Difference between SEO and SEM

Entrepreneur magazine

When was the first time you heard about SEO? We bet you thought it was some complicated application, didn’t you?

Here’s a pop quiz! What is the full form of SEO? How many searches does Google process every second? And lastly, do you know about SEM?

Time’s up! Don’t worry, we will provide you with answers. SEO means Search Engine Optimization; Google processes over 40,000 searches per second, and SEM’s full form is Search Engine Marketing.

Now, SEO and SEM are often swapped in their usage but they are two essentially different marketing channels.

What are SEO and SEM?

Increasing your online visibility depends highly on which strategy you use. Interchanging their purpose can backfire on your plans to go big.

Most simply, you can understand SEO as an organic method to increase the visibility of your brand in search results. SEM is different from SEO as it uses paid methods to serve the same purpose.

The distinction wasn’t always clear! The “SEO” acronym dates back to 1997. Yes, it is older than Google which was founded in 1998. SEM is younger than both of them; it’s been in circulation since 2001.

Explaining SEO and SEM

We don’t want to make things more complicated for you, so let’s clarify the meanings and look at them extensively.

First, we will clarify SEO for you.

How attractive do you find billboards? We love how beautifully the companies end up displaying the product. There would have been times you were mesmerized by them and decided to buy a product.

SEO does the same thing – it enables potential customers to meet their desired business. Its goal is to ensure that your website ranks well in organic search results, which you will see below the search results containing the word Ad.

Usually, SEO is classified into:

• On-page – optimizing a website using image alt tags, etc.

• Off-page – building backlinks to obtain customer trust

• Technical – technical structure like site speed, crawlability, etc.

• Content – using optimal keywords to rank better

Now, let’s move on to SEM services

SEM usually takes place using paid strategies, unlike SEO. It uses PPC, that is, pay-per-click advertising platforms to reach your target audience. It includes big platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads, IgnitionOne, etc.

The campaigning begins with different ads to help your website become more visible, like Search Ads or Shopping Ads. Further, it is quicker than SEO to bring in customers.

Usually, the classification between SEO and SEM can be blurry and difficult to recognize. And this article is written to assist you with that.

Difference between SEO and SEM

You would be wondering how their end goal is the same. Let’s help you with that. SEO and SEM aim toward audience recognition, brand visibility, and driving distinguished traffic to your website.

But they have some key differences which we shall look over now:

1. SEM involves paid tactics

With PPC you will have to pay every time a user clicks on an ad. Unlike SEO, which is completely organic, SEM looks over direct consumer reach. Hence, you will eventually pay for

2. SEO generates over time

SEO takes time to give your website listing as it works organically. However, you get lasting results. Unlike the SEM strategy, your ranking will not fall as soon as you turn off your ads.

3. SEM is testable

You always need to test out a strategy repeatedly for efficiency. This is possible for SEM as data is readily available. However, when it comes to SEO, testing is not comparable due to its algorithm.

4. SEMs are identifiable through Marked Ads

Do you refrain from clicking on websites displaying the ad extensions? Guess what? They are part of SEM and use ad extensions, enhancing a standard search ad. While organic listing gives lasting results, with ad extensions you have more control over the displayed ad.

So now, you have a basic idea of what SEO and SEM are and how they are different. But we can understand your confusion about when to use what. Ultimately, we are all humans (unless you are from upside down), and given their similarities and differences it’s easy to go wrong at times, but don’t worry, you got us!

SEO vs. SEM – when to use them

SEO and SEM are separately very powerful tools, but their effects can be enhanced if they are strategically used together. This will require you to first identify your needs, and then figure out the strategies you would require for higher results.

We can help you figure out the best marketing strategy suitable for your brand and how to beat your competitors.

Whether to use SEO or SEM will highly depend on the following factors:

• Long-term or short-term growth

• Existing Ad budget

• Your organic visibility position

• Link building strategies

• Using informational keywords

Highlighting your brand is critical nowadays with increasing competitors. But you don’t have to do it alone. After all, even lobsters have soulmates and we are here to be your companion for a lifetime.

Even though you need to initially decide on your marketing strategy based on your budget, over time you’ll need to combine SEO and SEM for better rankings. With data insights and using remarketing campaigns, you’ll be visible in organic listings as well as ad spaces.

Next time don’t bang your head on the table if you have trouble with any marketing strategies. Just contact us and we’ll get the job done for you.

BrightBrain is a Digital Marketing and Advertising Agency with a focus on building digital solutions for branding and increased sales efficiency. Our expertise includes Digital Advertising Campaigns, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Web Development, and Online Branding. Our two Google Partnerships bring a unique opportunity to work with the internal team at Google, adding even more value to our team & clients’ successes.

Suhail Bajaj

Suhail Bajaj is the co-founder of BrightBrain Marketing Technologies LLP that has now grown into a full-fledged digital marketing agency with 55+ employees and clients from 7+ countries – all under his supervision. Graduated with an MBA from the esteemed Cass Business School, he brilliantly puts his learnings into practice, helping brands meet their business goals and succeed in a digital-first world.

Suhail Bajaj