What is the Difference between SEO and SEM?

What is the Difference between SEO and SEM?

SEO and SEM both play an important role in increasing the visibility of websites in search engines. Both SEO and SEM are interlinked, connected directly under the umbrella term Search Marketing. 

SEO strategies are focused on generating organic traffic. There are many aspects of SEO that you have to consider to earn an organic ranking. 

  • Creating Backlinks – You earn backlinks or incoming links when other websites share your content and credit you.
  • Meta Description – It is a 160-character description of your page/post. Call it the summary of a webpage.
  • Organizing The Website Structure – Achieving an organized and speedy website by categorizing the content gives it a better understanding and navigating structure.
  • Using Keywords Appropriately – Researching and using the right keywords to develop your web content around shows your content to the prospects right when looking for your content.
  • Voice Optimization – Optimizing the content for voice searches through different techniques makes your content appear to searchers who use this kind of search.
  • Featured Snippet Optimization – Creating content that gets visibility in featured snippets – position zero – on Google SERPs gives you more visibility.

While SEM on the other hand, uses all the paid marketing strategies, including PPC, the acronym for pay per click.  After optimizing the website for ranking organically in the search engines (SEO), you start working on PPC.

Pay-per-click or PPC is the amount you pay to a search engine, whenever a user clicks your product/ business ad. Call it the fee you pay to the search engine to get clicks on your ad. You may be paying a nominal amount for this click and converting these clicks to actual sales, making huge profits. Or, you might have to pay a huge amount for each click that might not even convert. 

SEO Vs. SEM: Which One To Choose For Your Business?

When To Choose SEO?

  1. When There Are Long Term Benefits Involved

SEO strategies do not give you an instant ranking. You may need to wait for years to secure the highest rank, but you have sustained web traffic once you do it correctly. 

  1. When You Want To Have An Authority Website

SEO is a tough process, but it has its perks too.

The best part is that your website becomes an authority website if the backlink profile is strong. People will start choosing your site to find relevant results on your website for an extended period. They start to trust your website for their queries and treat it as an information center.

  1. When Your Advertising Budget Is Limited

Even though SEO involves some costs, it is still inexpensive. 

All you need to do is invest some money in the initial stages for getting tools of SEO. Later on, use the same tools for years to earn yourself high ranks.

  1. When You’re Targeting An Already Established Niche

SEO practices can show results when you’re entering an established niche. It may sound incorrect to some, but SEO strategies such as keyword research become highly effective when the target is an established niche.

Pros And Cons Of SEO


  • It retains your web traffic – Once you have crafted and implemented the SEO strategies, there’s no need to sustain the traffic. Organic traffic has a longer life than paid traffic, which leads to building the website authority over time.
  • It is cheap in the long run – You invest initially, but there’s no need to buy clicks through payments. If you have implemented a smart set of SEO strategies, you will be getting traffic that constantly drives conversions.


  • It does not give instant results – SEO is a long road. There’s consistent effort involved in it, and sadly, there are no shortcuts. You do every right thing and keep waiting to get the desired rank because many competitors are putting in the same efforts. It’s a long queue you have to wait in.
  • It requires developing rich and unique content -SEO is a content-centric approach – Content that is competitive and unique at the same time. It takes much time to develop the right appealing content for your website. It is virtual labor, which can get frustrating at times.

When To Choose SEM?

  1. When You Need Instant Results

SEM gives instant results. People searching for the keywords quickly rush to the ads they see if they need your services urgently. 

  1. When You Have A Time Limit For An Event

You’re aiming to pitch a particular event for which you cannot wait. It can be an end of season sale or the launch of a new product line. You cannot use SEO only and wait for people to click organically on your web page. 

  1. When Your Advertising Budget Is Not Tight

PPC is an expensive process. The clicks can be costly if your product lies in a competitive niche. Other than that, it is an auction-based system, so there’s a fair chance of over-pricing as well. 

Pros And Cons Of SEM


  • It is swift – SEM can generate web traffic quickly. Once your ad goes on the SERP, your CTR spikes high.
  • It allows experimentation – This model allows experimentation with different ads. You can test multiple ads for their performances and or the efficiency of different and the calls-to-action too.


  • It is expensive – Bidding for clicks is expensive. The clicks in competitive niches can sometimes get more costly than the product itself. SEM is not a good option to opt for in such a case.
  • Paid traffic vanishes when you stop paying – Once you stop paying for the clicks, the CTR goes down drastically. 

SEO and SEM are both effective in different scenarios. We cannot conclude with the notion that one of them is superior to another. Any of these models, if applied correctly, can garner the required results. 

A smartly crafted advertising strategy for any small or large business can prove to be fruitful.

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Alvin John Ferias is one of today’s leading freelance web developers and seo expert from Manila, Philippines. He provides affordable and quality SEO, website design and website development using PHP, Joomla, Magento, and WordPress.

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