SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference?

Research shows that more than half of all online traffic is driven by online search. For this reason, it’s essential for any digital marketing plan to include a strategy to optimize their search engine traffic.

Any effort that seeks to drive traffic via organic search falls under the umbrella of search engine marketing (SEM). Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of search engine marketing, but they are not one in the same.

Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences in SEO vs SEM.

SEM in Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a blanket term that refers to a variety of online strategies marketers can use. This can include social media marketing, mobile marketing, and pay to click ads.

Search engine marketing is a type of internet marketing that focuses on reaching traffic through search engines. This can focus on driving either free traffic or paid traffic to your site.

Paid Search Advertising

The main way to drive paid traffic with SEM is through paid search advertising, also known as PSA. The most popular form of PSA is Google Adwords.

With Adwords, your ads will appear when a user enters a search query that is relevant to your ad. With these ads, you only pay when someone clicks on your advertisement. This classifies Adwords as a form of pay per click (PPC) advertising.

Other search engines, link Bing and Yahoo, have similar advertising options. Keep in mind, however, that these search engines are not as heavily used as Google.

Free Search

The key to driving free search engine traffic to your website is SEO. The purpose of SEO is to tailor the content on your website so that it contains the kind of content search engine’s look for.

Every search engine uses an algorithm to determine what results to show to a user based on their queries. The algorithms typically look at both the relevance and the quality of the site.

The main way that a site’s relevancy is determined is through keywords. To make your site appear on results pages for relevant terms, you will want to make sure to include those keywords on your site.

But simply including keywords isn’t enough. Search engines also rank sites based on their quality.

One way a site’s quality is determined is by how many sites link back to it. Social media shares and overall traffic are also used to determine quality.

The best way to improve on these metrics is to produce great content. Producing great content is also a good way to increase the number of keywords on your site. These strategies can help bring more interested potential customers to your site.

Get Started with SEO vs SEM Today

Understanding the differences between SEO vs SEM is important. But it’s even more important to put principles of both strategies to work.

If you are ready to work on your website’s search engine strategy, contact us. We’ll work with you on a plan that fits your business’s needs.


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