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SEO and SEM: What’s the Difference?

SEMrush Blog
SEO and SEM: What’s the Difference?

What Makes Your Website Look Good and Rank Well?

SEO and SEM are the newest methods used by businesses of all sizes to reach their customers. In this sense, the Google market has become a science in itself, which is why understanding simple terms like SEO and SEM means a lot, especially if you’re looking to make a career in online marketing. So let’s just dive into it, shall we? SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are similar in many ways and are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. That being said, SEO and SEM are two distinctly different services.

SEO and SEM:

Most small business owners know a little something about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the different strategies to help their website rank well in organic search engine results. Another important tactic for internet business is SEM (Search Engine Marketing) which includes things such as SEO, paid listings and other search-engine related services.

What is SEO?

SEO is the process of optimizing your website for the sole purpose of getting free traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. An optimized website is easily understood by search engine crawlers, so there are more chances of ranking higher up in SERPS. This is where the services of the SEO come in.

The elements of the SEO process are numerous but the basic idea is to have great content, a good amount of quality back links, and onsite optimization that search engine crawlers would die for (figuratively). The work of the SEO entails producing good content for your website, which will make you popular in a search engine’s eyes, and the more popular you are in a search engine’s eyes, the better your site’s chances are of achieving a high ranking in organic search results.

What is SEM?

So, 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 (Paid search advertising).

Paid search advertising or PSA’s are essentially those that you buy as 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.

As you may know, the most well-known advertising agency for PSA is Google Adwords and is widely used in a company’s SEO and SEM process. Through Google Adwords, you can get your ads appearing in the Google search results and you pay only for the clicks on your ads. This is also the reason why the whole process is called Pay-Per-Click or PPC. Other well known search engines such as Bing and Yahoo have a similar system but it’s not as successful or widely known as Google Adwords.

What is search engine marketing and how do they do it? Google has the luxury of housing a massive amount of data that all contribute to how much a company will need to bid in order to guarantee a top spot for one of their ads. Obviously, the top spot on the first page of a search engine that uses a particular keyword is going to be pretty pricey. Then there are other big boys in the house as well, like Amazon and Wal-Mart who come into the mix. That being said, in the SEO vs. SEM process, there are also more specific keywords that can be targeted geographically, so that the smaller guys get a chance to get a piece of the action.

SEO vs. SEM:

The difference between SEO and SEM is simply that Search Engine Optimization is part of search engine marketing or search marketing as it is widely known. Both these processes have one aim and that is to increase the visibility in the SERPS. SEO is about optimizing the web property to get better rankings in the search results while SEM goes a bit beyond SEO and involves other methods as well that are used toget you more search engine visitors like PPC advertising.

Ending Note:

SEO and SEM are two very important aspects of managing a website with good content that is evergreen and will be the stuff that will still be useful after many years. An extensive guide, an accurate and detailed post explaining something, or even good Infographics that provide people with useful information on what they need, all these can be very valuable assets in one’s website along with powerful SEO and SEM services.

SEMrush Blog

SEMrush employee.

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