David Franco
David Franco

Director of Strategy


Figuring out what type of marketing strategy is best for your kitchen and bath business isn’t always easy. Aside from the fact that there are dozens of unique ways to reach your target market, there are seemingly endless terms being thrown around that half-heartedly describe the process of how you can reach them.

If you’ve been in the business for longer than a few minutes, it’s highly likely that you’ve heard terms like these thrown around—search engine optimization, SEO, SEM, paid strategy, organic search strategy. The list goes on and on.

The prime issue with all this marketing, digital jargon is that it turns SEO for contractors and SEM for contractors into something that feels overwhelming—when, at its core, we can promise that it’s not as complicated as it all initially sounds.

At Hexnet, we believe in uncomplicating your search engine strategies. And though we do that by providing services to you that make your marketing strategy simpler, we also believe that providing you with the foundational knowledge of search engine strategies is incredibly beneficial. We’ll happily help you create these strategies and take them off your hands, but we’re also keen to share that knowledge with you to help you better understand how to market your business in the ways that make the most sense.

Today, we’re primarily diving into something that we believe has been made out to be incredibly confusing—SEO and SEM strategies for contractors.

The two are different strategies that oftentimes interweave and play into one, common goal—boosting your kitchen and bath business. Ultimately, these two tactics will play into a strengthened marketing strategy, but first, it’s important to understand their differences, their similarities, and how each can help you enhance your business.

Breaking Down the Basics: What’s the Difference Between SEO and SEM

Foundational knowledge is a huge part of picking the perfect marketing strategy, which is why we’re starting out with a quick, little vocab lesson to help build up a solid base layer of what you need to know—don’t worry, we’ll get into the good stuff soon.

Understanding SEO & SEM

First things first, let’s talk SEO.

Think about SEO (otherwise known as search engine optimization) as an organic, non-paid search strategy.

The entire goal of SEO is to boost your website’s position on a search engine’s results. In other words, SEO is all about getting your website higher and higher on Google’s search results after someone types in keywords that you’re trying to target. SEO is an ongoing strategy that’s tackled by a continuous effort to rank higher and keep up with all the search engines’ constantly changing algorithms. It’s best to think of SEO as an ever-changing, evolving process—there’s no room for SEO stagnation!

Some terms that are often associated with SEO are on-page and off-page strategies—but don’t worry, we’ll cover those soon.

Now, let’s talk about SEM. SEM (or search engine marketing) is a non-organic, paid search strategy.

Ultimately, SEM is all about increasing the traffic to your website by using paid, purposeful ads that boost your site’s visibility on search engines. Of course, you can’t just throw money at your SEM strategy without it making sense—your ad copy and your SEM strategy must be in-line with the keywords that your target audience is searching for. Otherwise, the point is moot and your target market won’t find you anyway.

A term that is often associated with SEM is pay-per-click ads (PPC). We’ll get to that soon enough, too.

What’s the Difference Between SEO for Contractors & SEM for contractors?

One of the clearest, most distinct differences between SEO and SEM is money.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that SEO is an organic strategy whereas SEM is a paid strategy.

But here’s the deal, a successful marketing strategy needs to include both, because, at the end of the day, SEO is a component of SEM, and vice versa.

Hear us out.

SEO uses both on and off-page strategies (like optimized metadata, optimized page copy, internal link building, local SEO, social signals, link building, and more) to help improve and elevate your site’s position on the web. Ideally, with these strategies you’ll organically create high-quality content that your audience finds useful and help to establish authority. SEM, on the other hand, uses internet marketing dollars for tactics like ad campaigns, ad group creation, creating targeted audiences, monitoring metrics, and developing targeted social media ads.

But here’s the important distinction. SEM—the paid type of marketing—can’t exist with solid SEO.

SEO v SEM Which Should You Use for Your Kitchen and Bath Business?

By now, you should realize that there’s no such thing as picking just one of these tactics.

We feel bad throwing a trick question at you, but truthfully, you can’t have one without the other—they both feed into each other eventually and they can’t exist in their best form without both coming into play.

Both strategies require sophisticated search engine knowledge, both will take time and effort (and money if you’re not tackling SEO on your own), and both will benefit your business in the long run.

But where should you start, and further, what are the pros and cons of each?

The Plus Side: SEO vs SEM

No matter what you decide for your kitchen and bath business, know that SEM cannot come without SEO, so it pays to invest in this strategy first.

The Plus Side of SEO

  • Because SEO is an organic strategy, you don’t necessarily need a marketing budget to make this part happen.
  • Organic SEO establishes search credibility.
  • Organic SEO—when done right—brandishes your authority and can be easily shared
  • content distribution and promotional channels.
  • SEO offers a supremely high level of ROI and allows you the chance to access targeted traffic.
  • SEO is cost-effective and can be tackled without a marketing budget (if you take matters into your own hands).

The Plus Side of SEM

  • SEM grants you immediate visibility. This can be done during your efforts to build up your SEO to help boost this along. So, you could grow your visibility while your organic credibility builds up.
  • You can immediately target the right audience through search ads (geo-targeted or based on keywords).
  • Though you are paying for your marketing efforts, you can invest in strategies like pay per click, which means you’re only paying each time your ad is clicked—you don’t need to earn those visits organically.

Some of The Negatives: SEO vs SEM

The Negative Side of SEO

  • It takes serious time—SEO doesn’t happen overnight. You need to build this up in several ways (landing pages, optimized web pages, blog content) and you won’t see instantaneous results.
  • Your ROI might be high, but not immediately—ultimately, you have to wait to see results.
  • The algorithms are always changing—AKA, you’ll never win the ultimate battle. You’ve got to keep investing time, energy, and effort into your own SEO strategy.
  • Paid strategy might beat you on the search engine results page—and often, that’s the hand you’re dealt.

The Negative Side of SEM

  • You can’t have SEM without SEO—if you attempt to implement SEM strategies without solid SEO strategies in place first, your efforts will fall flat. So, you’re going to have to invest in both regardless.
  • It costs money—enough said. Though it’s convenient, it’ll never come close to the cost-efficiency that SEO strategies have.
  • If you don’t keep paying and you don’t invest in your organic strategy, you’ll likely lose the progress you’ve made once you stop paying for your ads.

Partner with the Right Team to Boost Your Marketing Strategy

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong strategy when it comes to top-notch marketing tactics—SEO and SEM are both going to be hugely impactful for your kitchen and bath business. We could all go ‘round and ‘round forever debating the pros and cons of SEO and SEM, but ultimately, a healthy dose of both is going to do the trick to enhance your business’ search results and directly affect your traffic, your in-home estimates... your sales.

At HEXNET, we get how time-consuming and tricky this stuff can be—that’s why we’re here. Let us focus on the SEO, SEM, and marketing strategies that will produce in-home estimates, and you take care of what you do best—running your kitchen and bath business.

Schedule Digital Marketing Strategy Session with HEXNET