There is a Big Difference in SEO vs. SEM

SEO and SEM are for Improving Website Rankings
SEO and SEM are for Improving Website Rankings

The first thing to consider about SEO vs. SEM is that you can have SEM (Search Engine Marketing) without Search Engine Optimization. However, your SEM won’t be as effective without SEO. Search Engines are the single greatest Return On Investment for a company. The people that use them are already looking for a specific product or information.

SEO is the process of utilizing on-site and off-site tactics to make sure what you have to offer through your website can be understood by the search engines like Google. SEM is a broader form of online marketing that utilizes SEO, social media, and mobile marketing to have your website show up in front of customers looking for your goods or services.

SEO vs. SEM: What They Have in Common

The Same Goal

Most companies have a website.  They want to make sure that their website is found by the people that are needing their good or services. In order to do this, their website needs to rank on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page, or SERP. If you are new to online marketing, then you should know now that if you are not on the first page of the search engine results you might as well not have a website.

The goal of SEO and SEM is to boost the ranking of a website on a Search Engine Results Page. By properly utilizing SEO and SEM tactics your website can be identified by Google, Bing, or Yahoo and those algorithms will make sure that your website is placed in front of the people looking for what you have to offer.

Keyword Driven

SEO and SEM are both driven by keywords. The search engines take a person’s request and boil it down to the most relevant keywords in their query. It will take a question like “What is the best Italian restaurant in Reno?” and begin looking for “Italian restaurants reno” or “best Italian restaurants reno”. When implementing SEO or SEM tactics you want to try and think of all the relevant keywords associated with your business or variations of those keywords. This will require a little bit of research and there are several online tools that can help you with this process. Next, make sure those keywords are a part of the website copy or advertisement.  By doing this, you are informing the search engines what you are about in the fewest words possible and they will make sure your website is visible to the people looking for you.

SEO vs. SEM: The Difference (And They are Big)

The Focus

PPC is a Form of SEM
PPC is a Form of SEM

SEO focuses strictly on your website to improve search engine ranking. It is focused on keyword placement, backlinks from other websites, blog posts, web page load times, and much more. SEO is in a constant state of flux due to the constant updates that search engines make to their algorithms.

SEM is a little more constant. It utilized PPC, or Pay-Per-Click, services such as Google Adwords. SEM also includes ads on social media channels. The focus is on the actual advertisement for the website and not the website itself. You still want to use the same keywords you have discovered for SEM that you use in SEO, but you get far less space to use them.  The placement also isn’t as important. PPC ads are not a webpage. They are a link to your website.


SEO is potentially free if you are building your own website. It will cost you time though. There several online guides available to help you understand keyword placement and build backlinks. If you don’t have the time to do this then there are several agencies available to help you out. Usually, it is a one-time fee for a full website optimization.  The only continuing fees that come into play is if you want someone to write your blogs for you.

SEM costs money.  You are paying Google, Bing, Facebook, or Twitter to place your ads in front of targeted demographics. It is called Pay-Per-Click because you are paying anywhere from ten cents to two dollars for every person that clicks on the link you have posted as part of your advertisement. The more people that click, the more you pay. However, you can set a daily, weekly, or monthly limit. So, once it is reached your ad will be taken down until the next ad cycle.


SEO is a long-term investment. It can take months of regular blogging after a full website optimization before you will begin to see an increase in foot traffic. However, once you have climbed your way to the top of the SERP you will generally stay there. SEM has a much more immediate effect as you are paying to have your advertisement to be placed at the top of the SERP. You will see a very sharp increase in your foot traffic very quickly, but once you stop paying for your ad it will fall off the first page of the SERP. Your website might still be there, but only if you have optimized it correctly.

Is SEO Better Than SEM?

The answer is up for debate.  Google does give higher ranking to SEM ads that are linked to well SEO-ed websites. So, if you are using the same keywords and messaging on your website as you are in your PPC ad you will rank higher.  If your advertisement is for sponge cakes and your website is written for gym socks, then the search engines will identify a disconnect and rank you lower. Search Engines are in the business of connecting people to what they are looking for.

Organic SEO Solutions is available to help with Search Engine Optimization

Organic SEO Solutions specializes in keyword research, blogs, web content, and copywriting focused on Search Engine Optimization. We have written for multiple industries including wealth management, construction, and house cleaning. Our keyword focused web content has boosted the ranking of websites on search engine results pages and increased monthly foot traffic dramatically. More customers looking at your website always equates to more money for your business.

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