SEO vs SEM: What Is the Difference?

SEO vs SEM: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) sound the same but they both execute different works. They have some major differences related to their performance. 

Search optimizations are connected to Search Marketing. Tactics that help websites to get on the search engine pages are known as Search Marketing.

It will help through efforts, which will result in high ranking and visibility.   

But why should we use them? For brands, it is an important marketing strategy. Through these, they generate traffic and develop their websites. But if you don’t know the difference between SEO & SEM, you will find difficulty in managing your work. 

Having basic knowledge related to them can make your search visibility more efficient and effective. 

SEO and SEM are parts of Search Marketing. 

Lots of people find problems in choosing between them and finding which one is better for their website. So, in this article, we will discuss and compare SEO and SEM. 

So, let’s get started…

What is SEO?

The use of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was started in the mid-1990s by Webmasters and content providers. Since then SEO became a key part of search marketing. 

The major purpose of SEO is to generate unpaid traffic on webpages. To get a high ranking and visibility on search, SEO uses organic tactics. This means it is a process to raise the quantity and quality of your website’s traffic. 

While using SEO, you have to customize a variety of tactics that will promote your content on the top of SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Three tactics on which SEO focus a lot are listed below. It combines these techniques and gives the best result:

1. Technical SEO: This part of SEO is related to speed, structured data, indexing, mobile-friendliness, and more technical parts of SEO. 

2. On-page SEO: This optimizes web page and targets specific keywords. It includes content creation, keyword research, and many more. 

3. Off-page SEO: This part helps the reputation of your websites to connect with other quality websites. The reliability, trust, and reputation of your website get increase through this. 

Also Read Comparison SEO Tools: Ahrefs vs SEMrush

What is SEM?

SEM refers to (Search Engine Marketing). It is a form of marketing that grows your business/website/webpage in the marketplace by increasing visibility. 

When the number of the web was in raise, SEM was introduced in the late 1990s. Since then Google, Yahoo, Goto, and many more search engines adopted this strategy. 

SEM is done by paid marketing or advertising that helps a website to gain visibility on SERPs.

It includes activities like setting and optimizing the placement of ads. This refers to PPC (pay-per-click) Marketing.  

The most common SEM provider is Google Ads where brands conduct Keyword Research for their products, services, and industries.

Whenever a user searches for a targeted keyword, he sees convention adds on the top and brands charge each time the user clicks on adds.  

So, these are the basic strategies used in SEM. 

SEO vs SEM: What’s the Difference?

As SEO refers to Search engine Optimization, it uses organic approaches that make your website appear in search engines. 

Whereas, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) uses paid approaches to make your website visible on search engines. 

This is the major difference between them. Although they are categories under Search Marketing, they both are essential at their place…for a marketing plan. 

Comparison between SEO and SEM

  • Search Result: SEM search placement has an ‘Ad’ strategy but SEO doesn’t. On SERPs, the search result of both appears different. Through SEM tactics, paid ads receive a placement.

But in SEO, the search result does not appear next to the placement. 

*So, here…SEM is preferable.

  • Visibility: Specifying the audience can be only done in SEM. To connect high traffic both are recommended but to target, a particular audience is only possible through SEM. 

While using SEM, you can filter the audience by location, income, age, and more. 

On the other hand, SEO shows the result of every type of audience. 

*Here, you get good advantage of using SEM.

  • Cost: As SEM is paid marketing, your brand charges each time a user clicks on that search result. This helps you to generate the budget to continue SEM. This leads to PPC generation as well. 

*Whereas, in SEO charge is not involved in the click of the user.

  • Impact through results: When you use paid SEM ads, after a few clicks your results will be visible to viewers. When you promote the campaign, your ads will start running in SERPs. Also, controlling these ads is modest. 

But, SEO is time taking. To implement the strategies it can take a week or a month. 

*So, SEM works more immediately that SEO. 

  • Value over time: This is the point where SEO shines. It techniques develop over time and give durable results. 

SEM’s strategies are only active until you pay for its ads. As soon as your ad expires, your results will also fall down. 

*Hence, choosing SEO over SEM is a long term decision. 

  • Testing: SEM’s paid ads can be manually turned on/off so it is better for testing. On the other hand, managing and testing will take a long time on SEO. 

*Again, SEM can be seen better than SEO. 

Similarities Between SEO and SEM

Although SEO and SEM are many different techniques, still they have some common features and demands. I listed some of them below:

  • They can target particular words. 
  • While working with both…you have to know the type of audience, you wanted to target.
  • SEO and SEM efficiently help brands to appear on SERPs.
  • They both help to generate high traffic.

SEO vs SEM: Which one is better?

After comparing SEO and SEM, we can see both are better than each other at various points. To know which tactic is beneficial for your marketing strategy you have to focus on your requirements. 

Before choosing one of them, you have to look at some points like:

  • Strategy to beat your competitors’ performance. 
  • Knowing your own website/business/etc. 
  • Length of tactic implementation. 
  • Knowing the correct time to use. 


At last, we can say that managing SEO vs SEM will help you to get high traffic on your web. You have a unique audience and web site, you can easily reach them through these tactics but development depends upon your marketing strategies. 

Hope this article helped you! What is your opinion about SEO and SEM? Comment below and let us know…

Also Read: Bluehost vs SiteGround, A2 Hosting vs SiteGround

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