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What is the difference between SEO & SEM?

SEO vs SEM: Which is Better for Your Business

SEO and SEM are the same. So you may think but truth to be told they are different from each other.

If you want to attract more traffic to your website and grow your business then search optimization is an important strategy you cannot ignore. Also, it is important to understand how SEM and SEO are different from each other.

According to a survey conducted in 2017, the number of searches conducted by people daily globally is over six billion. Most people resort to search engines to find a solution to their problem or learn to do something new. Search is growing fast and at the same time evolving. It only means that all businesses have the opportunity to leverage search to reach out to their target audience.

Although there are several ways to gain online exposure, Google still wins hands-down. Google has huge user base and is highly useful when it comes to helping you get from your marketing strategies.

Firstly you will have to understand about search marketing.

What is SEM (Search Engine Marketing)?

It is a tactic that helps a brand gain visibility by appearing on search engine results page (SERPs). Search Marketing strategies include efforts to increase visibility by ranking higher on the search results page so that it drives more traffic to your website or a particular webpage. SEM and SEO are two major strategies that help you achieve the desired results.

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and it uses paid strategies to appear in the search results. SEO on the other hand stands for Search Engine Optimization and uses organic strategies to appear in the search results.

In SEM, you will have to set up and optimize ads as well as set up a budget that pays for placing the ads. This is commonly known as Pay-per-Click (PPC) marketing. As SEM traffic is more targeted, it is considered to be an important source of traffic.

Most marketers use Google Ads for PPC. They often conduct keyword research and create campaigns that target the keywords for their products and services. The marketing messages in SEM can be crafted and made more promotional and persuasive. When users search for those keywords, they see the ads on the bottom or top of SERPs. Every time a user clicks on the ad, the brand will be charged. The ads in SEM can in fact be completely customized to make sure you get the highest click –through-rate.

What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

Search Engine Optimization or SEO uses organic methods to gain visibility in SERPs. Brands don’t have to pay for the placement of the ads in SERPs. Also, it is important to note that unlike earlier where unethical SEO practices (black hat) made some marketers rich; it does not do the same now.

Google no longer considers marketing gimmicks but looks for quality and value that you are able to deliver. Today, SEO is all about content marketing. It’s about how you use content to educate your prospects and grow your brand.

There are several SEO techniques that can help brands improve their rankings. Three of the white hat techniques have been discussed here.

  • On –page SEO: This technique optimizes each page of a website to target a particular keyword. On-page SEO includes content creation, keyword research, and keyword optimization. On-page SEO enables search engines to understand the content of a page and rank it higher.

  • Off-page SEO: This technique connects your website to other high-quality websites in order to build its authority and reputation. When many websites are linked to your website, it shows search engines that it is reputable, reliable and trustworthy. Techniques such as link building, managing local listings and directory profiles are used in off –page SEO in order to lift your brand visibility and rankings.

  • Technical SEO: Technical SEO improves the backend structure and foundation of your website by optimizing the non-content elements. Technical SEO uses strategies to improve site speed, indexing, mobile responsiveness, site architecture, crawl-able, security and structured data. The objective of technical SEO is to enhance the user and search crawler experience which eventually leads to better rankings.

Now you understand both SEO and SEM are similar in many ways such as:

  • They drive traffic to your website

  • Require audience knowledge

  • Target specific keywords

  • Help your brand rank higher in search results

  • Both require continuous testing and optimization

Differences between SEO and SEM

Difference between SEM & SEO

It is also important to note that SEO will help your band gain more value over time than SEM.

What is better SEM vs SEO?

If you are wondering which strategies to opt for your business then you will have to understand that there is no one-single formula to get quick results. Every business has its unique audience and you may reach out to them either through SEO or SEM.

The results however, will depend on your marketing goals and business. For some business, SEO may work brilliantly while PPC can be simply a waste of money. And for some PPC may be more viable than SEO. It is important to analyze your business goals and understand how these strategies will co-relate to your business. Sometimes, combining both SEM and SEO strategies may bring exceptional results for a brand.

Here’s what you can do to get the most by incorporating both the methods.

  • Use your conversion data from PPC campaign to convert visitors from organic search in a better way

  • Optimize keywords that worked for your PPC campaign for SEO purposes as well

  • Double the traffic to your website and increase visibility in SERPs by working on both paid ads and organic search listings

  • Test different keywords in your PPC ads before investing in them

  • Use expensive keywords or those not delivering traffic for SEO. This will allow you to direct your PPC efforts towards keywords having better ROI.

  • Use high performing ad copy in the meta -description of your website’s organic listing in order to improve the click-through-rate. The organic traffic generated through content can be directed towards high-converting PPC landing pages.


In order to achieve the desired results from online marketing strategies you have to understand your business and its goals first. By leveraging both, SEO and SEM you tend to have an upper hand as you focus on the best from both these methods.

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