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SEO3 min read Healthcare SEO, SEM and PPC: What's the difference?

Find out what these common healthcare marketing terms mean and find out which product might be right for you.

January 13, 2020

Speaking the lingo of healthcare digital marketing can help you seem like an expert (and who doesn't like that?). But knowing the language can also help you make smart decisions for your hospital, health system or health plan.

Consider this: The terms SEO, SEM and PPC are all related. But they all mean slightly different things in terms of functionality and pricing. Which product do you need? Clear definitions can help clarify the answer to that question.

Here's a quick guide you can use as you shop.

What is healthcare SEO?

The term "SEO" stands for "search engine optimization." This is a toolkit healthcare organizations use to ensure that they appear as high as possible in search engine results pages.

Healthcare SEO starts with your website. If you've ever heard a consultant talk about identifying healthcare keywords, creating content with those keywords in mind, reworking content to make it easier for crawlers to scan, or submitting new pages to Google, you're in the realm of SEO.

Cost is what makes this term stand out from the others. SEO is designed to get you as many organic—or unpaid—website visitors as possible.

What is healthcare PPC?

The term "PPC" stands for "pay per click." This is the strategy healthcare organizations use to get paid attention from search engines like Google.

Utilizing healthcare PPC means buying space in search engine results in the hopes of getting attention from people performing searches. The content you serve up must still be enticing so readers will click on it. But those readers might be more likely to click on your content since you've paid to move it up in search engine results. (We've written a longer post about healthcare PPC strategies you can check out for more information.)

PPC and SEO can—and often do—work hand in hand. The healthcare keywords you identify during SEO might be the same keywords you use in a PPC campaign. And if a webpage isn't performing organically (you can see this in your Google Analytics reports), including it in a PPC campaign can be a smart idea.

But PPC is distinct from SEO in that it includes only paid strategies.

What is healthcare SEM?

The term "SEM" stands for "search engine marketing." This is a term that's in flux within the search industry as a whole. (Isn't it reassuring to know that these terms cause a little confusion among experts too?)

Some companies use the term "SEM" to encompass both SEO and PPC. To these companies, SEM is a term that includes all of your efforts—both organic and paid—that help ensure you show up well in search engine results. But other companies use the term "SEM" instead of the term "PPC." To these companies, SEM includes only paid strategies.

If you're working with a consultant who discusses SEM, asking whether organic search plays a role can help you understand exactly what solution is on the table. And be sure to ask about social strategies too. That can fall under an SEM heading as well.

We speak your language

At Coffey, we believe in plain talk. Our writers and editors are experts at breaking down complex medical language so readers understand the content we create.

And we apply these same skills in business development. We don't bury our solutions in words that only industry insiders understand. We make sure you know just what we're talking about—and why it might help. Ready to join a conversation like this? We are. Just contact us and let's talk.