SEO vs SEM: What’s the Difference?

Confused about SEO vs SEM? Don’t worry as it’s normal.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are usually used interchangeably. In essence, SEO focuses on improving your rankings on SERPs while SEM combines both organic search rankings and advertising to improve your web traffic.

Keep on reading to learn more about these two marketing techniques.

Understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In online marketing, SEO is arguably the most popular technique that works for just about any business. But what most people don’t know is that it’s a component of SEM, which is the broader category.

By definition, SEO is the method of improving the number of visitors or amount of traffic to a website by enhancing its SERPs rankings. Essentially, the higher your pages and site appear on SERPs, the more traffic or visitors you’re bound to get.

Over the years, SEO has evolved and changed in response to the frequent updates to search engine algorithm. Google, the biggest search engine by market size, has been on the forefront on improving how users access information using their devices. The constant element is that SEO can be improved through on-page and off page activities.

Some best practices for SEO include:

  • Proper keyword research and use of keywords in headings, meta descriptions, and title tags
  • Using clean URLs
  • Improving page load speed
  • Optimizing website for mobile users
  • Building quality backlinks to your site
  • Growing your social media activities
  • Creating quality and original content

Understand Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

As noted before, SEM is the blanket category, and it’s typically the practice of promoting a website through advertising and optimization. SEM includes all the tactics and techniques used in SEO to boost web traffic.

So, why use SEM? Typically, SEO is a gradual process of attracting web traffic. For a new website, it can take months before you start seeing steady and constant traffic when using SEO. As such, search engine marketing allows you to speed up things a little bit. As you wait for your SEO campaigns to gain traction, you can still receive traffic through paid search advertising.

For example, when you search the term “SEO” on Google, you will see paid search results with a green “Ad” label at the top of the page. That’s paid search advertising.

SEO vs SEM: Which is Better?

Marketing experts usually debate on the benefits and performance of these tactics. Some argue that SEO is a better approach as it offers free traffic while SEM needs you to pay for traffic. The truth is, there are situations where SEO performs well, and there are cases where SEM makes sense.

Whatever the case, the purpose of both of these tactics is to grow your web traffic. If you want immediate visibility for a new site, then using paid search advertising is a great way to go. SEO takes time to work, but it will be less costly in the long run.

The Takeaway

When you’re evaluating the best tactics for growing your online business, it’s best to identify your specific needs. You want to compare SEO vs SEM to determine what technique suits your needs.

If you need help with any of these two marketing methods, fill out this form to get started.

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