SEO vs SEM: What’s The Difference?

Search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo basically have two types of search results strategy: paid and unpaid. The paid strategy is what we call SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and the unpaid is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). 

Arguably, they both sound like the same thing, but in the practice, these are two very different approaches to becoming visible on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page). 

So, what’s the difference between SEO and SEM? How do the two relate and work together? You should have a solid understanding on how these terms work and know when to use each strategy. Let’s dig deeper on the explanation below! 

What is SEO?

SEO is the practice in optimizing your website to be seen in the search engines. Not only that, it is also the practice to rank your website’s visibility to be at the top of search results with unpaid strategy. 

To get the best results in search engines with SEO, you really have to understand The Four Basic Pillars of SEO. These pillars will guide you to be successful in optimizing your website visibility. Let’s have a look! 

  1. On-page SEO 

On-page SEO is basically things that you can do and control within your website and content to help search engines understand your content in context. It includes keyword research optimization, on how you choose keywords that your target customers search for in search engines and how you maximize the keywords on title, H1 H2 H3, meta tag description, permalink and image alt tags. This process is to help search engines to crawl your content. 

2. Off-page SEO

In off-page SEO, it is mainly about building trust and authority. There are two indicators to be successful in optimizing off-page SEO, which are trust from other websites that we usually know as backlink and authority from search engines or what we call domain authority. 

To get backlink from other websites, you have to produce well structured, fresh and more engaging content. In addition, to size up your domain authority, you have to meet the E-A-T standards and social media sharing. 

3. Content

Content is one of search engines’ main ranking factors and without a great content that properly matches the audience’s intent, you will struggle to rank in the top results. However, content goes way beyond just copywriting, you need another solid strategy to really size the rank up! 

4. Technical SEO 

Technical SEO is more likely technical things, such as making sure your page speed, site structure that is set up correctly, website security and mobile friendly appearance. These all technical things should be your big consideration to make sure that your website has a great user experience. Thus, it can minimize the bounce rate. 

What is SEM? 

Search Engine Marketing is a paid strategy to gain your website’s visibility on the search engines. It is also known as PPC (pay-per-click). SEM uses PPC advertising platforms like Google Ads or Bing Ads to help you advertise your websites or web pages. As a paid strategy, SEM involves you setting up and optimizing paid ads from choosing the goals you want to achieve, maintaining how the ads go until it ends. 

Here are some campaign goals that you might find when setting up the ads: 

Search Ads: your ads will appear in search engines

Shopping Ads: your ads will appear with a shopping formats

Display Ads: your ads will appear on Google Display Network

Gmail Ads: your ads will appear on Gmail

YouTube Ads: your ads will appear in text or video format in YouTube

If you want to be successful in running SEM, you can begin a campaign with comprehensive keyword research and competitors insights to learn how they targeted their audience. 

What’s the Difference?

When we talk about SEO and SEM differences, we’re really just talking about different approaches of digital marketing. These two practices shouldn’t be seen as channels in isolation. It should be seen as two parts of a larger digital strategy that can drive visibility, traffic and conversions from search engines

To know more about the differences, let’s dive in right here! 

– Goals

One of the main differences from SEO and SEM is speed. SEO takes time, a lot of time to be in the top page results, especially when your website is new and still has a few backlinks. 

On the other hand, SEM is a fast way to make your business visible to your target audience. If your business is in a fast moving industry, need fast digital presence, you can come with SEM as the best result. However, if you have long-term goals, SEO will be beneficial for your business. 

As mentioned previously, SEO and SEM can’t be separeted one to another. You can combine these two strategies to get the best result for your business.

– Results

When talking about the result, you will have more extra time to be visible in the first search page with SEO compared to SEM. In fact, it takes an average two years to be visible in the first page results. This doesn’t mean that you should not expect it to take less than 2 years.

If you target long tail keywords and implement SEO best practices, you can start to see some results within a few months. SEM is taking less time since once you choose this strategy, you will be visible in the top page results. 

– Cost

A lot of people are drawn to SEO because it’s free website traffic. You will cost nothing to your SEO and yes, you don’t pay when someone clicks your websites in the organic search result. But, SEM is totally not free. You have to pay once people click your websites, but you have a great place to be visible in top search engines results.  

SEO vs SEM, Which is better?

Now, you have compared both SEO and SEO. To decide which strategies is right for your marketing strategies, you might consider these following key points: 

1. The Competition

If you use SEM as your strategy, you have to realize that there is a lot of competition for your target keyword. However, the competition in SEO is more likely about content. How you can fill the organic content gap in order to win the competition

2. Market Segment 

If you still don’t know your market segment well, and you want to test your idea, product or services, you might use SEM as your strategy. But, to go with SEO, you need extra time to wait until you finally find it.

3. Customer’s Buying Cycle

If your customers typically know what they want, search for it and immediately buy it, you may choose SEM to point out your customers. However, if your customers research for days, weeks or months before buying, you might choose SEO as your strategy. 

4. Average Cost in your industry

If the keyword you targeted has low cost per click or the cost is within your budget, you may go with SEM strategy. However, if the cost per click is very high, you should consider SEO as your strategy. 

5. Your Websites Status

If your business is new and has little to no online presence, you might use SEM as your strategy and if your business are established and already have some online authority, you might use SEO as your strategy. 

Back then, which one is better is all depending on your business goals and needs. In fact, almost anyone disputes on how to run an astonishing Search Engine Marketing. There are a lot of factors that affect how the ads run, but we got your back! We can help you to make an astonishing ads that cost less which means you save more budget, click here to see the services we offered. 

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