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.
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.
As stated above, SEO comprises two different activities.
On-Page SEO includes:
Off-Page SEO includes:
Again there several other factors that contribute to Off-Page SEO. There is more written about them here.
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.
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.
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.
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.