Understanding The Difference Between SEO And SEM

Over the years, we have seen the concept of marketing evolve significantly. Accordingly, the languages we use as marketers have also changed. Honestly speaking, some of the marketing jargons and acronyms we use these days can be quite confusing for ordinary people.

SEO and SEM are two commonly used terms in today’s marketing fraternity. However, indeed, many individuals don’t have a clear understanding of how they differ and how they are related to each other.

According to bkmediagroup.com, a certified Google Partner and digital marketing agency, there is a symbiotic relationship between SEO and SEM. Great marketing results can only be obtained by leveraging both these strategies to their full potential.

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Difference Between SEO & SEM

Traditionally, Search Engine Optimization or SEO has been considered to be a component of Search Engine Marketing or SEM, encompassing organic as well as paid tactics. However, nowadays, the term SEM is used exclusively to refer to paid search.

SEO can be defined as a strategy to receive traffic-utilizing free, natural, editorial, or organic search results. On the other hand, SEM is the process of obtaining paid traffic by purchasing advertisements. Ideally, both these strategies should be part of an organization’s online search marketing arsenal.

SEO Overview

Off-page and on-page activities are the two pillars of SEO. Some key elements of on-page SEO are:

  • Optimized metadata including meta description, title tag, image ALT tag, and heading tags, using targeted keywords.
  • Well-formatted and simple page URLs were containing selective keywords.
  • Optimized and well-written pages created via strategic keyword research.
  • Page speed optimization.
  • Social sharing integration of the content.

Some key elements of off-page SEO are:

  • Obtaining high-quality inbound links through link building
  • Increasing traffic through social media sharing
  • Gaining the attention of social bookmarking sites.

SEM Overview

SEM is all about gaining visibility on search engines through paid advertisements, commonly known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads. These advertisements can be used to target potential buyers through keyword and ad copy matching the search queries used by them.

In search engine results pages, PPC ads can be seen next to the organic listings. There are many different considerations while creating and maintaining an effective paid campaign for search advertisements. However, the five mentioned below are the cornerstones of a successful SEM campaign.

  • Launch of ad campaigns taking specific industry, geography, age group, or other factors into account.
  • Use of targeted keyword variations for the creation of ad groups.
  • Making use of selective keywords to write ad copies relevant to a product or service.
  • Creating an advertising budget.
  • Regular monitoring of key metrics such as impressions, clicks, the average cost per click, and click through rates.

If an organization wants to complement its organic search engine optimization by increasing its SEM efforts, Google AdWords can be an excellent alternative.


There can be long debates on which of the two is more effective than the other. However, there is no clear-cut answer to this question because the best approach is to look at SEO as the foundation of an effective Search Engine Marketing strategy. Both are extremely valuable and should be used as part of any inbound marketing strategy.

When To Focus On SEO

The groundwork for an effective SEM strategy is always laid down by SEO, through high-quality content that is helpful to the target audience. All your SEM tactics may come to nothing without well-optimized web pages, landing pages, and blog content. Moreover, in the long run, organic SEO is less expensive and helps build search credibility.

When To Focus On SEM

While creating its initial online footprint by launching a website, a business requires immediate search engine visibility. Building organic credibility takes a considerable amount of time. However, a strategic PPC campaign can help achieve this immediately. However, in the long run, one must not rely too much on just PPC and ignore organic SEO.

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