The Difference Between SEO and SEM

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

The difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is simply that Search Engine Optimization is part of Search engine marketing. Both is used to increase the visibility in search engine.

In this article, we’ll discuss what is SEO marketing, what is SEM marketing and their benefits.

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

What Is SEO Marketing?

SEO is the process of optimizing your web site so that it ranks higher on the SERPs. SEO is a long term strategy.

Though paid advertising can get you to the top of the search results immediately, it’s not sustainable. In paid advertisement, you need to pay for every click to your website. The cost per click may soon exceed your budget and sometimes can not work.

That’s why, you have to pay attention to rank your website high without paying for it. You can rank your website high on searches and gets traffic through SEO.

SEO uses Google’s search algorithm to optimize your website. Since the algorithm is changing constantly, SEO tactics is changing too.


There are two types of activities involved in SEO as it’s main pilars: on-page and off-page.

On-Page SEO

It optimize your own website for maximum visibility in the search engines. It consists of the following tactics:

  • Optimized meta data, including the title tag, meta description, heading tags, and image ALT text, which incorporate target keywords
  • Blog post and optimized page copy that is meaningful and relevant to the target audience
  • Simple and well-formatted page URLs with relevant keywords
  • Optimized page speed to make sure it loads as fast as possible
  • Social sharing integration like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. within your content

Off-Page SEO

It gains natural backlinks from other websites. Some of the important off-page SEO tactics include the following:

  • Link building to attract and obtain quality inbound links or backlinks from other websites.
  • Social signals i.e., increasing traffic to a website by sharing, following, etc. on different social media channels.
  • Attracting attention from influential people in your domain.

Benefits of Using SEO

1. The Results are Low Cost

One of the main benefits of SEO is that it is much more cost effective than advertising. Once you invest in SEO and start ranking high, you can get organic traffic to your site.

2. Definite Increase in Traffic

With Analytics and reporting tools, you’ll see a clear cut increase of traffic to your website. Thus, maximize your business efforts. SEO will give you immediate results and as soon as you start your SEO efforts, traffic will increase at a steady rate.

3. Higher Brand Credibility

People trust google as it is the reputed company, by doing SEO, your website becomes the brand name. If google has a spot dedicated to you at the top list with other sub-pages listed below the main home page it gives your website credibility that no ad can top. Ads can often become annoying and many people have ad blockers installed on their browsers as they don’t want to see.

4. Better ROI (Return on Investment)

Google searches actually get people who are searching for the tag in your website. These people are actually looking for that product. Many people publish ads and may mis-click on an ad. A hit from google search is much more valuable over a hit from an ad.

5. Take Your Business to the Next Level

SEO can bring thousands upon thousands of visitors to your website in a day. This may put your company in a position of needing to expand to a larger web server to accommodate the traffic. SEO is really great investment for your company and could be what you need to take it to the next level.

6. The Results are Permanent

The affects of SEO are permanent. There is no chance of stop, since there is no payment is related. Just you will need a little upkeep to maintain that top 1st spot ranking.

What Is SEM Marketing?

SEM involves earning search visibility through paid advertisements on search engines like Google. It includes SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as well as other marketing methods like PPC (Pay Per Click) listings and advertisements.

Search Engine Marketing is above SEO and it’s only a subset of your overall Internet Marketing Strategy. The below diagram shows the relationship between Internet Marketing, SEM and SEO.

SEM Marketing strategy
Image courtesy:

One of the best ways to get more traffic is to ensure that your site ranks appears high when people search for related keywords. There are many methods of getting your website to high rank on the SERPs, and all come under SEM. Here is how it comes:


As we mentioned earlier, SEM includes both SEO and advertising. Search engine advertising is used when a website pays for a top spot in the SERPs.

Google Ads is the best platform with which a website can advertise and get high rank on Google’s search results. The advertising can be like the following:

  • PPC (Pay Per Click): when the customer clicks on the ad
  • PPI (Pay Per Impression): when the customer see the ad
  • PPA (Pay Per Action): when the customer takes an action like sign up

Following is an example of what a paid search result looks like:


Paid advertising is not the only aspect of SEM but also getting organic traffic to the website through SEO.

Some Examples of SEM Activities

There are some key activities needed for successful SEM on Google AdWords, such as:

  • Launching ad campaigns with a specific audience in mind
  • Creating ad groups that consist of target keyword
  • Writing relevant ad copy using these target keywords
  • Setting up an ad budget
  • Monitoring metrics like clicks, click through rates and average cost-per-click

Benefits of Using SEM

1.Get More Bang for Your Buck

SEM produces a high conversion rate for relatively low investment. Though there are cost fluctuations depending on the type of business that you want to promote, SEM is often more cost-effective than other forms of digital marketing.

2. Search Is Important for Consumers

Marketers can advertise deals using SEM for current customers, and competitors can offer healthy competition, so that consumers can “shop around” before making a purchase.

3. Ad Blocking Technology Can’t Depress SEM

Due to ad blocking technology, display ads have been having a rough time but this has minimal effect on search engine marketing. Most ad-blocking technology is not removing these ads outright, which means they are intrinsically more view able than other display ads.

4. Tweak on the Fly

With SEM, you have access to tools that can help you track your audience’s responses in real-time. With this data, you can make changes on the fly, cutting off campaigns with clearly unsuccessful key phrases early, or boosting up campaigns that are exceeding expectations.

Which is Better? SEO or SEM?

SEO lays the foundation for SEM through well-optimized content which is helpful to customers. Without landing pages, web pages and blog content optimized for search, your SEM efforts will fail due to poor quality, and visibility in the SERPs will be extremely difficult. Organic SEO is also less costly as you establish search credibility, as long as you maintain it with the consistent creation of quality content and social sharing.

On the other hand, if you’re just launching your first website, you’re likely going to need some immediate visibility in search until you build up some organic credibility. With a strategic PPC campaign, you’ll be able to achieve this.

SEO and SEM are not competing services with each other. SEO is a subset of SEM services. If you want to start business on the Internet you need to be visible in both organic and advertisement links, which means a small business needs both SEO and SEM.

Look the video:

Video Courtesy: Ignitevisibility

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