What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

#SEO (Search Engine Optimization ) and #SEM (Search Engine Marketing) both fall under the overarching umbrella of search marketing. Search marketing is a strategic optimization strategy utilized for searching that helps to increase the ranking when searched for and generate traffic to websites or webpages on varying search engine results pages thus encouraging publicity through visibility.


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Its necessary to make a clear distinction between SEO and SEM. The main difference between them is SEO uses unpaid strategies to become apparent in search while SEM uses paid strategies to become apparent in search. It's always wise to separate these terms to have a clear distinctive marketing strategy and understanding with your marketing partners.


What is SEM?

In marketing, SEM uses paid advantages to garner and increase recognition on the search engine results pages. SEM is good for testing but doesn’t necessarily provide value over time and the click rate tends to be slower than SEO. SEM strategies involve the setup, implementation, and enhancement of ads while also setting a payment plan for appointing the ads. SEM is popularly known by the terms paid search or pay-per-click marketing. Google Ads is one of the main search providers utilized for SEM. This allows brands to perform keyword searches. The keyword strategy is brilliant as it can be used to develop business-targeted campaigns. This means that upon searching for the keywords the custom ads are either at the top or bottom section of the search engine research page and with each click of the ad, the brand is charged. The results are usually immediate. Ad extensions are normally added to SEM.


What is SEO?

This marketing is geared towards unpaid but purposeful strategies to increase visibility on the search engine research page. They use many unpaid strategies that cause search engines to display their content towards the top search engine research pages based on the value and quality of the result. The results for these are effective but may take time. SEO is not necessarily good for testing but the click rate tends to be higher than SEM.


Over the years brands have benefited from three major SEO techniques that have caused steady spikes in search rankings.


  1. Technical SEO technique focuses on the areas that don’t entail content and the overall website to improves its foundation. These can be recognized by for example site speed.

  2. On-page SEO focuses on optimization per page of a website based on the keywords to search engines. This helps the search engines to comprehend an entire page of content and grant it a higher ranking accordingly.

  3. Off-page SEO is geared towards building a website’s credibility by making connections to other qualified websites. Off-page SEO focuses on techniques to build website linking from other websites and list management for directory purposes.


Strong SEO plans strategically incorporates all three types which guarantees a better chance of receiving the best outcome. Take advantage of our FREE SEO Analysis tool, available in our Digital Toolkit.