ads give you a precise overview of which target group you can best reach with which keywords and with which ads or landing pages. You can use this data for your SEO strategy. Especially if you still have little success with unpaid hits, paid ads can help you to become visible in the first place. In this case, SEA increases your brand awareness and ensures that customers land on your page more often. This increased traffic makes Google consider your website more attractive overall and can also lead to better visibility in the unpaid results.

Examples of interaction

Although SEO and SEA are different approaches, they still have an impact on each other. Here are some examples:

  • Keyword research: SEO and SEA are both based on the use of keywords. A good SEO strategy involves the selection of relevant keywords to be used in the content of the website. These keywords can also be used in the SEA campaign to place ads targeting specific keywords.
  • Quality factors: The quality of a website is an important factor for both SEO and SEA. If a page has high quality, it is likely to perform better in organic search results. It will also receive a higher quality ranking for ads in SEA campaigns.
  • TrafficA successful SEA strategy can help to increase traffic on a website, which in turn can improve the success of SEO measures. If a page generates more traffic, Google considers it particularly popular and ranks it higher in the organic search results.
  • Cost per clickThe better the website ranks in organic search, the less you have to pay for SEA. This is because a well-optimised website has higher quality scores and better ad positions in the search results, resulting in lower costs per click.

Overall, SEA and SEO can help each other to improve the visibility of the site and collect data that is valuable for further online marketing. While SEA means investing money permanently, SEO is a strategy that is cheaper in the long run because it relies on the unpaid search results. However, SEO requires a certain lead time. To achieve this goal, additional investment in SEA can make sense, especially for new sites.

In a nutshell:

  • SEO and SEA both aim at the visibility of your website
  • SEO is a measure to place one's own website better in the unpaid search engine results
  • SEA includes paid advertisements that look similar to unpaid hits
  • SEO and SEA have an interaction, for example they help each other to attract visitors to the website, collect data and test keywords.
  • SEA can positively support SEO measures and vice versa
  • SEO is the cheaper strategy as you don't have to pay for advertising on a regular basis, however SEA can be a good addition especially for new websites in the early days.