Table of Contents



Table of Contents

Search marketing has lately become a popular way of online promotion. It represents a set of strategies that allow businesses to find their place in SERPs, making them more available to the targeted audience. Since Google is one of the most famous search engines today, most people turn to Google SERPs and Google Ads to get their business out there.

Two of the main types of search marketing today are SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing).

In the following article, we will explain the differences between the two. We will also try to help you decide which strategy is a better fit for your current business needs, so you can start implementing it as soon as possible.


What Is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a form of content promotion that uses a specific approach to bettering your website’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) position. Specifically, it uses keywords, meta tags, internal and external links, and the overall quality of your content to place your website in organic search results. By organic, we mean unpaid results a search engine displays after someone searches for a specific piece of information.

SEO is entirely free if you are doing it by yourself, but it can be costly if you decide to hire a team of experts. If you are not interested in spending your resources, you can always turn to online simple tips and tricks.

There are several types of SEO: On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO. If you wish to find out more about them, click here.

What Is SEM (Search Engine Marketing)?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is also a form of content promotion, but it uses payment for finding a solid place in SERPs for the business. That means it places your business like an ad displayed in a specific geographic area, and search engines connect them to a set of keywords.

Setting up your advertising campaign in a search engine (for example, Google) will usually cost nothing. Still, every time someone clicks on your ad, you will have to pay a specific amount of money to the search engine. So while it places your business at the top of the results and drastically increases the business traffic, it also requires mandatory additional investments, which not everyone will be ready to commit to.

If you wish to find out more about SEM, do not hesitate to click here.


What Are The Similarities Between SEO and SEM?

Let’s start with a few similarities that SEO and SEM share since both are search engine-based and, in their essence, represent just strategies for reaching the same goal.

  1. SEM and SEO are strategies to attract more users to your website and increase website traffic.
  2. Both require the business promoter to be familiar with the audience a product is being presented and the right time and place for its display.
  3. The most famous similarity between the two is the usage of targeted keywords one can find through thorough keyword research, which is why many people confuse them. They both also require regular maintenance.


The Differences Between SEM and SEO

Several significant differences between SEO and SEM make them easily distinguishable and recognizable.

SEM is paid, SEO is free

While SEM is undoubtedly paid for and requires you to pay every time someone clicks on your ad, SEO is free and places your website among the organic results, which do not require any payment. If you decide to hire SEO expert/s, you will have to pay a certain amount of money for their services, but SEO allows your data to be present in the search results 24/7, while SEM is more location-oriented and requires a more targeted audience.

SEM is instant; SEO requires time and effort

Since SEM is a paid option, Search engines will immediately display your website and content. Therefore, search engines will be able to collect your PPC fee as soon as possible. On the other hand, SEO requires more time and energy but offers more presentability since your website is available in the search results every time someone enters a specific keyword.

SEM is more localized than SEO

SEO allows your results to be displayed to anyone, regardless of their location. SEM is more locally based (when making your advertisement, you can choose a geographic area where Search engines will mainly show your results), so Search engines will direct your product to the right audience. Your ad will not appear every time someone looks for specific keywords.

SEM contains an “Ad” mark; SEO does not

This is the pronounced difference visible in the search results. SEM snippets will have an “Ad” mark somewhere in them and some additional information such as phone numbers, email addresses, or anything that will make contact easier. SEO results do not have such marks, and their snippets are featured, meaning they contain a brief description of the site’s content and potential short answer a user has searched for.

SEM allows testing; SEO does not

SEM allows you to turn on and off your paid ads, which you can use to determine whether your ads impact the website traffic and how much they are impacting. It also allows you to adapt your campaign, direct it among new audiences and test the applied tactics again. Of course, You can use SEO for the same purposes, but it would take an enormous amount of time and energy to keep track of the effect your changes brought.

How to Choose between SEO and SEM?

When having a website you want to place in the SERPs, you might have come across the issue of choosing what type of marketing would be the best for your needs. If you are facing this problem, do not let it discourage you. Instead, here is a little advice on what questions to ask yourself when choosing between SEM and SEO.

How long have I been in the business?

If you are new to the business and it is your first time launching a product and is still not quite sure how it will place or attract new customers, then using SEM can help you get the initial assessment of the product’s attractiveness. It can also put your website on the map and promote it to a broader audience. On the other hand, if you have been around for a while and already know your audience and competition, a good SEO strategy can be more effective and beneficial.

How much does a click on my website cost?

Since keywords have a varying price, which depends on the frequency of usage, it is a good thing to consider how often you use your keywords. If their usage is low, their cost is too. Using SEM might be a good thing in such a case because your competition will be fewer, and you won’t have to spend too much money. The click price increases if your keyword rate is high (meaning that the keywords you decide to use are frequent and widespread). Focusing your energy on SEO is better since you will not have to pay for users’ clicks.

What is the length of my customer’s buying cycle?

If your customers are only looking for valuable information, which will help them find the solution they are looking for, then using SEO strategies is a better choice. Those types of customers usually skip the advertisements and go directly to the organic results, among which they take their time with research. On the other hand, if you know that your customers already know what they want and need, then using SEM to place your advertisement right in front of such an audience would be wiser.

Using Both SEO and SEM

Since the two terms do not exclude each other, it is possible, and often advisable, to use them combined. If you decide on such a strategy, your business could see fast progress and results – SEM will allow your product to be placed in front of an audience right away, while SEO will provide a long-term presence in organic results.

As we stated earlier, search engines base both SEM and SEO on keywords. Therefore, if you find good keywords, you expand your presence by using SEO and SEM, which can drastically increase website traffic.

But at the end of the day, you are the one who is choosing a strategy for your website, so the decision is up to you. Keep in mind all the pros and cons of both marketing strategies, and try to make the best out of them; by doing that, you provide a continuous online presence for your website.