The difference between SEO and SEM is simply that Search Engine Optimization is part of Search Engine Marketing. Both processes aim in increasing visibility in search engines.

SEO is about optimizing your website to get better rankings in the search results while SEM goes beyond just SEO. It involves other methods that can get you more search engine visitors like PPC advertising.

SEO is the process of optimizing your web site for the purpose of getting free traffic from search engines. Search engine crawlers understand an optimized web site is more easily. This increases the chances of ranking higher in SERPs (search engine result pages).

There are 2 main pillars of SEO, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO.

On-Site SEO are rules you can apply on your website or blog so that it’s search engine friendly. For example, you need to use optimized titles, good descriptions, well-formatted URLs, correct use of H1, H2 and images and many more.

Off-site SEO refers to the process of getting votes from other websites for the purpose of increasing your web site’s trust in the eyes of search engines. For most beginners, this may be confusing but try to think about it like a ranking system where the web site who has the most votes ranks higher. Votes in our case are links coming from other websites to your site. That is also the reason why people refer to off-site SEO as link building. To avoid any misunderstandings, it’s not only a matter of how many links you have pointed to your website but also from where these links are coming.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is over and above SEO but it’s only a subset of your overall Internet Marketing Strategy. SEM is the marketing process with a goal of getting more visibility in search engines either by getting more free traffic (SEO) or paid traffic.

Through paid search advertising you essentially buy advertising space in the search engine results. So instead of trying to rank higher and get free traffic, you pay to appear in front of the searches. The most well-known advertising agency for PSA is Google Adwords. Through Google AdWords, you can get your ads to appear in the Google search results and you pay only for the clicks on your ads. This is also the reason why people call the whole process Pay-per-click or PPC. Bing and Yahoo have a similar system but it not so successful and widely known as Adwords.

SEM traffic is considered the most important source of Internet traffic because it is targeted.

It is widely accepted that people use search engines to find a solution to a problem, an answer to their question or to learn how to do something.

So when searchers click on a web site from the search results or click on an ad, they are more likely to convert. The relevancy of the displayed websites and ads makes SEM traffic more valuable than any of the other sources. Facebook and Twitter are trying to optimize their advertising platforms to utilize targeted traffic but still, traffic coming directly from search engines has a better return on investment.

We hope we have helped clarify the difference between SEO and SEM. We love helping clients to put together a plan that encompasses all areas of digital marketing. Contact us to get the conversation started.

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