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Search Engine Advertising Traffic Not Same As SEO

Search Engine Advertising (SEA) Traffic is not replaceable by Search Engine Optimization (SEO)...

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Comment by Richard Roy on March 2, 2012 at 3:53pm

@Chip @ Cole

I know this thread is getting off topic, but you bring up some good points regarding ROI

I helped a dealership in Dallas audit their CRM for nearly a year. Many good CRMs can help you track a conversion (sold vehicle) to a specific advertising medium (Google, Bing, etc) - The problem we discovered was sales people / or person designated to maintain records did not want to enter "all" of the required data needed to track the conversion or advertising medium.

Once a dealership starts to accurately document advertising mediums that lead to a conversion including lead providers, the task of attaching it to a specific spend and ROI will get easier.

Comment by Tarry Shebesta on February 28, 2012 at 6:12pm

Every month over 87% of traffic comes from organic search (SEO) through over 26,000 keywords. When we originally launched the site, back in 2000, we were spending over $10K per month on PPC while we worked on our SEO.

Today, we spend money on PPC for special promotions and certain pages we want to direct consumers to.

I have to agree with Matthew on the terminology (old school) but also realize that new terms are being created within the SE industry. When talking to consumers, it's best to keep it simple. This is based on my experience in teaching SEM to NVLA (National Vehicle Leasing Association) members and others.


Comment by Cole Matthew Mitguard on February 28, 2012 at 8:07am

Haha, you caught me! I guess I have fallen into the camp that attempts to simplify everything into SEO and SEM for Paid vs Organic. I know that I am not alone on this, as I have gotten into many a debate over if we can continue using SEM as an umbrella term for all marketing through search engines. Most recently a friend and I discussed how Google + review incorporation into search results means SMO will soon become a part of SEM! But then again, technically it has been for a while, but will this change as time goes on? 


What I have noticed, talking with customers, is that when they are talking about "SEM" they mean paid, and when the say "SEO" they are talking about organic. Is that technically correct? No. When I first passed my Google certifications, did I try and correct people? Yes. But at the end of the day its about explaining all of the services that are part of SEM (SEO, PPC, CPC, SMM) and that is what I focus on. If people start using SEA, then I will adopt, I thought people would start using SA for a while, but that still hasn't seemed to catch on. 


But, as this is your blog, and I do not wish to be insulted, I will use the following definitions whenever I am commenting... 


Paid Search = All forms of paid search – PPC, banner, content network, CPL, CPA whether through exchanges, networks or direct deals with publishers


I looked around for an article on SEOmoz from last year on this very topic, but I was unable to find it. So instead, please take a look at this article from 2010 on Search Engine Land, discusses the SEM vs SEO topic:



You are 100% correct that ROI is where we should be looking, but Google isn't going to be able to provide those results. What I would be interested in seeing is a study conducted in the dealership that uses every available tracking method to follow a PPC customer from lead to sale and measure conversion rate of paid customers. If conventional wisdom is correct, these customers should be further down the sales funnel, thus should have a higher conversion rate than organically generated customers.

Comment by Chip Dorman on February 28, 2012 at 6:55am

Raw traffic counts from any source are meaningless. Does Google have any stats that compare quality? ROI? PPC ROI vs other mediums?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 28, 2012 at 2:39am

If you ever enter into an enterprise partnership with Google, you would learn that the term "Search Engine Optimization" (SEO) is a subset of "Search Engine Marketing" (SEM), with Search Engine Advertising (SEA) being another component within the broader category of Search Engine Marketing (SEM)... That is why Google does not allow any documentation that is created by an enterprise partner to use the term "SEM" in a confusing manner when in fact the document is referring to Google Adwords, the brand name for Google's Search Engine Advertising (SEA) product... People (especially in the car business), who refer to Google Adwords Pay-Per-Click based advertising as "SEM" are in violation of Google's brand guidelines and generally do not know that the very definition of "Search Engine Marketing" includes organic and paid search, as well as other techniques included in this broad based term.

Basically, when I hear somebody that refers to Google Adwords as "SEM" I know they have not been through Google's training and generally are not formally educated on search engine marketing.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 28, 2012 at 2:31am

Here is the PDF file of the Google Search Engine Advertising Pause Study that is being referred to:


Comment by Richard Roy on February 27, 2012 at 11:37pm

With all due respect to the opinions here I would urge everyone to actually read the study: - I don't think it serves automotive professionals here well to cite statistics without framing them correctly or putting  them into some manageable perspective.

Here are some key points:

  • This is a hypothetical math exercise that does not take into account every possible scenario that can be unique to a specific industry
  • If you are not utilizing Google Adwords (Search Network) this does not apply to your dealership at all
  • If you are utilizing paid advertising (Google Adwords) and you turn off your ads, you will loose 100% of the potential traffic that "could" have come from your paid advertising.
  • Just because a website shows up for a keyword through paid advertising does not mean there is an organic listing to take its place. (Not accounted for in this exercise)

Organic traffic and paid traffic can compliment each other. A dealership that is not utilizing paid advertising is missing opportunity period. A dealership that turns off paid advertising looses potential traffic immediately.

If you are a GM or Internet Manager, your focus should be on ROI from both your SEO and paid traffic efforts...not a hypothetical number that some Google number crunchers came up.

Comment by Cole Matthew Mitguard on February 27, 2012 at 8:12pm


haha, you got that right... I thought that maybe there was another acronym associated with Internet Marketing! 

Comment by Cole Matthew Mitguard on February 27, 2012 at 7:51pm


  I think that the trouble is not with SEO, but what passes for SEO from many of the large vendors out there... while of course there are tons of great SEO strategies that exist, at the end of the day there are some results that you can produce with SEO and some that you can produce with PPC. 

I agree that SEO is important, my company provides both services (probably more SEO than PPC at the moment) I just understand the benefits of both services, and that is why for all our clients we develop a PPC strategy that complements their organic rankings. 

Also still waiting on someone who know where "SEA" came from, haha. 

Comment by Cole Matthew Mitguard on February 27, 2012 at 7:15pm

@ Manny

    I would really like to see an example of dealership that is able to deliver the same traffic that would of been delivered via SEM from SEO... simply because the proper PPC strategy would be targeting different customer base. And when I say same traffic, I don't mean deliver the same number of visitors, that is not that statement in this study, but the actual customer that was delivered from the PPC campaign. 

   That being said, SEM is no replacement for SEO, and the same goes visa-versa. 

   Also, SEA? When did that abbreviation come into existence? 

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