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The Only Difference Between SEO and SEM in Digital Marketing

The Only Difference Between SEO and SEM in Digital Marketing

The Only Difference Between SEO and SEM in Digital Marketing

You know that your company can’t survive today’s ultra-competitive market without a solid digital marketing strategy. 

You’ve come up with awesome email campaigns, you’ve mastered all things social media, and you’ve even created highly shareable video content that you know will make your target market tick. 

But you’re still not rising in the search engine rankings. So, what gives? 

For many, it’s a lack of understanding about the difference between SEO and SEM. 

So, what’s the difference between these two effective forms of search engine marketing? 

Read on to find out. 

What Is The Main Difference Between SEO and SEM?

So, what’s the difference between SEO and SEM? 

SEO experts from explain that SEO generates organic traffic to your website, while SEM creates paid traffic. Both are essential tools for increasing your search engine rankings. 

While the goal of both SEO marketing tactics is the same, the way they go about it is quite different. 

Organic traffic (SEO) is when visitors naturally end up on your website because they’ve entered search terms that match with your keywords, clicked a link on another article and ended up on your site, or just typed it into their address bar on their own. 

Paid traffic (SEM) is also referred to as “pay-per-click” or PPC marketing. 

If you use paid traffic to increase your search engine rankings, then users who search for the keywords you’ve targeted end up on your website because you’ve paid for ads directing them to your website. Your site also appears at the top of search engine result pages. 

You’ll then pay a fee every time that someone clicks on an ad for your website and is redirected to your site. 

What Do SEO and SEM Have in Common?

In spite of these differences, SEO and SEM marketing tactics still have much more in common than you might expect. 

Both of them revolve mostly around conducting thorough keyword research and targeting the keywords that will get you the most traffic. 

They both also require you to do some serious research on your target market, and both are all about getting you more web traffic so that you can climb higher in search engine results. 

Perhaps most importantly of all, to have effective SEO and SEM strategies, you will need to constantly conduct tests on effective keywords, optimization tactics, marketing trends, and even current market demand. 

Which Form of Search Engine Marketing Is Right for Your Brand?

Now that you know the major difference between SEO and SEM (organic vs. paid traffic to your website) it’s time to start weighing your options. 

Remember – you don’t have to commit to one side here. In fact, most businesses use a combination of SEO and SEM to get the best possible results. 

Looking for more advice about how to grow your current digital marketing strategy? 

We’re always bringing you the latest news in all things SEO and SEM, so bookmark our blog today to learn about the next big search trends, tools, and much more. 


What Is SEM? Why You Need to Stop Ignoring SEO’s Cousin

What Is SEM? Why You Need to Stop Ignoring SEO's

What Is SEM? Why You Need to Stop Ignoring SEO’s Cousin

Just how coveted is a spot near the top of a Google results page?

Consider this: In 2019, American businesses will spend over $75 billion on SEO.

Although SEO is an effective marketing practice, it’s also a tedious one. Even marketing experts admit that it usually takes 1-2 years to see a positive ROI from SEO efforts.

If you’re looking for faster results, it’s not all hopeless. SEM can help you drive high levels of targeted traffic to your site much more quickly than SEO.  

Are you scratching your head and wondering “What is SEM?” Read on to learn the difference between SEM and SEO, as well as how your business can benefit from SEM!

What Is SEM?

Not so long ago, search engine marketing (SEM) was a term that referred to both paid and organic methods of improving search engine visibility.

Today, however, when marketers mention SEM, what they’re most likely talking about is the practice of purchasing web traffic via paid search platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads. Search engine optimization (SEO), on the other hand, is the practice of getting visitors to your website through organic results.

Two common synonyms for SEM are pay-per-click (PPC) marketing and paid search advertising.


Almost half of all small business in the United States use SEM. And of the businesses that use SEM, 86 percent also use SEO.

Should you use both? Let’s take a closer at some pros and cons of SEM and find out how it stacks up against SEO.

What Are the Benefits of SEM?

The following are a few notable advantages SEM has over an organic SEO strategy:

  • Guarantees immediate web traffic
  • Converts at a higher rate
  • Makes it easier to measure ROI
  • Isn’t affected by Google algorithm updates

However, keep in mind that SEM can be significantly more costly than SEO. This is especially the case in industries where keywords cost up to $100 per click. As a result, SEM is a short-term solution for most small businesses.

Also, you may have to constantly tweak your SEM strategy when you start out. But once you find a PPC strategy that works, you can scale up your efforts.

Which One Is Right for Your Business?

While it’s important to learn the difference between SEM and SEO, the best approach involves using both practices. SEM works well in the short term for businesses with bigger budgets, whereas SEO provides a competitive advantage in the long run.

If you run a startup and want a steady stream of leads from the get-go, consider investing in SEM.

You should also focus on building up your organic search credibility in the meantime. This way, you can eventually stop relying on SEM to obtain all of your leads.

Avoiding SEM Mistakes

When conducting keyword research for SEM, it’s critical to think about searcher intent.

If you’re looking to sell products, for example, target transactional keywords, not informational keywords. People searching for high commercial intent keywords are ready to make a purchase, so they’re more likely to convert.

Now that you know the answer to the question “What is SEM?”, want to make sure you get your money’s worth from Google Ads? If so, before you launch your next search ad campaign, check out our 8 essential PPC strategies!