SEO vs. SEM- what’s the difference?

SEO vs. SEM- What’s the difference?

SEO and SEM are primary types of digital marketing strategies that can effectively help you attract the desired traffic via search engines like Google and Bing. Using them will result in faster growth of your business through online channels. Let us learn more about these two digital marketing techniques and how they differ.

SEO is the complex process of optimizing a website’s content, design, etc., to attract organic traffic from search engines. On the other hand, SEM depends on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platforms, usually integrated with search engines, to include a website among the top-ranked results on a search engine.

The tricky part for any website owner or digital marketer is knowing which technique will better serve your website traffic goals. However, suppose you can effectively combine these two in your digital marketing strategy. In that case, you can quickly and efficiently enhance your brand’s awareness. This, in turn, will result in impressive site traffic and increased revenue for your website.


What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) focuses on helping users find a website quickly by improving its visibility and rank on search engines. It is the process of increasing your organic (unpaid) visibility on search engines to increase brand awareness and attract targeted users to your website. SEO improves the organic search engine ranking of a website. Here, organic refers to free services. Search engine crawlers more easily recognize an optimized website, thereby improving its ranking in the SERPs.

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a marketing practice to increase website traffic by using paid ads and SEO by targeting the audience by increasing its visibility on search engine result pages (SERPs). SEM is considered a part of online marketing, which consists of various strategies like email marketing, content marketing, SEM, SEO, and video marketing to increase the website’s traffic. However, unlike other methods, SEM is a type of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Difference Between SEO and SEM

Both SEO and SEM rely heavily on keywords to drive traffic to business websites and web pages. Some of the significant differences between the two are described as follows:

  • SEM is paid marketing for exchanging website traffic. SEM brings instant traffic to a website, and the more a company spends on advertising through these channels, the more traffic it gets.
  • In SEM, the visibility of a website is achieved through organic searches of customers who have seen the ad, clicked on the ad, visited the site, remembered the brand, and searched when needed.
  • SEM is a great marketing tool for quick testing and gathering insights. SEM lets you test keywords, ad copy, and bidding strategies faster than SEO. This also creates an opportunity to improve landing pages based on accurate data in less time.
  • With SEO strategies, you can increase traffic to your website. This technique optimizes your content for your target audience, ranking your landing page higher in search engines like Google and Bing.
  • SEO requires an optimized website and a well-thought-out off-site strategy. It seeks to increase the website’s visibility on the internet.
  • A website with effective SEO would be regarded as an authority for specific keywords searched by any internet user, leading to higher click-through and conversion rates.
  • In addition to the content, SEO techniques also involve appropriate modifications to your website’s technical backend and domain services.

Using SEO and SEM Together

Building an SEO strategy that includes SEM gives your business a diverse and comprehensive approach to marketing yourself online. This will lead to more traffic, leads, and sales from multiple channels, including search, paid, and social. While you work on improving the SEO for the website, a well-optimized SEM strategy in place will create visibility and encourage quick conversions from internet visitors. Once both SEO and SEM strategies are in place, they will operate well together to drive your business’s visibility on the web.

SEM makes it super-easy to A/B test your website’s traffic performance and monitors whether it’s working as intended. When it’s not, you can quickly make tweaks and keep your campaign on track. On the other hand, SEO means you must monitor longer-term results, which can take a while to come in. It’s also not as easy to identify what’s causing a campaign to stall or struggle to bring in results, which means a lot of problem-solving needs to be done.

Without a strong SERP presence, the critical mix of visibility and strategic marketing won’t make much of a difference in the long run. The organic effect of SEO and the targeted advertising of SEM only work if the website is SEO friendly. Without SEO, SEM cannot increase and vice versa. The right keywords, an SEO-friendly website, and sponsored ads can lead to high-quality traffic and higher conversion rates. For search engines to recognize that you are a solid website, SEO and SEM should work at an effective frequency and measure input equally.

SEO emphasizes organic search results or getting to the top of result listings when users search for specific keywords related to your website on search engines like Google and Bing. On the other hand, SEM focuses on choosing the right keywords to invest in online advertising for your brand so that the ads appear in the paid search results of major search engines. Anyone looking to grow their business using digital marketing should understand how SEO and SEM work in today’s digital infrastructure and how these strategies will evolve as the numbers of websites and internet users grow, along with future changes in technology. Although SEO and SEM are very different, without the presence of the other, one would not be able to have its full effect on a digital marketing strategy.

Massimo DeRocchis

My life has been surrounded with computers since I was a child, from my first job as a Computer Assembly Assistant to the current ownership of Priority Networks, a dental focused networking company. Starting with an Apple computer connecting to other networks when I was only 13 years old, I quickly knew this passion would lead to bigger ventures. As the internet started to evolve, I immediately worked for an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This gave me insight to the power of worldwide internet communications and the capabilities of sharing data across multiple networks simultaneously. The dedication towards this field has given me the advantage of understanding new technologies and grasping complicated issues quickly from software, hardware, networking, security, management and much more. As a Computer Network Manager for Tesma International, a division of Magna International, I gained the experience of becoming a qualified NAI Network Sniffer, EDI Communications Specialist, Head Securities Manager, MRP Manufacturing Integration Manager, and received several enhanced managerial and technological training courses. Moving forward to today, I apply all my knowledge, training and years of solid network experience to deliver the very best support to all my customers at Priority Networks.