SEO vs. SEM – Which is Convenient for Your Business?

In this digital race where everyone is pacing towards getting their websites the most traffic, visibility, and high rank–it is essential that you acquaint yourself with terms that give you more bounce to the ounce.

Search marketing is a phenomenon that increases your search visibility, improves search rankings and drives more website traffic via search.

As search becomes more powerful, dynamic and fragmented, research shows that search traffic from mobiles (57 percent) have astoundingly exceeded queries from desktop (43 percent).

This creates a large market for enterprises and creates a need for brands to track and optimize search engines for both mobiles and desktops to create better opportunities.

This paves way for two such search engines that are creating endless possibilities to generate user traffic for all platforms.​

These are: and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Being predominantly similar in nature, these search engines have very different features to make them stand out.

Consequently, understanding the nuances between SEO vs. SEM are absolutely critical–especially when you have to–increase visibility and boost your website’s lead generation.

Let’s draw our focus to what SEM and SEO are, how they function, SEO vs. SEM fundamentals, and which search engine model fits best with your needs.


SEO vs. SEM – Which is Convenient for Your Business?


What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

what is SEO

SEO is termed as organic or natural search and is formed by a series of steps and not a single action. This comes under the hierarchy of SEM. If that perplexed you, allow us to clarify further.

SEO is not only focused on the quantity of traffic that is drawn to your website, but also the quality that you attract when defining your e.g. Meta data.Try to avoid the common SEO mistakes to double your traffic.

It ensures that the website ranks high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

When focusing on SEO vs. SEM, SEO is made up of On-Page, Off-Page and Technical activities.

  • On-Page activities consist of manipulations you make directly to a web page by optimizing keyword search, content creation, and making sure your website pages, titles, tags, URLs, images and content are optimized for target keywords etc.
  • Technical activities consist of non-content elements of a website and its backend structure and foundation such as load speed, indexing, crawlability, site architecture, security etc.
  • Off-Page activities refer to SEO practices that take place outside of your website, such as creating significant inbound links from well-reputed external websites, acquiring high-quality backlinks, managing local listings and directory profiles, and creating social sharing signals, and social bookmarking etc.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results—often referred to as "natural", "organic", or "earned" results. wikipedia


SEO also focuses immensely on creating valuable, and high-quality content for blogs or websites.

This in turn helps increase organic traffic to your website, which provides more opportunities for inbound links, and most importantly, more conversions.

SEM however, does not take this as priority. Hence, when comparing SEO vs. SEM, SEO is more long term while SEM caters to short term investment.

SEO has various search options such as image search which used to generate a snippet for content, and helps the page content relate with image content;

local search is way for business to promote their products and services to local customers when they’re online; and vertical search focuses on a specific segment of a content and may be based on topicality, media type, or genre of content. 

When positioning SEO, the key is to use a technique called “long tail” which allows you to use extended keywords, with fewer searches but less competition.

You may also like : Best Keyword Research Tools (Free and Premium)

What is SEM (Search Engine Marketing)?

what is SEM

SEM is typically termed as paid search, which is a major difference in SEO vs. SEM.

SEM is a form of internet marketing that promotes websites by increasing their visibility in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) through paid advertising and optimization.

paid advertising

It goes one step further than SEO as it involves methods to get you more search engine visitors like PPC advertising.

While SEO is typically about fueling your website with the right tools, and get better rankings in search results, SEM adds more value and depth by generating even more visitors/sales.

It does this by using a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising model in which ads are purchased on main search engines or websites.

It also used another format known as Social Media Marketing (SMM), which is a form of internet marketing that uses social networking websites as a marketing too.

So when confused with SEO vs. SEM, remember in short: SEM = SEO + PPC

Some of the common SEM terminologies involve Paid search ads, Paid search advertising, Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Pay-Per-Call, Cost-Per-Click (CPC), and Cost-Per-Thousand-Impressions (CPM).

As most search ads are sold on a PPC or a CPC basis, some may also be sold on a CPM basis. Major marketing platforms use PPC ads such as Google Ads, Yahoo Ads and Bing Ads.

Some of major activities involve launching campaigns, creating ad groups targeting keywords, writing copies for ads using selective keywords, setting an ad budget and monitoring metrics such as CPC, and CPM.

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What is the difference between SEO vs. SEM?

The main difference between SEO vs. SEM in both these marketing tactics is simply the model of internet marketing.

Components such as PPC and SMM, create eclectic ways to generate more traffic over SEO.

While SEM discards keywords that does not have high searches, SEO takes over due to less competition, and accelerates the process of positioning.

Thus, search results are shown to everyone in SEO, unlike target audiences in SEM.

SEM buys advertising space in search engines and have ad extensions to appear in searches. While SEO tries to rank higher and get free traffic organically through featured snippets.

In SEO vs. SEM, when users click an ad, this is more likely to cause higher conversions for your business, as the relevancy of the ad makes SEM traffic more valuable.

This therefore creates immediate results for SEM, in comparison to SEO, but provides value over time for SEO.

Which one to choose: SEO vs. SEM?

Which one to choose SEO vs SEM

When choosing between the two, you should always know that the organic SEO approach is something that exists in both search engine tactics.

However, if you are a new business and want immediate visibility and initial online footprint, it would be useful to create a PPC campaign. This is primarily because this short term solution takes lesser time to generate traffic than SEO.

However, in the long run it would be feasible to fall back on SEO to establish a good ranking on your websites.

High-quality SEO always forms the pre-requisite for SEM and creates a foundation for well-optimized content.

Therefore, in SEO vs. SEM, optimized landing pages and high quality content on blogs and websites, will not benefit SEM due to less visibility in SERPs.

Organic SEO costs nothing ( time involved here ) and lasts longer in terms of search credibility, as it constantly maintains it content and social media standing.

Conclusively, you have to decide which search engine module fits your purpose, because you have to keep in mind longevity, maintenance and visibility.

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