Building Your Digital Landscape – A Digital Marketing Acronym Reference Guide (or, how SEO, SEM and PPC Work Together)

Jun 22, 2021

This is the first article in our ‘Building Your Digital Landscape’ series about the best practices you can use to construct a strong digital presence.

Few industries morph as rapidly as digital marketing. Whether marketing is your day job or you are just testing the waters, the amount of acronyms, tools and recommended techniques can feel overwhelming at best and flat-out ridiculous at worst.

SEM? I thought it was SEO.

PPC is what now?

If I’m looking for the ROI, do I need to care about a CRO?

Even those of us in the industry are kept on our toes. However, there are ways to understand how all the digital marketing letters fit together to build your online efforts.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The perfectly constructed foundation of digital marketing is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. SEO is focusing on your hub of information: your website. Like any firm foundation, SEO is the sturdy base to all other elements of your digital presence.

Before there were opportunities to buy your way into rankings or purchase space on other websites, there was the ability to make your website easy to find, easy to use and saying exactly what is needed to be said to resonate with your audience. Think about it this way – if you had to find your organization online in three words, what would you search? Those terms, or keywords, should be prevalent in all your website content.

Building SEO isn’t free and, at times, can be time consuming. But just like your home, you hope it’s well constructed and will stand the test of time.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Now, if SEO is the solid foundation to build upon, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) takes your foundation and says, “hey, what if I throw a little money into the mix with pay per click (PPC)?”

Think of all the potential customers searching on Google—you want them to click on your website. Strong keywords can drive traffic, but paying to have your website show up at the top of search results gets them there faster. PPC has been around almost as long as SEO, which means there are a whole host of strategies, tools and best practices around good PPC plans. A good SEM strategy that smoothly blends SEO with PPC can expedite your Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERP)  rankings and clicks in a way SEO can’t match on its own.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Now, let’s say you’re off and building a firm foundation (your SEO) and a smart strategy with keenly applied funds (SEM). Next, you want your building to make sense. Doors need to go to rooms; stairs need to lead to floors —you get the idea. If you’re looking for leads or actions being taken on your website, you want to know how to make those actions even easier. That’s where Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) comes in.

Conversion is the all-encompassing term for any action you want to have happen after that initial click to your website. PPC leads users to click; CRO is your ideal action after that click.

For example, if you want leads, a solid conversion could be a form is filled out by the user. If you’re in the e-commerce space, a conversion could be an actual purchase. Either way, you want to make that action as easy and smooth as possible—that’s the optimization.

This, too, is a space that has an abundance of best practices, studies and strategies that can be applied. For example, one of the biggest impacts on actions taken on your site are page-loading speed times. If your site takes a while to load, you’re likely losing potential customers with each second of load time. Optimization would be improving your website’s load time to ensure your conversion rate goes up.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Finally, this leads us to what most of the C-Suite is looking for—was our effort worth it? Enter return on investment, or ROI. You invested in the foundation. You invested in the building. You invested in the details. What’s your return? In construction, you’d hope your building was solid, safe, attractive and  brought in buyers. Similarly, with your website and digital marketing strategies, you would want to be able to point to increased traffic, longer website visits, new leads, new customers, new purchases, etc.

Ideally you know what that action on your site is worth, so you could compare that to what you’ve invested in it. That calculation is your ROI.

Feeling a little less muddled?

We hope so! Thinking of your tools for building your structure:

Your SEO is your foundation.

SEM is the strategy that mixes your foundation with funds to result in a faster build process.

PPC is a tool within SEM.

CRO follows successful PPC and helps your overall ROI.

How’s that for an acronym heavy summary? If you’re nodding but still would rather pass the tools over to someone else for some help, give us a call or follow us on LinkedIn for more insights.

Reach out below or at, or follow us @westcomm on LinkedIn for more insights.

Building Your Digital Landscape – A Digital Marketing Acronym Reference Guide (or, how SEO, SEM and PPC Work Together)


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