Search optimization for boosting business Understanding the differences between SEO and SEM

Online marketers commonly encounter the terms “Search Engine Optimization” and “Search Engine Marketing” and use them interchangeably. However, both are different and have several distinctive differences. SEO comprises a set of techniques of fine-tuning the website and the environment it operates in so that search engines can understand it better and accurately assess its worth to users. The culmination of SEO is a search engine results page rank that determines to a large extent the number of people who will click on the URL and visit the website. On the other hand, SEM is regarded as an active component of Internet marketing that raises brand visibility through paid advertising.

What Is SEO?

SEO is the practice of web content optimization so that it is easily discovered by search engines. The main purpose of SEO is to demonstrate to search engines that the content on your website is the most useful and relevant for a specific search conducted by a user. While SEO techniques vary according to the search engine for which, you are optimizing the content, many factors are considered by search engine algorithms. The keyword or phrase being queried, usability and relevance of the content in the pages, authority, and depth of knowledge, location are among the 200 odd factors that the Google algorithm supposedly takes into account for allocating a page rank for the target keyword.

The important thing to understand is that you cannot pay Google or any other search engine to rank you well. The reason why websites with superior ranks win the trust of users automatically is that they know that Google will give the best ranks only to those sites with content that it believes answers the query most satisfactorily. According to search engine land your content should offer real value to users in the form of information that is unique, useful, and different and not available elsewhere.

Types of SEO

On-Page SEO: On-page SEO is performed by optimizing both the HTML code and the content of the eachweb page. In addition to optimizing Meta tags, title tags, Meta descriptions, heading tags, URL strings, one of the most important elements is user-friendly, relevant, and authoritative content infused with keywords that are important in the context of the search. Other important factors include the speed of loading of the web pages, image optimization, etc.

Off-Page SEO: This is all about the various actions you can take outside of the website that will improve the ranking in Google search. This practice involves improving the perception of the search engine and the user both about the authority, trustworthiness, relevance, and popularity of the website. This is largely achieved by the association of the website with reliable and reputable websites, pages, and people online with the help of links or favorable mentions that effectively assure users of the quality of content on your website.

Technical SEO: This refers to the methods of website design and development that affect search rankings like site architecture, coding efficiency, and structured data, speed, as well as, mobile responsiveness. The purpose of doing technical SEO is to make the experience of the website good for both search engine bots and users. Generally, you will require the help of a competent SEO Company to work with your website developer for the best results.

What Is SEM?

Search engine marketing is different from SEO inasmuch it uses paid tactics rather than organic methods for achieving better search engine rankings. Essentially, SEM involves creating and placing advertisements on a paid basis. Every search engine has its own platform for conducting SEM; for Google, it is Google Ads. When conducting SEM, you need to identify the most important keywords your target audience is likely to use to search in your industry. Now whenever a user uses the identified keywords in his query, your advertisements will appear above the organic results on the search engine results page. Typically, the ads are paid for on a per-click basis, which means that only when a user clicks on the ad, you will be charged as per the PPC contract you have entered into with Google.

SEO vs. SEM – the Fundamental Differences

Audience targeting: While you can use keywords as the only filter for displaying the results in SEO, you can select multiple parameters like location, age, and other demographics to display your advertisements is SEM.

Cost: SEO is free to implement and you do not have to pay Google for giving you superior ranks; however with SEM, using a PPC model of advertising, you will incur a charge every time a visitor clicks on your advertisement.

Appearance: SEO results do not carry any labels, the best result, according to Google may get included in a featured snippet but PPC ads will typically have tags that indicate that they are paid for advertisements.

Immediacy: The impact of SEO takes time to show up on the search results; it can take months of hard effort before Google recognizes the improvements you have made and starts boosting your page rank. SEM, however, has an immediate impact with the results being apparent the minute your campaign commences. You can switch your campaign on and off as you like depending on your requirements, unlike SEO.

Enduring value: Even though SEO takes time to take effect, it delivers long-term value and results that last over a long period. SEM works only as long as you intend it to and there is no carry-forward value of an SEM campaign after it has been terminated.

The efficiency of testing: As explained SEO takes a lot of time to show results, which makes adjusting it for better results, a long-drawn-out affair. With SEM, you can immediately find out if the ad is working to its potential and if not, you can stop the campaign, make the changes either to the ad or the target audience and try again.


Even as the techniques of SEO and SEM are quite different, there is a lot of commonality in the goals. Both methods attempt to place the website or the brand at the top of the search results page to drive the maximum volume of traffic to the website, both rely on proper identification of target keywords for best results, and both work the best when the target audience has been properly identified. The difference is essentially in the speed of response and the cost of implementation.

Author Bio:
About Michelle Joe: Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on TwitterLinkedInFacebook

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