SEO vs SEM: What is the Difference?

Even if you are fairly inexperienced with online marketing, chances are that you have at least heard about SEO, even if you are not entirely clear on what it is or what it entails. SEO tends to come up when website performance is discussed, but what you may hear about less often is SEM.

So, when it comes to SEO vs SEM, what is the difference?

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO and SEM are similar in their goal of bringing more attention to your site. In fact, SEO can be considered one aspect of the larger, more encompassing SEM.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which involves the use of various techniques to help ensure that a given website appears at or as close as possible to the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when a user enters a query. This is done to increase the number of visitors to the site, given that the top results see the most traffic.

For example, a dog owner goes online and searches for “pet grooming products.” Several pages worth of results will be offered, and typically, the user will only consider the top 3 results of the first page. Clearly, having your site appear at the top of the SERP is of major importance, but it can be difficult due to changing algorithms used by Google and other search engines.

SEO can also be broken down into on-page and off-page. On-page SEO consists of such elements as keyword use, optimized page load speeds, social sharing, and high-quality content such as blog posts. Off-page SEO includes having a high-quality natural backlink profile, social bookmarking, blog marketing, social networking sites, directory submission, and more.

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Like SEO, Search Engine Marketing concerns itself with increasing the visibility of a website in search engine results pages. This is done through optimization, and also through the use of advertising. SEO techniques are included in SEM, but it also includes a number of other search marketing tactics.

One of the components of SEM includes paid search, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements. Generally speaking, when discussing SEM, it is referring to PPC activities. However, if you are using SEO in conjunction with paid search, that falls under the definition of SEM.

What is the Key Difference Between SEO and SEM?

The primary difference between Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing is that the former is basically just a component of the latter. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but you should avoid doing so, as they are not exactly the same. Search Engine Marketing, as mentioned above, differs in its use of pay-per-click marketing, as well as social media marketing.

While the two are similar, they do operate in different, but complementary ways. For example, while organic SEO would be cheaper in the long run, there are circumstances where SEM might be of greater benefit, such as when first launching a site. Using the two in tandem is an excellent means to obtaining your online goals.

Marwick Marketing is a leading digital marketing agency in Canada. Work directly with an SEO consultant or Google Adwords consultant and hire us for google ads management to improve your online visibility or reduce the Google ads cost against your competitor. 

Speak to a SEO Vancouver consultant to help you optimize your Google organic position campaign!

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Christian Thomson

Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing. Founded in 2012, Marwick has grown from a start-up to the 11th Fastest Growing Company in Canada in 2020 and expanded into the UK in 2019.

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