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SEO vs SEM: What's The Difference

SEO vs SEM: What's The Difference

SeoSilos 606 18-Jan-2020

Digital marketing has evolved over the past few years and more and more new techniques are being emerged and used.

One of the oldest techniques is SEO and SEM. Although they are pretty similar to each other, people often use the terms and acronyms interchangeably without understanding the true differences between both. 

In this SEO vs SEM article, I dive deep into what each of them is, what’s their differences and which one to focus on. 

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

What Is SEO? 

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, is the technique of optimizing the content on your website around the targeted set of keywords with the goal of driving organic traffic from search engines like Google, Bing, etc. and ultimately turn the visitors into customers. 

It can be mainly divided into 2 categories, i.e. on-page and off-page SEO. 

Components Of On-Page SEO 

Some of the on-page SEO elements are: 

  • Keyword research and qualification 
  • Creating keyword optimized content
  • Optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, and URL structure
  • Having good user experience (UX)

Components Of Off-Page SEO 

Some of the off-page SEO elements are: 

  • Link building 
  • Social signals
  • Anchor text optimization

The general idea behind SEO is to create good quality content that answers the users’ questions, building authority in the space, and obtaining trust from search engines. 

SEO takes time to start showing results. You need to put in a consistent amount of work, energy, and effort to keep the ball rolling. Over time, this becomes a compound effect and if you have the right system in place, your effort will be rewarded.

What Is SEM?

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, which is the marketing technique involving generating traffic and revenues from search engines like Google, Bing, etc, using both free and paid methods.

Since SEO also involves driving free organic traffic and generating revenues from search engines, therefore, it’s a part of SEM.

However, SEM focuses mainly on paid traffic or what is commonly known as PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising model, where you essentially pay every time someone clicks on your ads.

The most famous one is Google Adwords.

Some Of SEM Strategies

Here are some of the basic SEM strategies:

  • Campaign creation
  • Keywords selection
  • Budget allocation
  • Ads creation and deployment
  • Ads monitoring and testing (looking at metrics like CTR, impressions, conversion rate, etc.)

Here, you can clearly observe that SEO is a subset of SEM, which involves marketing through search engines. One thing to note here is that although they both are similar, they are not exactly the same.

SEO takes more time and effort whereas SEM, which is geared towards paid advertisement, can deliver instant results, but needs more cash to involve.

SEO vs SEM: Which One Should You Choose?

Both SEO and SEM have their own advantages and disadvantages. The 2 most important factor to consider as to which one to choose is time and money.

When To Consider Focusing On SEO?

If you plan to promote your business or website through search engines, then SEO should lay a good foundation for you. This is because SEO requires you to create good quality content, optimizing content for keywords, building good landing pages and focusing on user experience.

These factors are essentially required for good ads landing page, whether on a budget level or conversion level.

Organic traffic from SEO usually requires less cost involved. But in exchange for that, you need more time before getting the results.

Therefore, if time isn’t a problem for you, then SEO should be the choice for you to focus on.

When To Consider Focusing On SEM?

With SEM, you get a chance to generate quick results and money. If you’re launching your first website and are planning to get the initial presence, cash flow, and momentum, then you can opt for paid traffic.

With a good strategic PPC campaign, you will be able to achieve this. However, SEM without SEO is not beneficial in the long term.

Besides money, PPC advertisement also requires good landing page experience or what is commonly known as “Ad Quality” to have high ad placement in the search engine results.

So if money isn’t a problem for you and you need that initial momentum and presence, then SEM should be the choice for you to focus on.

But don’t forget to have some basic SEO strategy in place before you go all-in for SEM

Final Note

That’s all for SEO vs SEM. I hope you’re cleared with the difference now and can really decide as to which one to focus on for your website and business.

As you probably have understood now, regardless of whichever technique you’re going after, SEO forms an essential component.

Even If your core marketing strategy focuses on SEM, you still SEO to get good results. So make sure you keep this in mind.

I’m curious as to how many of you actually do SEM without doing SEO. Let me know in the comment section down below.

Updated 18-Jan-2020
SeoSilos is a Thailand leading SEO company offering advanced SEO services to help you grow your business online

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