SEO and SEM – what’s the difference?

What is the difference between SEO and SEO?

Something that used to stump me was the difference between SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), because they work side by side with each other. However – they are different services and perform different functions. I found the following article on which helped me greatly with this article.

SEO is described as the strategies and tactics to ensure websites are accessible to search engines (such as Google, Bing, Yahoo etc…). The aim of SEO is to gain a high-ranking placement within the search results page of a search engine. What has been identified is that internet users don’t actually click through from search result pages, so the higher the ranking for a website, the better – it means more traffic to the website.

When using SEO, there are some best practice techniques that should be adhered to, including, but not limited to:

  • Creating and publishing exceptional content
  • Using keywords and keyword analysis (for example, an online retailer would use keywords for their products to rank their pages higher when customers search for them)
  • Link building to help improve link popularity
  • Using social media! I didn’t actually know that using links on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter can help improve your SEO status
  • Improving your site’s navigation to provide the best experience for your users

While most people start with a great website and invest their time, money and effort into SEO, they may not necessarily follow through on another very important component – SEM.

SEM is used to encompass different options available to use a search engine’s technology, (this is where the ‘marketing’ in Search Engine Marketing’ comes into play) and is often used to describe acts associated with researching,submitting and positioning websites within search engines (for example, paid listings, SEO and other functions that will help increase exposure and traffic to your website.

Using SEM gives you the opportunity to pay based on clicks (meaning that you only pay for each click from an ad to your website. These ads are usually found at the top of, and down the side of search results pages). For a successful SEM campaign, ads will be shown to customers who are specifically looking for your particular products or services, which, in turn, results in a higher conversation rate.

But what is the difference?

While SEO aims to provide better organic search results for websites, SEM uses the search engines to advertise your business to internet users and send more targeted traffic to your website.

EXAMPLE: a customer goes to and searches for “fashion handbags”. The organic search results are where SEO technologies can assist your website (which sells said handbags) in being more visible. The paid advertising that are displayed as a result of your keyword search is a product of SEM.

However, SEO and SEM do no compete with each other – SEO is considered a subset of SEM services. To be successful in this day and age and to conduct business online, you need to be visible in both organic and advertised links, which therefore means you need both SEO and SEM.

So there you go – I love SEO and SEM and all the different functions it can perform. Did you like this post? Let me know in the comments below!


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