What’s the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

What is SEO?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the marketing process to increase visibility within the organic search results, for the specific purpose of obtaining more traffic for a website.

SEO is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a website appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users; these visitors can then be converted into customers.

What is SEM?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a type of internet-based marketing associated with the researching, submitting and positioning of a website within search engines to achieve maximum visibility and increase your share of paid and/or organic traffic referrals from search engines.

Many people start with a good Web site and invest in SEO, but don’t necessarily follow through with another very important component; and that is search engine marketing.

SEM is a broader term than SEO, and is used to encompass different options available to use a search engine’s technology, including paid ads. SEM is often used to describe acts associated with researching, submitting and positioning a website within search engines. It includes things such as search engine optimization, paid listings and other search-engine related services and functions that will increase exposure and traffic to your Web site.

Some of the most common SEM best practices include:

  • Using keywords and keyword analysis.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Building ads and content for local listings and geo-targeted ads.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns.

SEM offers you the opportunity to pay based on clicks (you pay only for each click through from the advertisement to your website or landing page). Ads in a successful SEM campaign will be shown to those consumers specifically looking for your products or services, resulting in a higher conversion rate.

The Difference Between SEM and SEO

SEM is a broader term than SEO. Where SEO aims to provide better organic search results, SEM uses the search engines to advertise your website or business to Internet customers and send a more targeted traffic to your Website.

For example, when people use a search engine to query “fashion handbags,” the organic search engine results is where SEO technologies can assist your website in being more visible. The paid advertising, or sponsored links are the ones prominently displayed above or beside the organic search results is a product of SEM.

SEO and SEM are not competing services. SEO is considered a subset of SEM services. If you want to conduct business on the Internet you need to be visible in both organic and advertised links, which means a small business needs both SEO and SEM.

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