Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) They almost sound the same, three letter and all, both begin with “s”.  Many people go as far as using the terms interchangeably- but these two ideas actually have some key differences between them.

SEO Exposed and Explained

In fact, SEO is really a smaller, sub-concept under the umbrella the term of SEM. Search Engine Optimization focuses specifically on raising a web property higher on the search results page, to gain more visitors and online traffic. It mostly consists of two different categories: off-page and on-page SEO. On-page focuses on content of blog posts and pages, the use of descriptions, keywords, etc. Off-page focuses more on the backlinks that lead to your site, social sharing, bookmarking, and etc. There are a lot of benefits of SEO of course, but they mainly revolve around establishing credibility and awareness of your website. One reason some people are wary of SEO is that it takes longer to achieve success- fighting your competitors to climb to the top of a search results page can take some time. But in many ways, SEO tactics can be longer-lasting and more reliable than some of the paid advertising found in SEM.

SEM Explained and Exposed

SEM is, as mentioned, an umbrella term that encompasses SEO, but also includes other aspects of marketing, like pay-per-click advertising. SEO does not include any type of paid advertising and is often considered to be “organic” marketing because of this. PPC, however, can still be very useful for many companies, depending on several factors and circumstances. For instance, those who are new to the market and are just starting out with their website may need to rely on pay-per-click, as it’s the easiest way to gain visibility. Competing with dozens of other established websites can be difficult, and SEO may not put your company on the map quickly enough. But using PPC can get the job done efficiently. Also, companies who offer specialty products or services may want to use pay-per-click, as potential customers already know what they’re looking for, they just need to know where to buy it. PPC can be narrowed down to the few specific keywords and searches that will direct these customers to your website, and you can focus a large part of your budget on just those ads.


But regardless of what type of marketing you prefer for your website, using only one type of online marketing would be a mistake. Advertisers need aspects of both SEO and SEM to gain conversions and credibility. Understanding how to balance the two will be key to your success- figure out what your company specifically needs to focus on, and then add to it with elements of other types of marketing. There are pros and cons to SEO and SEM, but once you figure out what works best and what can bring in the most revenue for your company, you can start to form an effective combination of the two. In the end, you want to get your website noticed and clicked on, whether that’s through paid advertising or a higher page ranking.