What Is The Difference Between SEO And SEM

What is the difference between SEO and SEM

Many people ask themselves, “what is the difference between SEO and SEM?” This is a great question, and one that many professional marketers are asking as well. While their goals of attracting visitors and increasing business traffic are the same, there are some significant differences between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). These differences often lead people to believe that they're two completely separate entities. The goal of this article is to dispel this myth, by explaining the similarities and differences in a simple manner.

What Is SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results—often referred to as "natural", "organic", or "earned" results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a website appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users; these visitors can then be converted into customers. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, video search, academic search, news search, and industry-specific vertical search engines. SEO differs from local search engine optimization in that the latter is focused on optimizing a business' online presence so that its web pages will be displayed by search engines when a user enters a local search for its products or services. The former instead is more focused on national or international searches.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, the computer programmed algorithms which dictate search engine behavior, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, adding content, doing HTML, and associated coding to both increase its relevance.

What is SEM

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the paid version of SEO. It’s the process of bidding on keywords in order to appear higher in search results on sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. While there are free versions of SEO, they require a significant amount of time and effort to research what people are searching for and how to rank organically for those queries. SEM allows you to pay for top placement on keywords relevant to your business so you can acquire new customers faster than relying on organic rankings alone.

Simply put, search engine marketing involves paying to appear higher in search results on sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It makes it easy for you to get found by new customers searching for what you sell.

When you want your website to show up at the top of search results, start with a few key phrases that best describe your business. You can bid on these phrases so when people search them, you'll be one of the first companies they see in their results. While this methodology is very similar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEM requires an investment because you are bidding on these terms. Whether organic or paid, focusing on basic keywords that describe your business in a clear, accurate way will help potential customers find you more easily. This low-risk method also allows companies to test different messaging and see which converts better with their audience before launching into a full campaign using those tactics."

What Are The Biggest Differences Between SEO And SEM?

SEM, or search engine marketing, is the process of advertising within the sponsored listing of a search engine. Google AdWords is an example of SEM, as are Bing Ads and Yahoo! Search Marketing. SEM can include SEO, but it also includes things like PPC (pay per click) ads.

The biggest difference between SEO and SEM is how you get traffic to your website:

SEO: Organic traffic that comes from top rankings in search results for keywords that people are looking for.

SEM: Paid traffic from paid search advertising listings.

You Can Do Both SEO And SEM. Here's How

You can't have a conversation about digital marketing without mentioning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). These marketing channels are often discussed separately, but in reality, they work best together. SEO, Search Engine Optimization and SEM, Search Engine Marketing, have a lot in common. Both SEO and SEM help your website rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) for keywords related to your business. Both improve the visibility of your brand online and get people to visit your website.

But they're not exactly the same thing, nor should you treat them as if they were. The short answer is that SEO is a subset of SEM — if you're doing all the things to improve your organic visibility, you're already doing SEO.

The longer answer is that there are some things you can do in SEO that don't fit under the umbrella of SEM. For example:

You can optimize a blog post or landing page with specific keywords that aren't relevant to paid ads or campaigns. You would be choosing one or two words that might not be worth bidding on but are still good for SEO. If a keyword only has 100 searches per month and costs $20 per click, it may not be worth bidding on the keyword in AdWords. However, it may still be worth writing about in a blog post for SEO purposes.

SEO is often used to refer to on-page optimization like title tags and meta tags, whereas SEM refers to paid


SEO is Mostly Organic And Natural, While SEM Is Paid

Now that you know what the terms mean, let's look at why it's not an either/or decision.

The reason is simple: search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are both parts of the same strategy. SEM appears to be two things because it has two branches — one for paid search and another for organic.

Unfortunately, too many people see SEM and SEO as separate entities. Some experts say that one is more important than the other, but I disagree with them. Both are equally necessary for digital marketing strategies, but neither is a substitute for the other.

That becomes obvious when you take a closer look at each branch of SEM:

Organic search. Some call this "natural" search because it comes up organically in unpaid results — in other words, you don't have to pay anything to get your website listed here. When you optimize your website so that it appears higher in organic search results, that's SEO.

Paid search. This is where you pay either Google or Bing (or another search engine) to show your ad at the top of a list of results when someone searches for something that relates to your business or its products or services. This is called pay-per-click).

Key Differences Of SEM and SEO

As an online entrepreneur, your website is the front door to your business. The more people visit it and stay, the more chances you have of making them interested in what you offer.

The main objective is to increase your organic traffic. That’s where marketing comes into play. Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are two of the most popular ways to improve the visibility of your website. Both can help you generate leads and sales, but they do so in very different ways.

What’s The Difference Between SEO And SEM?

The main difference between SEO and SEM is the way they work. A quick rundown:

SEO is mostly organic and natural , while SEM is paid .

SEO focuses on optimizing your website to rank better in search engines , while SEM uses search engines to promote a website by increasing its visibility in a search engine’s results page .

SEO includes both technical and creative elements that help improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines , while SEM uses paid advertising with AdWords or Bing Ads .

SEO is focused on increasing your website's search engine ranking for specific keywords. You can do this by:

Writing content that is relevant to your target audience

Ensuring that the content you create is well-optimized with target keywords

Building backlinks to your site from other high-quality websites

SEM, on the other hand, uses paid advertising to appear in search engine results pages (SERPs). This involves:

Setting up ads via a platform like Google Ads or Bing Ads

Targeting specific keywords with those ads. SEO brings visitors who are further down the funnel and more likely to convert. SEO does not require a budget; SEM does. SEO can take longer to show results; SEM can show results right away.

Understanding the differences between SEO and SEM can help you manage your marketing efforts successfully in the future.


The best way to think of the difference between SEO and SEM is that they are two different channels. Both reach the same audience, but they take a different path to get there. The end goal is the same: exposure for your business. Hopefully, this breakdown of SEO and SEM has given you a clearer picture of how each of these marketing strategies works, and why you should use every tool at your disposal.


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