These two terms are often used in the marketing world and are just as often mixed up by people who do not work with them on a daily basis. That is why we are dedicating an entire blog post to highlight the differences between SEO and SEM so you can utilize them in your next marketing strategy.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing traffic to your site through free and organic search results. Effective SEO strategies are constantly evolving because Google and its standards are always changing. To help make sure your strategy is up to date, try implementing the following methods.

  • Always optimize metadata. This includes the page title tag, meta description, heading tags and image ALT tag (includes keywords)
  • Effective and well-written copy (includes keywords)
  • Well-formatted page URLs (includes keywords)
  • Build links to gain quality inbound links

  • Social media posting and sharing
  • Utilize social bookmarking sites like Reddit, Dig, etc.

What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) differs from SEO because it involves increasing a website’s visibility through paid advertising instead of it being through organic efforts. Google AdWords is one of the most utilized and effective methods of SEM but you don’t have to rely solely on that. Other SEM strategies include the following.

  • Ad campaigns that target specific audiences. This can be based on geographic location, industry, demographics, etc.
  • Incorporate keywords in ad groups and ad copy
  • Develop an ad budget
  • Actively track and monitor your metrics

When to use SEO and SEMĀ 

The short answer is that it all really depends on the situation and the goals of the marketing strategy. SEO is always something smart to have in place because of its organic approach. It’s important to note that SEO typically takes longer to produce results than SEM. However, establishing your website through SEO will increase your search credibility and can potentially help your SEM campaigns in the future.