Search Marketing

SEO & SEM Marketing – What’s the Difference?

Jun 7, 2021
Reading Time: 3minutes

Do you know the difference between SEO & SEM marketing?

SEO-SEM Marketing. Is there even a difference between the two? SEO is short for search engine optimisation whilst SEM is search engine marketing. With both terms prevalent in digital and online marketing, it can be a confusing concept for those starting out in these channels.

Worse, both terms are often used interchangeably! It is imperative to understand the difference because they are in fact different.

In this article, I’ll explain the differences between SEO and SEM marketing.

What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

SEO is essentially a component of a larger channel, SEM. According to Google’s Knowledge Graph, search engine optimisation is “the process of maximising the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” These results are called search engine results pages (SERPs)

Google is constantly amending and updating its algorithm and assigning relevance to varying factors. What was acceptable previously could be damaging today. Yet there remains one constant in the aspect of SEO: On-Page and Off-Page activities.

What components does SEO marketing include?

As stated above, SEO comprises two different activities.

On-Page SEO includes:

  • Incorporating targeted keywords into title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, alt text and so on.
  • Blog posts and page copy that is written and optimised with quality (inserting keywords into the page copy without keyword stuffing)
  • Clean and formatting page URLS – so-called semantic URLs
  • Optimised page load speed – slow loading pages are penalised by Google
  • Google authorship incorporated
  • Social sharing integration within your content (how easily can others share the content)And hundreds more!

Off-Page SEO includes:

  • Creating a high quality, natural backlink profile ( having other high quality/authoritative sites link to your site naturally. Specifically those with higher domain authority and are relevant to your website)
  • Social sharing signals (how often is your content shared by others has been shown to increase the page authority’s strength)
  • Social bookmarking (Stumbleupon, Reddit)

Again there several other factors that contribute to Off-Page SEO. There is more written about them here.

What is search engine marketing (SEM)?

According to Wikipedia, “Search engine marketing is a form of Internet marketing that involved the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPS) through optimisation and advertising.” Simply put SEM includes SEO tactics, plus several other search marketing tactics.

What does SEM include then?

I’ve already discussed it includes SEO (search engine optimisation), but SEM utilises paid search, like pay per click advertising (PPC) listings, social media and advertisements. Typically, SEM includes PPC campaigns and attempts to rank your website highest in SERPS, but if you combine SEO and paid search, then this is known as search engine marketing.

What are the main differences between SEO and SEM Marketing?

The main difference between these two terms is that search engine optimisation is simply a component of search engine marketing. As mentioned above, SEM includes components of paid search, like PPC but also SMM (social media marketing).

It is important to note that you should never use the terms SEO and SEM interchangeably because although they work hand in hand, they are not the same term.
SEO SEM Marketing - What's the Difference?

Which marketing tactic is better?

Marketers debate as to whether one tactic is better than the other. As an Digital Marketer, I would argue it depends on how quickly you want to get results but that organic SEO is the best approach. PPC can get you at the top of SERPS instantly with SMM supporting your website’s URL strength by getting the URLs shared. But ultimately consider this – true SEM cannot succeed without the use of organic SEO. Longer-term I advise this is the best strategy.

As mentioned above, there are many situations where PPC (a component of SEM) makes more sense than SEO. For example, if you are first launching a site and you want immediate visibility, it is a good idea to launch a PPC campaign because it takes less time than SEO to get your site ranking in the top 4 results. But a note of caution, it would be unwise to limit yourself with only PPC and not even begin search engine optimisation.

Although organic SEO takes longer to show results, ultimately it will be less costly and you will establish a search credibility that you may not establish with PPC. There are various SEO tools that can help establish your search credibility.

When it comes to choosing the best tactic for your business, it is important to evaluate your specific circumstances and needs, but by fully understanding the differences between SEO SEM Marketing you have a better strategy of how to maintain your efforts.

Should you still be puzzled as to whether to consider SEO and SEM marketing then speak to the team at Blu Mint and we are happy to discuss your needs with you.