Local SEO vs Paid Search (SEM): Which is Better?

As a business owner, it can be difficult to know how to spend your limited resources. With so many available options for promoting your goods and services, you may be worried about pouring your budget and manpower into unprofitable strategies.

One of the most common dilemmas small businesses confront is whether to focus primarily on local search engine optimization (SEO) or paid search (sometimes referred to as pay-per-click [PPC] marketing or search engine marketing [SEM]). To help you get to grips with this question, we’ve collated a handy guide to both strategies below.

PPC Specialist

What is local SEO?

Local SEO encompasses a range of strategies designed to maximize the online visibility of small businesses within their local area. Some methods are similar to those used in organic SEO, such as keyword research, optimizing meta descriptions, link-building, and writing high-quality content. However, it also includes a range of additional activities, including:

  • Setting up a Google Businesses profile
  • Optimizing content with local keywords
  • Responding to reviews
  • Optimizing your website for mobile users
  •  Submitting businesses information with Name, Address and Phone Number to local directories
Google Search Engine

What are the pros and cons of local SEO?

According to recent stats, 93% of consumers find nearby businesses by searching online, with local and organic searches comprising almost 70% of all digital traffic. As such, engaging at least a little SEO is fundamental if you want to capture the attention of a large audience. Key advantages of local SEO include:

  • It helps to build your brand’s reputation and generate a loyal customer base
  • It tends to generate reliable traffic rates
  • It helps to boost conversions and click-through rates
  • It delivers a high return on investment if you maintain a good strategy in the long term
  • It’s relatively cost-effective

 While it’s a good idea for any business to engage in at least a little local SEO, there are a few drawbacks, including:

It can take a while to produce results

  • It requires expertise that takes time and effort to develop
  • You’ll need to study the search terms and data closely to optimize your strategy
  • Search engines such as Google often change their algorithms on a whim, meaning you’ll need to change your tactics regularly

If you’re setting up a new business, you may not have the time or resources to rely on local SEO alone. While you’ll need to engage in simple strategies such as setting up a Google Business profile, there may be an easier way to gain significant traffic in a short space of time — paid search, Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

What is paid search?

Paid search (SEM) is a form of advertising whereby businesses pay for search engines to display their web pages is the search results pages. If you decide to invest in paid search (SEM), you’ll need to bid on market segment search terms keywords to ensure your business’s web page reaches relevant customers using those search terms. 

 Businesses must pay search engines every time a user clicks on their ad. Costs can vary widely, depending on search volumes and the search term keywords used. According to recent figures, however, the average yearly cost of paid search is between can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars monthly. While this may seem high, paid advertising enjoys an ROI of around 200% — an attractive prospect for businesses looking to grow swiftly.

 Other advantages of paid search include:

  • It allows you to target specific audiences, including those in your local area
  • It generates quick and measurable results
  • It’s excellent for time-sensitive content 
  • You have control over how much you want to spend
  • It produces detailed data from which to draw actionable insights to further improve the campaign’s performance. 

 For all of its benefits, however, the paid search (SEM)  comes with the following disadvantages:

 It requires budgeting for ongoing marketing.  

  • It can be risky if you try to do the ads without understanding all the layers of SEM marketing strategies. 
  • It requires constant management to ensure that your ads are competing successfully in the bid auctions
  • It requires regular updates to the ads and offers to keep the offer fresh and enticing. 
Marketing for a Small Business in Canada

The verdict: Local SEO or paid search?

As you can see, local SEO and SEM can derive an excellent array of benefits that could help get your local business found in the local search results.  Ultimately, all businesses should engage in both marketing strategies.  We can consult with you and your business to help you determine how to spend your marketing budget.

For example, if your company offers niche products or is subject to seasonal trends, SEM could help you target the right audiences at the right time. On the other hand, if you run a year-round business that relies on loyal customers, such as a local services business or restaurant, local SEO could be more critical for building your reputation. If you’re unsure about your needs, we are happy to provide you with a 30-minute no-obligation consultation.  Contact us

Next Steps

We have local SEO services that will position your local business for the search terms you want to be found for in the local search results.

We are Google Ads Specialist and have been certified professional who creates compelling campaigns for SEM that capture the attention of potential customers.   We provide personalized account-based marketing services for small businesses in the south Okanagan Penticton communities.


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