difference between seo and sem

SEM vs SEO? What’s the Difference and What’s Right for Your Brand


Search optimization is considered a vital marketing policy for brands that are attempting to entice attention, drive website traffic besides growing their business. However, search optimization can turn out to be a tough strategy to manage when you aren’t aware of making a comparison between SEM and SEO. Though the tactics sound the same, yet they are highly different in approaches to search optimization.

When you use these terms interchangeably and aren’t aware of the differences between the two, then you would fail in communicating an effective and clear strategy to improve your visibility in search.

What is SEM?

SEM (search engine marketing) is considered the portion of search marketing that utilizes PAID strategies for gaining visibility in SERPs. A remunerated SEM policy comprises both the activities that are involved with setting up as well as enhancing ads besides setting a budget which pays for placing advertisements. This policy is habitually recognized as PPC or pay-per-click marketing. Google Ads is a search provider which is usually utilized for this strategy.

What is SEO?

SEO (search engine optimization) is considered the portion of search marketing which utilizes ORGANIC policies for gaining visibility in SERPs. When the matter comes to SEO, then brands don’t pay for a placement on SERPs. In place of that, they make use of various tactics which prompt search engines in showing their content close to the top of SERPs as the outcome is authoritative and valuable.

The Difference Between SEM and SEO

  • SEM search placements do comprise an “Ad” designation and SEO doesn’t. Search results which appear due to SEM or SEO appear different on SERPs. Paid advertisements which receive placement via SEM policies are habitually recognized in the form of an ad. For instance, through an icon, this appears close to the placement. On the other hand, the search results which appear due to organic SEO aren’t marked in such a way.

comparison between sem and seo

  • SEM search results have got ad extensions, whereas SEO search results are equipped with featured snippets. When you compare SEM and SEO then you will discover the differences in the looks of the search results. SEM search results might comprise ad extensions and that can include extra links, callouts, and phone numbers. And, SEO outcomes might come with featured snippets in search.
  • You do pay every time when a user clicks on the result of an SEM. But, you pay nothing when a user does click on the result of an SEO. So, SEM outcomes are considered paid placements and additionally, your brand gets charged when a user clicks on the result. Hence, you ought to have a budget for showing SEM ads continually and using this type of PPC lead generation. But, you aren’t charged when users click on an organic search result.
  • The results of SEM show to the select target audience, but SEO results don’t. Though successful SEO, as well as SEM strategies, get driven by a policy for getting connected with a particular audience, yet you can specify that target audience via SEM. When the matter comes to SEM, you can choose the audiences that you wish to see by assigning filters grounded on age, habits, income, location, and many more. Through SEO, you can’t particularly select who will notice your search results.
  • The effect of SEM is fast, but SEO takes time. Through paid SEM advertisements, you can begin to put your results to the audiences and that too in just some clicks. When you launch a campaign, your advertisements begin to show in SERPs. According to your wish, you can turn these ads for increased visibility or again, turn them off for stop showing. On contrast, SEO is that which you gain over time and commonly over an extended period. At times, it takes months to implement an SEO policy prior to a brand starts ranking on search engines.
  • For testing purposes, SEM is viewed as better compared to SEO. As you can instantly turn SEM paid advertisements on and off, so, it turns as an excellent strategy for examining. You can revise the copy of your ad, alter landing page content, and target novice audiences for testing your new policies. This kind of flexibility permits people to see noticeable differences in your tactics fast. This is a fact that you won’t be able to accomplish this with the help of an SEO, as it would take time for making alterations and monitor the differences in the results.
  • SEO adds value with passing time, but SEM doesn’t. SEM remains active when you pay for your results. When you turn off your advertisements, the SEM strategy gets over. But, SEO is just the opposite. The strategy of SEO grows over time and shows enduring results.
  • SEO has got a higher CTR (click through rate) compared to SEM when you can get to the topmost level. The initial organic search results commonly have the highest click-through rates. Hence, when you can get to the topmost level then you can outperform SEM ads. Again, when you make your appearance on the second page or lower than this, then you can get more clicks via SEM.

SEM vs SEO difference

Which is Right for My Brand? SEM vs SEO?

When you have made a comparison between SEM and SEO, then you can easily decide on the tactic which is ideal for your marketing plans. For deciding which one is better for your brand, you must consider the following points like:

1. Consider the Way You are Aware of Your Industry

When you are involved in the business for a long time, aware of your customers’ requirements and the best ways to reach them, then you might wish to develop a long-term SEO plan which will propose value over time. When you aren’t sure as for how your competitors and customers will give a response to your content or offerings, then you might wish to consider an SEM campaign which permits you to examine your products, services, and ideas.

2. Consider the Extent of Your Customer Buying Cycle

When your products and services do have a brief customer buying cycle then that means that your customers are aware of their wants and they search for them and purchase them too. Longer buying cycles where the customers’ research as well as make a comparison for weeks or months, then that might not perform well with SEM because there isn’t an instant buy post noticing an ad.

3. Study the Average Cost-per-Click

Prior to deciding on the SEM which is ideal for business, you must research and consider the amount you require spending for showing in paid search results. If your cost-per-click isn’t enough then it might be the ideal policy for you. Again, a high cost-per-click makes you decide that you are better off concentrating on SEO.

4. Take into Consideration the Age of Your Business

When you have just opened your business or launched your website, then you need time for developing your SEO and start appearing originally. Though that doesn’t mean that you should not put together an SEO policy, yet it means that you can get benefitted from an SEM policy until and unless you develop your SEO. SEM is considered an effectual way for driving traffic while developing an organic SEO.

When you are making a comparison between SEM and SEO, you must keep this in mind that there isn’t any quick or simple formula of comparison. You must consider many factors. Some businesses concentrate on SEO, while some prefer to focus on SEM.


Again, at times, it seems feasible to use a combination of both of them. So, the decision is dependent on your exclusive business as well as goals. However, when you are acquainted to the similarities and differences both, you can better decide how each one of them can aid your brand to meet its needs.

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