SEO vs. SEM: What’ The Difference?

SEO vs. SEM: What’ The Difference?

By orangemouse866 0 Comment April 5, 2018

SEO and SEM are two key concepts in digital marketing. Often used interchangeably, differentiating between these two terms can become confusing for a beginner. Find out in detail what each term means and entails…


Search engine optimization involves smart usage of keywords to improve the ranking of your website on the search engine. In other words, you follow a set of stipulated rule in order to get higher ranking in search engines. The salient feature of SEO is that the process involves acquiring of free traffic from organic searches.
SEO marketing itself can be broken down into two components: on-site and off-site SEO. Both are of equal importance in building a seamless campaign.

On-site SEO includes these components:

  • Usage of keywords in titles, Meta descriptions, heading tags, and so on.
  • Optimized blog posts and landing pages – these refer to well written and optimized content that target keywords skillfully
  • Clean and simple URLS
  • Enhanced page speed
  • Social media sharing and integration
  • Image optimization so that image file names target keyword
  • Responsive designs – don’t forget mobile phone user when building website. Google can penalize you!

Off-site SEO, the equally important counterpart includes all processes occurring outside of your website that affect it. It includes the following:

  • A strong backbone of back link building. There are three types; natural, manual, self created.
  • Influencer marketing
  • Guest bloggers
  • Social media marketing


Search engine marketing is a wider term. It besets SEO and paid searches like CPC, PPC. That was the traditional meaning of SEM. Overtime SEM marketing has evolved to mean paid searches while SEO referring to organic, unpaid searches.

There is a host of activities that SEM girdles. These are as follows:

  • PPC – pay per click
  • CPC – cost per click
  • Paid search advertisements

Some major paid search platforms include Google Adwords, Bing Ads, and Yahoo: Search Ads. Each of these platforms has their own specific guidelines and rules in getting started.

Is one better than the other?

This is a tough question to answer. Marketers often pit one against the other, but in reality digital marketing expert consider both important for a fail proof campaign. Businesses usually benefit from a blend of both.

In reality, SEO lays foundations for a strong SEM campaign. You can get traffic funneled to your website through SEM, but what use is the traffic when your content is not optimized? Without your website enhanced for search, you SEM toil be in vain due to the poor quality.

Furthermore, SEO is less costly compared to SEM; however, it requires hard work and long term efforts.

Similarly, even with a great SEO campaign in place you will need a boost to be more visible and attract traffic. This can only be done through paid search. The higher traffic will automatically raise your ranking and further strengthen your organic searches.

It is recommended to hire a digital marketing analyst and talk to an SEO consultant to know what the best strategy is for your company.