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SEM vs. SEO: The Difference Between The Two

Two of the most common buzzwords used in advertising are SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). However, confusing the two for being the same thing is quite common as well. It is important to know what differentiates the two exactly. In this article, we will take a look at the definitions of each of these abbreviations, then we will discuss how they can work together to strengthen your marketing efforts.

While there are many different acronyms in the digital marketing world, SEO and SEM stand out as being two of the most important ones. What do SEM and SEO stand for? Which one should you focus on for your business? Are they both interchangeable? These common questions have answers, and you find those answers here.


The Difference Between SEM and SEO



The difference between SEM and SEO is very subtle.

SEO focuses more on appearing at a higher organic search ranking on engines like Bing or Google. SEO uses strategies such as off-page and on-page SEO.

SEM goes about it in a different way, using paid advertising. It also utilizes other marketing strategies to increase the position and visibility of a website’s search results.


In-Depth Look at SEO


Like we mentioned before, SEO helps your search result’s organic ranking. However, it has other purposes as well. At the core of SEO, it is the practice of making your website easier to use. When this is done, search engines like Google are able to notice that your website provides value to the viewers. That is when you get the ranking above your competitors.

This ranking boost will bring in more traffic, and they will have a better experience than they would on your competition’s websites. You are basically showing the search engines that you’re a helpful resource in your business’ industry.

This is a continuous cycle that works as you build your site, following the best practices of SEO.


SEO Techniques and Strategies


SEO isn’t just about what is on your website; in fact, SEO is a ton of differing activities. There are typically only two categories that SEO can fall under:

  • On-Page SEO– This is a reference to the optimization efforts on your website. Such optimization can include updating a title tap, improving page speed, or publishing fresh content. With on-page SEO, you are in control.

  • Off-Page SEO- This is a reference to the optimization efforts that go one outside of your website, such as: Optimizing Social Media, Conducting Outreach, or Content Sharing. As far as control goes, you only have a little with Off-page SEO.

Optimization Actions for SEO Include:

  1. Optimizing Meta Descriptions & Page Titles
  2. Content Optimization and Creation
  3. Keyword Analysis and Research
  4. Server and Website Optimization

There are more actions you can take with SEO than just what we listed above, and they all talk to the search engine user. What do they say? Well, they inform the users what can be expected from your website. Then they deliver on the promises made with multimedia, body text, and other elements. SEO will show visitors that your business is not only savvy but on the same page of the needs that customers have.

SEO allows you to demonstrate the value of your company to new audiences. For the audience you currently have, it speaks volumes about your dedication and your role in offering valuable resources and information about the industry. It will establish trust, and that trust makes it easier to get the conversions you need to succeed.

That being said, SEO isn’t something you can do once and forget about it. It is an ongoing strategy. You have to work hard to maintain those rankings, especially as the competition refines their SEO to try and claim your place in the search results.

Over time, you want to expand the SEO strategy you use, that way, you can build from the progress you make the first time you practice it. Keeping that in mind, it is a process. You need to have patience, time, and dedication to successfully practice SEO, but it pays off in the end.

Now it is time to look at SEM.


In-Depth Look at SEM


Another general term, SEM, includes SEO with a lot of the paid strategies for advertising that is conducted inside search engines. The most Popular SEM strategies are:

  • Remarketing
  • Local SEO
  • PPC
  • Product/Shopping Advertising
  • Display Advertising

The SEM strategies that companies utilize are usually cherry-picked, choosing the ones that best fit their needs. When a company is starting out making their website, they most likely choose to concentrate on search advertisements that are branded, as well as PPC, to get a foot in the door. Whereas, a company that has been on the internet for many years may just put their focus on converting what traffic they already have with CRO.


SEM Advantages


One of the major advantages of SEM with paid strategies is that the impact can be seen immediately. You have complete control over your PPC campaigns. So, who is viewing the ads, what you pay for them, when they are displayed, and more is what you get to have power over.

An SEM strategy that is wide-ranging is great for companies that wish to have highly targeted campaigns that spread across a wide audience. Different groups can get uniquely crafted advertising messages on a variety of different mediums.

Sometimes, businesses can get by just fine with only a few strategies. Even larger companies don’t have to take advantage of each strategy at one time.

SEM is also cost-effective, which is a key part of its appeal. Partnering with an agency may only charge you a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for services. While this may seem like a steep price, the payoff is massive. You can also use analytic software to track the campaign to know where you are succeeding in reaching the audience and where you are failing.

SEM gains a significant advantage over more traditional marketing, as it is affordable, trackable, and cost-effective compared to a TV ad or a billboard. Although the combination of traditional and SEM might be effective. However, many companies find that they are just fine with SEM.


Which One is Superior: SEO or SEM?


If you had to choose just one to focus on, SEO is the way to go.

The reason for this is you get a reliable and effective way of earning traffic for the website of your business. You will also gain leads and revenue. Also, the cost of SEO is often more affordable for budgets than SEM. The difference is paid advertising for SEM and digital advertising for SEO. Digital is more economical with a price. However, it is costly at times if it is your sole resource for gaining sales, leads, and even traffic.

If you want the best results possible, make sure to incorporate SEO into your SEM strategy. This will give your business a more comprehensive and diverse approach to online marketing. That can result in the sale, leads, and traffic you want from different channels. That includes search, social, and paid. Together, they work more ideally than separated.


Is SEM and SEO Right for You?


If you are wondering whether or not SEM and SEO are ideal for you, it depends on your marketing campaign goals.

In the ideal vision of your success, you have a high-performing SEO strategy that has been designed perfectly for your website and incorporated in a fantastic SEM campaign. In this vision, you will also have PPC campaigns.

PPC campaigns can target a bunch of demographics. It uses local ads that are hyper-focused on reaching people near your physical storefronts. Also, AI-powered campaigns for remarketing serve personalized recommendations of products to visitors who have traveled to your site from a search. A finely tuned campaign for digital marketing could include SEM elements.

While that vision isn’t realistic for every business, it can be worked towards nonetheless by starting with a couple (or more) of the more common SEM channels. SEO and PPC is a great place to begin. Reaching out to your market through unpaid and paid channels within search engines will start bringing in the new business, you need to have your company grow and shine above your competition.

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