SEO vs. SEM – What Is The Difference Between Them?

SEO is focused on optimizing a website to get traffic from organic search results. SEM aims to get traffic and visibility from organic and paid search.
SEO vs. SEM – What Is The Difference Between Them | 716 Co.

The difference is that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is focused on optimizing a website to get traffic from organic search results. At the same time, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) aims to get traffic and visibility from organic and paid search.

Two marketing terms and acronyms that are often used interchangeably without a clear understanding of how they are related and how they are different are SEO & SEM. They have a common relationship and, when both are used to their full potential, they can get you great marketing results.

As advertising has advanced, so has the language we use as advertisers. We’re all guilty for throwing around language and abbreviations that frequently leave our customers confused. I hope this post will help you better understand these terms and what they do.


  • SEM is a paid search strategy.
  • SEO is an organic search strategy.

Not sure of the difference between SEO and SEM? Check out this post from 716 Co. to see the difference and when to use which one.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is the part of search engine marketing that uses organic techniques to achieve visibility in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)

SEO disciplines need to evolve to keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms continually. One factor is constant; SEO is created from on-page and off-page activities as its two central pillars.

With SEO, businesses don’t purchase placement on SERPs. Instead, they use numerous techniques that prompt search engines to point out their content close to the highest of SERPs due to the results valuable and authoritative. SEO includes many tactics that may help a brand increase their search rankings. These white hat SEO techniques are often sorted into three categories.

  • On-page SEO optimizes every page of a web site to focus on a particular keyword and attractiveness to search engines. These methods include keyword research, content creation, and keyword optimization. On-page keyword optimization in SEO helps search engines understand a page of content and provides it higher ranks. It is important to include the page title tag, meta description, heading tags, and image alt tag, which contains target keywords.
  • Technical SEO optimizes the non-content parts of a website and, therefore, the website as an entire to enhance its backend structure and foundation. These tasks relate to site speed, mobile-friendliness, indexing, crawlability, site architecture, structured data, and security. Technical SEO improves both website user and search-engine crawlers’ experience, which results in higher search rankings.
  • Off-page SEO builds a web site’s reputation and authority by connecting it to other high-quality websites. Off-page SEO techniques embrace link building (acquiring high-quality backlinks) from other websites and managing native listings and directory profiles. Once several websites link to a brand’s website, it shows search engines that the brand’s website is trustworthy, reliable, and reputable, which will increase its search rankings.

When Do I Need Focus on SEO?

SEO lays the groundwork for SEM by providing well-optimized content that customers find helpful. Your SEM efforts can fall flat with landing pages, web pages, and blog content not optimized for search due to poor optimization quality. Gaining visibility in SERPs will end up being very troublesome as a result. 

Organic SEO is less pricey over the long run and helps establish search credibility. However, it’s crucial to maintain it with the consistent creation of quality content and social media sharing. In other words, you need to have content worth searching for.

What Is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

SEM strictly involves gaining search visibility through paid advertisements on search engines like Google. These advertisements are usually noted as pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

Several alternative terms are used for SEM activities, including cost-per-click (CPC) ads, paid search ads, and paid search advertising.

PPC advertising permits you to focus on potential consumers through relevant ad copy and keywords that match their search queries. Pay-Per-Click ads show up in search engine results pages (SERPs) next to organic listings. They allow your business to extend the visibility of its website pages, landing pages, and blog articles. Using paid ads are best when they compliment your inbound marketing strategy.

When Do I Need To Focus On SEM?

Are you just launching your first website to promote your product or service? You will likely need immediate visibility in search until you build up your organic credibility with the search engines. With a strategic PPC campaign, you’ll be able to achieve this goal. But it would be best if you didn’t rely strictly on PPC over the long-term while ignoring organic SEO. You still need to create great organic content that website visitors will want to engage with once they get to your site.

SEO vs. SEM Conclusion

You and your marketer should evaluate what’s best for your specific needs and create a custom marketing strategy. Ensure you fully understand the differences between SEM and SEO and how you’ll maintain your future efforts.


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