What Is the Main Difference Between SEO and SEM?

Posted at 28/12/2020

Search optimisation is a significant part of any marketing campaign that businesses use for attracting customers their way. However, it can be challenging to manage your strategies when you don’t compare all the relevant search optimisation tactics correctly.

For instance, understanding the main difference between SEO and SEM (Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing) might not seem important at the time. After all, these terms are often used interchangeably. But while they lie under the same umbrella, you must understand both acronyms separately if you want them to work together for enhancing your brand. 

Search Engine Optimisation vs. Search Engine Marketing

Let’s start with the basics and then dive into the technicalities to understand the differences between SEO and SEM.

An easy way to memorise the distinction between both terms is to remember the following words:

While SEO focuses on ‘organic’ search strategies, SEM is based on ‘paid’ search strategies.

Both of these optimisation techniques are closely related yet also separate from each other. However, the one thing that always remains constant between these terminologies is that you need to manage your SEO adequately for your SEM to work properly.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves highlighting the brand’s position among the results that search engines provide based on the used keywords. Due to Google’s ever-changing algorithms, the SEO tactics utilised in the process also keep changing to optimise the sites to rank higher.

On the other hand, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) aims to increase the website’s online visibility on search engines through paid ads that usually rank on the top. Again, the targeting strategy here must be aligned with SEO to show up in the most relevant searches. This strategy is also referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. 

So simply put, you need to tap into effective SEO for targeting potential customers and driving traffic, making SEM work for your brand.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Techniques

With SEO, businesses don’t need to pay for their placements on SERPs. Instead, they utilise a set of tactics that prompt search engines to rank their content based on its value and significance. These white hat SEO techniques are usually categorised into three divisions:

1- On-Page SEO

On-page SEO focuses on optimising all the website’s pages for targeting specific keywords that appeal to search engines more appropriately. The strategies used to make this work include in-depth keyword research, unique content creation, and proper keyword optimisation.

The goal of on-page SEO is to make the content more relevant and easy to read through for search engines and thus ranking it higher.

2- Technical SEO

In contrast, technical SEO doesn’t have anything to do with the content you produce. Its primary function is to improve the website’s backend structure and foundation in accordance with the search engines’ priority algorithm. The key factors for this type of SEO include mobile-friendliness, site speed, indexing, site architecture, crawlability, and security.

In short, technical SEO is utilised to revamp both user and crawler experience, leading to higher search rankings.

3- Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is typically used to build a website’s reputation and mark its authority by interconnecting it to other high-quality websites. The techniques used in this SEO include link building, and managing director profiles and local listings.

When a website is linked to other reliable websites, it gives a good impression to the search engines, branding its reputability and trustworthiness. This, in turn, elevates the website’s online visibility.

Key Strategies for Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Google Ads is by far the most known search provider for practising the SEM strategies. However, it is best to consider other options as well for making a big stand, including Bing Ads, Yahoo Search Ads, and Amazon-Sponsored Ads.

The key is to use your marketing dollars right and utilise strategies that will launch your ad campaigns successfully. The primary points include:

 

  1. Keep the geography and industry in mind when launching your ad campaign for targeting the right audience.
  2. Set a budget before you start working on improving your SEM.
  3. Develop ad groups consisting of target keyword variations.
  4. Write a detailed and relevant ad copy using the selected keywords.
  5. Analyse prominent metrics like bounce rates, impressions, click-through rates, and average cost-per-click.
  6. Work on targeted social media ads on appropriate mediums, like LinkedIn.
  7. Always create a retargeting audience.


While there are several other considerations to look into once your SEM strategies are set in place, the points mentioned above should be the first to revamp your SEM efforts and complement a better SEO.

Which Is Better for Your Business – SEO or SEM?

Both SEO and SEM drive a website to appear higher in search rankings, driving more traffic to the desired destination. Similarly, both strategies require in-depth keyword research to create a better, targeted audience. However, SEO usually works better when you have to fill many organic content gaps (which is always!). On the other hand, SEM works better when the keyword competition is too high in your industry.

While that’s all true, it is still essential to understand that SEO always lays the groundwork for integrating a proper SEM ad campaign. Without optimising your landing pages, blogs, and individual web pages, your SEM efforts will go down the drain in an instant. Ultimately, gaining your website’s online visibility will end up being an extremely challenging task without a firm SEO base.

Get Started with a Boosting SEO – with TopRankings!

After going through the main difference between SEO and SEM, you know better than contemplating which one you should opt to improve your website’s online visibility. While SEM is essential for acquiring better SERPs, your priority should be to focus on strengthening your SEO all the way!

TopRankings can help you get ahead of your competitors in the industry with its success-driven SEO techniques and strategies that also combine well with SEM. Moreover, our unlimited search keyword campaigns ditch the restrictive SEO package models, accelerating your company’s growth by a huge extent!


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