The Difference Between SEO and SEM

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Categories: Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Uncategorized

6821551_mWith the emergence of digital marketing has come a huge array of acronyms and internet vernacular. So when you see terms like SEO and SEM, you may be wondering what exactly they mean. SEM stands for search engine marketing, while SEO refers to search engine optimization. What’s the difference between these two seemingly interchangeable acronyms? We’ll help explain what these terms mean and why they are different.

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is a phrase used to describe a type of internet marketing that promotes websites by making them more visible on search engine result pages through optimization tactics and advertising. These advertisements can usually be seen at the top or right hand side of the page.

Businesses using SEM will often create and pay for ads to be displayed on search engine pages like Google and Bing in order to increase traffic on their own sites. These advertisements are Pay Per Click, which means every time someone clicks on your ad link, you pay. This is essentially a way for businesses to buy visits to their website. SEM also includes banner advertising, SEO tactics and other search marketing methods.

Search Engine Optimization

As you may have already noticed, search engine optimization is a component of the larger SEM category. SEO works to make a business’s website appear closer to the top of search engine results. SEO is constantly having to respond to Google’s algorithm updates.

SEO improves a website’s ranking organically. It doesn’t involve paying for better search result rankings, but rather utilizing on-page optimization such as keyword density, frequent original content updates, social sharing and sitemaps to get results. Off-page optimization includes social bookmarking, backlinks to other quality sites and keywords in the anchor text.

What’s the Difference?

The main difference between the two is simply that SEO is a non-paid component of SEM. SEM includes paid search tactics like Pay Per Click as well as methods like SEO. Although search engine marketing and search engine optimization work hand in hand, it is important to note that they are not the same term and cannot be used interchangeably.

So is it Better to Pay or Wait?

While it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your business, there are certain advantages to SEM and SEO to be aware of.

SEM Advantages:

  • If you decide to pay for visitors, you can have instant web traffic without waiting for better rankings to happen organically.
  • SEM also guarantees better visibility on search engine result pages. SEO can’t make such guarantees.

SEO Advantages:

  • Although SEO is a long term approach, it allows businesses to establish search credibility.
  • SEO is extremely inexpensive, helping you reduce costs and spend money on other important components of your business.

Most would likely agree that you shouldn’t solely pay for rankings, but that you should use a combination of SEM and SEO tactics to build your business’s online presence. To learn more about how you can improve rankings and increase web traffic, please visit our services page.