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

SEM vs. SEO: There are two types of search results in Search Engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing: Paid and Organic

SEM (Search Engine Marketing or Search Ads): SEM uses paid strategies to appear in the search results. This is done by buying traffic through paid search listings from search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. When a company pays Search Engines for clicks, the paid result shows up at the beginning of the search results.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): SEO uses Organic results that Google finds most relevant to the query by using organic strategies to appear in the search results. The organic listings in the search results are gained by consistent efforts of optimizing the brand website on different levels, for example, your website speed and performance.

The way forward for SEO is, to begin with, a website and be consistent with the SEO trends and updates.

An effective and targeted Search Engine Advertising campaign can be created with the help of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) which is commonly known as (Search Ads). This will enhance the traffic to your website and will help rank the website on the Search Engine Page Results (SERPs) for the key phrases which are currently not ranked organically.

“SEO is free” is a common notion, but that is not quite true, getting your website optimized with the intention of being on the Google search results takes time, attention, and last but not least a budget to get the top results of a search engine. There are many factors you should know while practicing SEO. Although it is basically an upfront expenditure, it pays returns in the future, except for any maintenance costs. On the contrary, you must pay for one of your advertisements with SEM, for each click.


Using SEMs (Google ads) to target more difficult keywords and concentrate SEO efforts on longtail keywords, which have a lower search frequency and are easier to rank.

Four ways of using SEO or SEM for optimum exposure and traffic from search engines are given below.

  • Run advertisements for competitive keywords.
  • For ad-heavy keywords, use PPC and SEO.
  • Usage SEO for informational keywords
  • To monopolize the performance, use SEO and PPC.

Another big difference is that SEO takes a lot of time to work and deliver outputs, especially if the website is new, while PPC is almost instantaneous. So it depends better on the overall digital marketing objectives. You should resort to SEO if you want to develop a long-term online business without relying on paying traffic.

When should you focus only on SEO

You Have a Very Limited Budget: You probably want to rely on SEO if you are a startup or a small company with a relatively small marketing budget. There could be no ROI for months or years in your SEO budget. However, it also makes more sense than burning your PPC advertising marketing budget for one week only.

You Can Rank For Informational Keywords: We already know the keywords that are most interesting to us and how many people look for them. The next step is to use the data to prepare our marketing strategies by adjusting these keywords to our website, blog, and social media. Informational keywords are terms like “What is X” or “How to X”. While search queries such as these cannot be very well converted, they obtain a lot of search volume. Then SEO would probably be your best bet if you believe you can write great content on topics customers in Google look for.

You Can Wait: SEO and content marketing need time to bring in the results. You can go for SEO if you can take 6-12 months and wait for legit traffic to roll in Google search.

You’re Good at Link Building: High-quality content creation is a core component of Google’s ranking. But that doesn’t suffice. You could also use a couple of separate link-building tactics if you are serious about rating, in order to link other websites to you. The effort that we put into SEO is for gaining organic listings.

SEM helps build a more powerful and targeted advertising campaign that will help you identify the words you are not organically ranked for on your website.

SEO and SEM are stronger when working together than they would individually work. You can use SEM (Search Ads) and work on the SEO campaign parallelly if you want to bring in quality traffic to your website. The important factor to remember is that both are only as good as the website that is being marketed. If the performance of the website does not have the quality that Google claims, both SEO and SEM won’t work and you will be disappointed. The goal is to gain visibility on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) and more importantly to drive traffic to the website. Each approach uses click-through rates (CTR) strategies which allows more people to click the search results.

Your marketing campaign will perform more successfully by having your SEO and SEM partnership work cohesively together. Request a free consultation.

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