SEO Vs SEM Image

SEO vs SEM: What Do They Mean?

Before we delve into SEO vs SEM, let’s work on defining each one. Often, people use the two terms interchangeably, making the distinction even more confusing. However, the two are in fact different. Let’s look at what each one is and then how the two are distinct.

What is SEO?

First, what is SEO? SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process of changing your website to affect its visibility in search engine results. This involves optimising your website so that search engines can better index your content and rank you higher. For example, if you run a fashion design website, you’d optimise your website to use keywords relating to fashion design. Other SEO factors can be page load speed, quality content, and backlinks. SEO includes both on-page and off-page activities.SEO Image

What is SEM?

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and includes several search marketing tactics. This is where things get tricky and people can often get confused. Though SEO and SEM aren’t the same, SEO is part of SEM. Search Engine Marketing describes all the processes that go into website visibility. In addition to SEO, this also includes paid search. This can be PPC (pay per click) campaigns and advertisements. These things are part of SEM, just as SEO is.

Paid advertising is another way of increasing web traffic. The most popular form of PPC is Google Adwords. Through this service, you pay to put your website at the top of search results. The amount you pay is based on how many clicks you get, hence the name. This isn’t organic like SEO. Rather, you are paying to appear at the top of the search results.PPC-Pay-Per-Click Image

SEO vs SEM: Where they Differ

The real difference is that search engine optimisation is merely a part of search engine marketing. Once things like PPC and social media marketing start to come into play, it changes. It then it becomes search engine marketing as a whole. Though the two seem similar, it is important not to use them interchangeably. Though the two work hand in hand, they aren’t the same term, and perform different functions.

Why Are They Important?

SEM is extremely important when it comes to your online presence. It’s an incredible marketing tactic due to the fact it’s targeted. This means that you are appealing directly to the customers searching for the solutions you can offer. If someone searches “black shoes” and you have that keyword several times on your website, your site will be more likely to appear in the search results. Since that is exactly what the customer was looking for, they’ll be likely to click on your site and look at the shoes. Therefore, investing time into SEO and SEM is extremely beneficial for increasing website traffic and gaining conversions.

Which is Better?

Now that we’ve covered SEO vs SEM and what makes them different, let’s discuss which one is better. The answer is: it depends. SEO is more organic, with websites being rewarded for engaging and rich content. However, PPC can be helpful in some cases, especially when you need to get improved visibility immediately. The best answer is that a well-rounded SEM strategy is necessary to succeed online, and SEO is part of that. Although SEO takes a little while to establish, it’s well worth it to incorporate it into your SEM strategy.

So when it comes down to it, SEO is a simply a component of SEM, but an important one. Though the two aren’t the same, they work together to improve your website’s ranking. Good SEO is part of good SEM, so don’t let either fall to the wayside. Evaluate your business’ specific needs and find a balance that works for you!

Professionals working infront of computer

Proven strategies for Revenue Growth

Ready to get started?
Get your FREE 30 minute
Results-driven SEO Consultation.

Learn how you can grow your business by utilising the full potential of a dedicated SEO company. Claim your FREE and no-obligation consultation today. 


Talk to our strategist.

We are happy to answer your questions & get you
acquainted with how we can help your business.

  • 100% FREE digital strategy consultation, with no commitments.
  • Pricing & budget information.
  • How we can will help your business.
  • Quick website review.

Contact Form

Sign up to the Whitehat Agency newsletter for cutting-edge industry insights.