SEM Versus SEO: What’s the Difference?

Feb 2021

If you’ve been on the world wide web for a while, you’ve probably heard the terms “SEM” and “SEO” thrown around. While both of these terms have to do with search engines and should be incorporated into a holistic marketing strategy, they’re quite different. 


Knowing what SEM and SEO are, and how they are different, can help you tailor your digital marketing strategy to your business’ specific objectives.

A blackboard has the words "SEM VS SEO" spelled out in white lettering
SEM and SEO are both relevant to your business’ online presence and digital marketing strategy.


SEM, or search engine marketing, refers to using a paid advertising strategy to get ad placements from popular search engines like Google or Bing. Businesses act as advertisers in a virtual auction of sorts. At this virtual auction your company, and your competitors’ companies, can bid on keywords. For instance, if you are a law firm in Las Vegas, a key phrase you would probably be interested in going after is “Las Vegas law firm.” 


If your company wins the auction, your ad will be displayed as a sponsored search result at the top of the search results page and your account will be charged for that impression or click. It is important to note that to win this auction, you must have a keyword strategy (this can include words that when searched for exclude your business as a result) and you must be willing to pay more to appear on the results page than other competitors. 


Popular ad formats include text-only ads with attention-grabbing headlines or shopping ads for e-commerce businesses.


Google and Bing are constantly adding more options for businesses to utilize when they launch their search ads, so staying up-to-date with trends can help you keep your cost per acquisition down and your impressions high. 


SEO, or search engine optimization, means setting your website up to rank well in organic search results. You won’t pay Google, Bing, or any other search engine for good search engine optimization, but rather you work to earn this. 


When a website has good SEO, search engines reward you by showing your website as a higher result for searchers. Ranking well in search results is important for businesses because 71 percent of people only view the first page of results. 


To increase your SEO, make sure your website includes relevant keywords, avoiding keyword stuffing, regularly add new content like blogs to your site, and optimize your photos or graphics. Your business website should also make sure that it avoids these three common SEO mistakes. Google and Bing will crawl your website and give it a ranking based on how valuable their algorithm believes your site to be.


Implementing a solid SEO strategy first, and then including SEM tactics can produce more website traffic and leads.


The Importance of Corporate Philanthropy61 percent of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.


Are you ready to come up in more search results, make sure the right people are finding you online, and generate the results you’ve been looking for? Our team remains on the cutting edge of constantly changing SEO trends.


CONTACT US to schedule a complimentary website audit to check your site’s performance.

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