SEO vs SEM’s main difference is that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is focused on improving a website in order to get traffic from organic search results. On the other hand, the goal of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is to get traffic and perceptibility from both organic and paid search. SEO is where you focus mainly on ranking in the organic results. SEM is when you tap into both SEO and PPC in order to get traffic from search engines. SEM is a broad term that includes SEO and PPC, which means that SEO falls “under” the umbrella category of SEM. The Internet changed everything. Adapting to this new reality is essential for any company that wants to position its brand in this new world.

SEO Overview

SEO is the practice of continually enhancing a website in order to rank in the organic, non-paid search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google uses 200 plus ranking signals in their algorithm. That said, SEO can be divided into four main subcategories: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, technical SEO and User Interaction Signals.

On-Page SEO: This is where you improve your website around keywords that your target customer searches for in Google, Bing and other search engines. For example, one on-page SEO best practice is to include your main keyword in your title tag, Meta description and webpage URL.

Off-Page SEO: Off-page SEO is all about getting trust and authority signals from other websites. This mainly involves building high-quality backlinks to your site. Also, it is important to note that Google uses an algorithm trick that may confuse webmasters who are not aware of it

Technical SEO: Here’s where you make sure that Google and other search engines can crawl and index all of the pages on your website. Technical SEO also includes things like making sure your pages load quickly. And that your site architecture is set up correctly.

User Interaction Signals: The way that users interact with your site helps Google figure out if your page is a good match for someone’s search. For example, if your page has a high bounce rate, that could be a sign that your page isn’t giving someone the answer to their query. And if Google considers your page a bad fit for that keyword, they can drop your rankings down a little bit. Or completely off of the first page altogether.

SEM Overview

• Remember: SEM is a high-level term that includes SEO. So everything that I just outlined above for SEO also applies to SEM. But in addition to SEO, SEM also includes PPC. And PPC is a field that has its own set of features, best practices and more.

Whether you use Google Ads or Bing Ads, paid ads in search is all about bidding. With PPC, you bid on a specific keyword. And when someone searches for that keyword, your ad shows up.
The rankings of the ads are usually proportional to how much someone is bidding. So if you’re the highest bidder, you’ll appear above all of the other ads.
And when someone clicks on your ad, you pay whatever amount that you bid. The amount that you pay when someone clicks on your ad is known as cost per click (CPC).

Quality Score: Quality Score is a super important Google Ads metric. It’s basically Google’s way of figuring out if your ad is a good match for whatever someone’s searching for.
Google calculates Quality Score based on a combination of click through rate, the quality of your landing page and your Google Ad account’s overall Quality Score. And if your ad has a high Quality Score, you’ll get a discount on each click.

Ad Copy: Writing compelling ad copy is a HUGE part of doing well with PPC. Why? Great ad copy=high CTR. And a CTR means a good Quality Score. Which means that you pay less for the same click.
The opposite is also true. If your copy doesn’t push people to click, your Quality Score will suffer. And your PPCs will start to get super expensive.

Ad Groups and Account Management: Here’s where you use the data in your Google Ads account to optimize your ad spend.

SEO vs. SEM: How Long It Takes to See Results

One of the main differences between SEO and SEM is speed.
The fact is: SEO takes time. A lot of time. Especially if your site is new and doesn’t have a lot of backlinks yet. In fact, an analysis by Ahrefs found that it takes an average of 2 years to rank on the first page of Google. And many of the top-ranking pages were first published more than 3 years ago.

This doesn’t mean that you should expect it to take 2 years to rank in Google. If you target long tail keywords and implement SEO best practices, you can start to see some results within a few months.

For example, when I launched Backlinko in early 2013, my website had essentially zero domain authority. But thanks to a ton of hard work and a focus on SEO, I was able to get some organic traffic within months. It did take years for my rankings and organic traffic to really climb.

On the other hand, if you focus your SEM efforts in PPC, you can start to see results pretty much instantly. You can run an ad in the morning, and start to get traffic and conversions in the afternoon. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll get an ROI on day 1. In many cases, it can take months of testing and tweaking to get a positive ROI from PPC. Even so, there’s no question that PPC starts working much more quickly than SEO.

SEO vs SEM: How Much They Cost

A lot of people are drawn to SEO because it’s “free website traffic”.
And yes, you don’t pay when someone clicks on your site in the organic search results. But make no mistake: SEO is NOT free. Not even close.
For example, let’s take a quick look at one of my pages that’s currently ranking #1 in Google for “on page SEO”.

#1 is a great place to be. I’m getting traffic from that keyword literally every day. And I don’t need to do anything or pay anything for that traffic to come in. But it took A LOT of money, time and effort to get that #1 ranking.

At a high-level, I had to build up Backlinko’s Domain Authority by consistently putting out world-class content. And promoting that content with email outreach. Over the short-term, PPC is usually cheaper than SEO.

The big issue with PPC is this:
When you stop paying, your traffic goes to zero.
But with SEO, once you rank, you’re pretty much set. Your investment is all up-front. Once you actually rank, you don’t need to invest a lot of money into maintaining your current rankings. So yeah, when it comes to cost, SEO and PPC have their pros and cons. Which is why most businesses use a marketing strategy that includes a mix of SEO and PPC.

When to Focus Just SEO

You Have a Very Limited Budget: If you’re a startup or small business with a tiny marketing budget, you probably want to focus on SEO. You may not see an ROI on your SEO budget for months or years. But it still makes more sense than burning through your marketing budget on PPC ads that may only run for a week.

You Can Rank For Informational Keywords: Informational keywords are terms like “What is X” or “How to X”. Although these types of search queries don’t convert super well, they get a lot of search volume. So if you feel like you can write AMAZING content on topics that customers search for in Google, SEO is probably your best bet.

For example, my entire business has been built on ranking for informational keywords that my target audience (pro marketers) search for.
You Can Wait: SEO and content marketing takes time to kick in. So if you can play the long game and wait 6-12 months to see legit traffic start to roll in from Google search, go with SEO.

You’re good at Link Building: Creating high-quality content is a key part of ranking in Google. But it’s not enough. If you’re serious about ranking, you’ll need to also use a few different link building strategies to get other sites to link to you.

When to Focus on PPC

You have a very limited budget: One of the nice things about PPC ads is that you can set a strict budget. That way, it’s impossible to spend more than you planned.
That said: it’s easy to burn through that budget quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing (and if you’re just getting started with paid ads, you won’t).
Which means that you need a regular monthly budget that you can play with to figure out what combination of keyword targeting, ad copy, landing pages and bids work best for you.

You Can Manage An Adwords Account: On the surface, PPC sounds super simple. Bid on keywords. Get traffic.

But in practice, managing a Google Ads account is no joke. You need to take into keyword-targeting, ads, Quality Score, ROI, conversion rates and process all of this data to make decisions on how to get the most out of your ads.

You Have the Ability to Launch and Test Landing Pages: One of the first things you’ll learn about PPC is that you need targeted landing pages for each ad. Or at least each ad group. So to get the most out of PPC, you need a way to quickly launch lots of different web pages. And run A/B tests to figure out which one is performing best.

When to Do Both (SEM)

When should you tackle SEO and PPC at the same time?
Let me answer this question with a real-life example:
When I launched my first website, I was running all of my SEM myself. I was writing content and optimizing it for search engines (SEO). And managing my Google Ads account (PPC). So in addition to being “Founder”, I was also “SEM Manager”.
And because I was trying to do my site’s SEM myself, SEO and PPC suffered. It was too much for one person to manage.
But if you feel like you have the staff to manage both PPC and SEO, go for it. Otherwise, I’d pick one or the other.

Frequently Asked Questions :paintbrush:

1- Is SEO a part of SEM?

SEM Marketing has two components, SEO marketing, and PPC marketing. Although SEO is technically part of SEM, many people when referring to SEM they mean the process of using PPC ads to get traffic from search engines. In general, Search engine marketing is a critical digital marketing channel.

2- What is SEM in digital marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs). Search engine marketing is also alternately referred to as paid search or pay per click (PPC).

3- Is Paid Search SEO or SEM?

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is meant to cover both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search, also known as PPC (pay-per-click) or CPC (cost-per-click). SEM still refers occasionally to paid search with a minor emphasis on SEO, but that’s even rarer than using the term properly.

4- Is Adwords a SEM?

The most well-known (and effective) platform to use is Google AdWords. Bing Ads and Yahoo Search Ads are also both SEM platforms that you can use. It’s important to note that—while all SEM platforms utilize a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model—not all PPC is SEM.

5- Is SEO paid?

SEO is that SEM is a paid strategy and SEO is an organic strategy. Like most things in the search industry, the definitions related to search marketing have evolved. Some marketers may consider SEM to be an umbrella term that includes both paid and organic strategies.

6- What is SEM example?

A SEM campaign is an advertising strategy that generates ads in search engines such as Google to position ourselves in the top positions of search results. Giving Google as an example, to make a payment strategy to position ourselves, we will have to create a SEM campaign within Google Ads.

7- What is SEM good for?

SEM can also be helpful for analyzing traffic and discovering search intent. By analyzing the data from your PPC search campaigns, you can see patterns in search terms, which ads receive the most clicks, and the number of conversions for each ad so you can identify important trends.

8- How much does SEO cost?

The cost of SEO services varies depending on what is included. Most SEO projects in 2021 cost between $750-$2,000/month based on the scope of the project. A one-time project will range between $5,000-$30,000 and hourly rates for consultants fall between $80-$200/hour.

9- What is the principle of SEM?

The working principle is based on the generation of electron-hole pairs by the backscattered electrons which escape the sample and are absorbed by the detector. The amount of these pairs depends on the energy of the backscattered electrons.

10- Why is SEO so expensive?

SEO is so expensive for three reasons: It takes time to show results, it requires a lot of resources to build and maintain a campaign, and it often relies on the expertise of an SEO specialist to develop and grow your strategy.

SEO vs SEM: The tactics may sound the same, but they are two very different approaches to search optimization.

Related Articles :open_book:

What Role Does SEO Agency Play In Gurgaon?
SEO Magnifier - Can it Supply Free Web Traffic?
SEO vs. SEM: Which one Suits Me

Approved by Sarah Taufiq

SEM vs. SEO: What’s the Difference and Which is Right for My Brand?

For organizations looking to attract attention, boost website traffic, and develop their business, search optimization is a must-have marketing approach. However, if you don’t know how to compare SEM vs. SEO, search optimization might be a challenging plan to handle. Although the strategies sound similar, they are two quite different methods to search engine optimization. You won’t be able to present a clear and successful strategy for enhancing your visibility in search if you use the terms SEM and SEO interchangeably and don’t understand the differences between the two.

What is Search Marketing?

You must first learn the vocabulary for this type of marketing before you can design a comprehensive search optimization strategy. So let’s begin from the beginning. Search marketing refers to any strategy that aids a brand’s visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). It comprises efforts to improve search ranks and exposure in order to attract traffic to a website or individual webpages. Within search marketing, there are two key categories: SEM, or search engine marketing, is a type of marketing that makes use of paid tactics to appear in search results. To appear in search results, SEO use ORGANIC methods. The primary distinction between SEM and SEO is that SEM is a paid strategy, whereas SEO is an organic strategy. Always define language before dealing with search partners because these terms might be interchangeable and mean different things to various marketers. Discuss the definitions with your marketing partners to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the strategy.

What is SEM?

SEM, or search engine marketing, is commonly thought of as the element of search marketing that employs PAID methods to increase visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). A paid SEM strategy encompasses both the tasks of creating and optimizing ads, as well as the establishment of a budget for ad placement.

This strategy is often referred to as paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.

The most popular search provider for this method is Google Ads (previously Google Adwords). Brands use this strategy to do keyword research and design campaigns that focus on the most relevant terms for their industry, products, or services. The personalized adverts appear at the top or bottom of the SERPs when users search for certain keywords. Each time a user clicks on the ad, the brand is charged. Check out our page on PPC lead creation for more SEM suggestions and fundamental methods.

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a type of search marketing that employs ORGANIC methods to improve rankings in search engines. Brands do not pay for placement on SERPs while using SEO. Instead, they employ a variety of strategies to encourage search engines to place their material near the top of SERPs because it is valuable and authoritative.
There are hundreds of SEO methods that can help a company improve its search rankings. These three types of white hat SEO strategies are frequently bundled together.

On-page SEO

Optimizes each page of a website to appeal to search engines and target a specific keyword. Keyword research, content production, and keyword optimization are examples of these tactics. In SEO, on-page optimization aids search engines in comprehending a page’s content and, as a result, ranking it higher.

Technical SEO

Improves the backend structure and foundation of a website by optimizing non-content parts and the website as a whole. Site speed, mobile friendliness, indexing, crawlability, site architecture, structured data, and security are all covered by these tactics. Technical SEO benefits both users and search crawlers, resulting in greater search rankings.

Off-page SEO

By linking to other high-quality websites, a website’s reputation and authority are enhanced. Link building (acquiring high-quality backlinks) from other websites, as well as managing local listings and directory profiles, are examples of off-page SEO tactics. When a large number of websites connect to a brand’s website, search engines see it as trustworthy, credible, and reputable, which boosts its search ranks.

SEM vs. SEO: What’s the Difference?

Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are two distinct types of search marketing. When comparing SEM and SEO, though, you’ll notice that they share certain similarities but also have some variances.

SEM vs. SEO: The Similarities

Both help a brand appear in search results

One of the fundamentals of SEO and SEM is that they both strive to assist a business appear in prominent positions on search engine results pages (SERPs). Each tactic’s purpose is to assist a brand appear in search results when consumers look for phrases relating to the brand’s industry, business, or offers.

Both are designed to drive more traffic to a website

Both have the same goal: to increase visibility on search engines, but more crucially, to attract visitors to a website. Each method includes tactics to boost click-through rates (CTR) and encourage more people to click on the search results.

Both require knowing your audience

You must have a thorough understanding of your audience and how they behave in order to excel at both tactics. You may learn about your audience, their wants, and what they’re looking for by employing buyer personas and psychographic segmentation. Then you may develop useful content that appears when they search for solutions that are linked to your brand.

Both use keyword research to uncover popular search terms

Keyword research is the initial stage in both SEM and SEO to determine the best keywords to target. Looking into keyword popularity to find the top keywords or purchase keywords that your ideal audience looks for is part of the research. It also entails researching keyword competition to determine what other brands are targeting the same phrases as you and calculating what you’ll need to do to compete. Start with Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty Tool to undertake keyword research. Enter a search word that is connected to your industry, business, products, or services to see a list of related search terms with popularity and competition scores.

Both target specific keywords

Both tactics are centered on focusing on certain keywords discovered during keyword research. Keywords are at the heart of each strategy.

Both require testing and continual optimization

When comparing SEM with SEO, keep in mind that neither is a “set it and forget it” method. To improve performance, both require ongoing testing, monitoring, and adjustment.

SEM vs. SEO: The Differences

SEM search placements include an “Ad” designation. SEO does not

On SERPs, search results that surface as a consequence of SEM or SEO seem differently. Paid ads that appear as a result of SEM strategies are frequently identifiable as ads (e.g., by an icon appearing next to the placement), but search results that emerge as a result of organic SEO are not.

SEM search results have ad extensions. SEO search results have featured snippets

You’ll notice variances in the presentation of search results when comparing SEM with SEO. Ad extensions, which might include additional links, phone numbers, and callouts, may appear in SEM search results. SEO results, on the other hand, may appear in search with featured snippets.

You pay each time a user clicks on an SEM result. You pay nothing when a user clicks on an SEO result

SEM results are paid placements, and each time a user clicks on one, your business is compensated. As a result, you’ll need a budget to keep running SEM advertisements and leveraging this type of PPC lead generating. When a user clicks on an organic search result, on the other hand, you are never charged.

SEM results show to a select target audience. SEO results do not

While successful SEO and SEM efforts are driven by a strategy to engage with a certain audience, SEM is the only way to narrow down that target demographic. You can decide the audiences you want to see the search results for using SEM by applying filters based on age, geography, wealth, habits, and more (depending on the publisher). You can’t pick and choose who sees your search results if you use SEO.

The impact of SEM is immediate. SEO takes time

With only a few clicks, you can start putting your findings in front of people with sponsored SEM ads. Your ads appear in SERPs as soon as you create a campaign. You may switch advertising on or off at any time to raise or decrease their visibility. On the other hand, SEO is something that you learn over time, and usually over a long period of time. It can take months for a brand to start ranking on search engines after executing an SEO strategy.

SEM is better for testing than SEO

It’s a terrific method for testing because you can turn SEM sponsored ads on and off instantly. To test your new methods, you may easily edit your ad wording, target new audiences, and change landing page content. Because of this adaptability, you may immediately detect differences in your approach. This is impossible to do through SEO since it would take far too long to make changes and track differences in results.

SEO adds value over time. SEM does not

SEM is only active if you pay for your results to be displayed. Your SEM strategy ends the moment you turn off your adverts. The opposite is true for SEO. Over time, SEO strategy develops and builds, leaving long-term results.

SEO has a higher click-through rate (CTR) than SEM … if you can get to the top

CTRs are often highest in the first few organic search results. As a result, if you can go to the top, you’ll almost certainly outperform SEM ads. However, if you appear on the second page of results or lower, SEM is likely to generate you more clicks.

SEM vs. SEO: Which is Better?

It will be easier to decide which strategy is best for your marketing strategies now that you’ve compared SEM vs SEO. Use what you already know and evaluate the following to determine which is best for your brand.

Consider your competition

Before you decide how to best compete with your competitors, look at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it in terms of search marketing. Investigate the search terms on which they rank organically. Consider whether you can implement a strategy to outperform their SERP placements. Examine the purchased words they employ to bring traffic to their own websites. Look for gaps that you can cover and regions where you won’t be able to compete in both sponsored and organic search as you conduct your research. This competitive analysis form will help you gain a comprehensive picture of how you compare to the competition in search and identify development opportunities. To take a close look at your keyword approach.

Consider how well you know your industry

If you’ve been in company for a while and have a good idea of what your customers want and how to best reach them, you should start developing a long-term SEO plan that will pay off in the long run. If you’re unsure how customers or competitors will react to your goods or content, a SEM campaign that lets you to test your ideas, products, and services can be worth considering. Use these resources to do market research and gain a better understanding of your target audience and industry position.

Consider the length of your typical customer buying cycle

If your items and services have a quick consumer buying cycle, meaning buyers know what they want, search for it, and buy it, SEM advertisements that place your product right where customers will see it may be beneficial. Longer buying cycles, in which clients research and compare products for weeks or months, may not perform as well with SEM, because there is no quick purchase after seeing one ad.

Consider the average cost-per-click in your industry

Before evaluating whether or not SEM is good for your company, do some research and calculate how much it will cost to appear in paid search results. The cost-per-click for keywords varies depending on competition. It may be the best method for you if your cost-per-click is cheap. On the other hand, a high cost-per-click may lead you to believe that you should concentrate on SEO.

Consider the age of your business

It will take time to improve your SEO and begin to appear naturally in the search results if you have just started your business and launched your website. While this does not preclude you from developing an SEO plan, it does suggest that you may profit from a SEM strategy while you work on your SEO. SEM is a great approach to boost visitors while also improving your organic SEO.

Consider the current status of your website

Look for the “low-hanging fruit” while developing a marketing strategy, or opportunities that will have the greatest impact with the least amount of effort. So, before you invest money in a search marketing campaign, do some study on your website to discover where you might be able to expand an organic SEO strategy that is already working. Use Alexa’s SEO Audit tool to get a comprehensive analysis of your website’s SEO. Enter your website to receive a thorough assessment on your site’s on-page, off-page, and technical SEO components.


What is SEO vs SEM?

What’s the Difference Between Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing? The primary difference is that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) focuses on optimizing a website for organic search results. The goal of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), on the other hand, is to obtain traffic and visibility from both organic and sponsored search.

Is SEO better than digital marketing?

The terms “search engine optimization” and “digital marketing” are not interchangeable. They are not the same, despite their similarities. SEO specialists work to improve a website’s rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) and so attract free organic traffic.

Which is better SEO or SMO?

SMO focuses on increasing traffic via social media platforms, whereas SEO focuses on boosting your website’s ranking and ability to drive people through search engines like Google. Simply search the name of a well-known brand on Google to observe how SMO affects SEO.


You may also get a free SEO audit report to assist you map out your current SEO performance and develop a long-term strategy. Improve your SEO and SEM strategies at the same time. There is no clear method or answer when comparing SEM with SEO. There are a lot of things to think about. Some companies may choose to concentrate on SEO. Others may prefer to concentrate on SEM. And, on occasion, combining SEO and SEM methods is the best course of action. It all relies on the nature of your business and your objectives. However, now that you understand the similarities and distinctions between SEM and SEO, you’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision.