SEO vs SEM: What’s the Difference & Benefits For Business

upqode | Mar 29th, 2021

Everyone desires to make sure that their business is growing, and for that, they tend to use various channels, including online and offline ones like SEO vs SEM.

In recent years, however, online marketing has grown to be more famous and more effective than ever, and there are many different types of search marketing techniques being used to bring the required change.

There are so many other search marketing tactics like SEO vs SEM that people use but are unfortunately not fully aware of the two. The two help increase the traffic that their social media pages or websites might be receiving. This is one reason why SEO vs SEM are becoming a significant part of digital marketing and social media marketing.

If you are looking to choose what is best for your business, then the best way is to learn about the difference between SEO vs SEM and decide on the best one according to your requirements.

To better help the business owners and all the marketers, we have created a guide to understanding SEO vs SEM. This article gives you an obvious idea about the two, how the two affect each other and work separately, and how they are effective and help you get the best marketing result. So without further ado, let’s get into it. 

What is SEO?

stickers in the table

In simple terms, SEO is an organic search strategy that marketers use to get organic traffic to their websites and social media pages. In other words, SEO is the process of making your website very easy to use for your users as possible and getting maximum search engine traffic and is a part of digital marketing.

As soon as you do that, all the search engines where your website is listed will begin to notice this positive change that you have made for your visitors and increase your ranking compared to the other websites in the search engine’s search results. 

This will help attract more traffic to your site, and the new users will hopefully have the same level of experience that the old ones had, further intimating that you are a valuable resource for your domain. 

To make sure that you rank as one of the top websites in the search engine’s search results, you must be following the best SEO practices.

Different Types of SEO


SEO, even in itself, is a considerable term. When broken down, different types of SEO involving various collectively followed activities and together are known as the best SEO practices. There are three types of SEO, including On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and technical SEO. 

Technical SEO is simply the process where one ensures that the site meets all the technical requirements of different search engines to get a high ranking in the organic search result. The primary role is played by on-page SEO and off-page SEO and less by technical SEO.

The main goal of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is to make sure that the number of website visitors increases and the visibility in search engines’ search results. There are various efforts made to get optimized result. Although the tactics and algorithms change over time, the one thing that remains consistent is the on-page and off-page strategies effectively used. 

keywords match

On-page SEO optimization

On-page SEO focuses on all the changes, either additions or subtractions, made on the website. This can include adding a new blog post containing all the keywords, updating a title tag, adding an alt tag, meta description, or even improving the page’s speed through various changes. On-page optimization provides the website owner with many options and leverages to make the changes he wants. 

Off-page SEO optimization

The second important SEO is the off-page SEO optimization that points out all the changes that are not made on your website and happen off of it. It includes optimizing social media profiles, sharing useful different content types, and even conducting outreach. There is not a lot of leverage that a person has with off-page SEO optimization.

On-page SEO strategies

  • Ensure that you are using relevant keywords in title tags, headers, and meta descriptions as well. 
  • Using simple and easy-to-remember URLs. 
  • Optimization of the site allowing it to load faster than before. 
  • Make sure that robots.txt refrain from blocking the search bots. 
  • You are posting blogs with shareable and quality content relevant to the website and your company. 
  • Finding more accessible ways to ensure that the viewers can share your website’s social media content. 
  • Adding sitemaps to the site to facilitate search bots when they crawl the website. 
  • Add the internal linking to the website itself. 
  • Using HTTPS secure protocol to give the website a SERPs boost. 
  • Using content delivery networks (CDNs) to increase the speed. 
  • Updating the blog section with the latest blog posts. 
  • Adding keywords to the website but avoiding ‘keyword stuffing.’
  • Optimizing the images before adding them to the website
  • Adding the relevant keywords to the captions and alt tags of the pictures uploaded on the website. 
  • Adding header tags mentioning the keywords. 
  • Using LSI or any other practice similar to the keyword, so search bots can better recognize the website’s content. 
  • Optimizing the content for featured snippets that help answer a query can include some definitions, steps, or even diagrams. 

Off-page strategies

  • Share your content on different platforms. This helps to increase the traffic towards the website. 
  • Making efforts to get the attention of influential people present in your domain. 
  • Increasing engagement through influencer marketing.
  • Using the inbound links technique is an effective off-page strategy. 
  • Creating a backlinking profile as well. (Add high-quality type links)
  • Using the local SEO allows businesses to promote their products and services to customers. 
  • Social bookmarking helps to attract attention from various well-known sites. 
  • Guest posting

As mentioned above, all the SEO practices can be summarized in words like keywords search and analysis, website optimization, or titles and meta descriptions, content creation, and optimization accordingly.  

There are many on-page and off-page SEO strategies mentioned above that you can use SEO to help direct the users who see your website listed in the search engine’s search results of what they can surely expect from it. This can also positively impact your visitors by telling them how focused and to the point your site is, and provides them with the relevant and required information.


Moreover, the audience can find your content helpful, allowing you to establish your authority over time and help you get a lot of organic website traffic, increasing your ranking in the search engine search results and increasing your conversion rate. 

Additionally, there are more tips related to SEO that you can use, like keeping yourself updated with the website’s health. Ensure that you see that your website’s design is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and easy to go through, there are no broken links or duplicate pages, and the URLs are clean and precise. If your website’s health is up to the mark, you should get a successful SEO result.  

There are many benefits of SEO that you can reap if done in the recommended manner.



Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a marketing practice to increase website traffic by using paid ads and SEO by targeting the audience by increasing its visibility on the search engine. SEM is a part of digital marketing, which consists of various other strategies like email marketing, content marketing, SEM, SEO, and video marketing to increase the website’s traffic. 

Another tip is to make sure that the ad copy and the strategy that iso target your audience align with the keywords used by your target audiences in their search queries which helps you show your ad in the search engine’s search results (SERP).

There are organic ways to do it, but the paid ads help to give the business a chance that they can use to increase the visibility of their site and its different pages, including the blog sections and various landing pages. 

SEO is a type of SEM like PPC (Google ad), so those who go for these paid ads also apply SEO practices like keyword research and high-quality content. SEM is an umbrella term for various strategies to achieve the goal set. It includes strategies like Pay per click (PPC), Local SEO, Shopping or product advertising, internet marketing, Remarketing, and Display advertising. When it comes to SEM, all of the mentioned strategies are not used; only the most relevant ones are used to get the desired result. 

Some of the most popular search engines for running ads are Google and Bing, which run your ads on their respective search engines and are also ranked as top search engines. Google is a very famous search engine that is effectively used for google ads. It mostly depends on the area in which you target your audience, which means you would place your paid ads on the search engine most used by your specific target audience. 

SEM Strategies


Some of the most effective SEM (search engine marketing) strategies have been mentioned for you to benefit from:

  • Launching various advertising campaigns targeting a specific audience
  • Setting up ads budgets
  • Creation of different ad groups consisting of different target keywords
  • Retargeting audiences 
  • Adding all the relevant keywords in the ad copies. 
  • Developing social media ads according to the platform used. 
  • Monitoring various metrics like clicks, impressions, conversions rate, click-through rates, and the average cost per click

Importance of SEM

Search Engine Marketing is done through SEO, or any paid search advertising is considered one of the most important sources of getting traffic because it is mainly targeted.  According to various studies, it is believed that search engines are used by people when they are looking for a solution to their problems.

Therefore, when a user clicks on a particular search result, there are increasing chances that they will convert. 

The displayed SEM ads make the traffic you receive on your website very valuable and relevant. Many platforms have optimized their advertising platforms and the tools they provide to increase traffic and allow marketers to have a better ROI. 

If you want to learn more about SEM and how SEM works and is set up, read and follow the steps mentioned below:

Creating an account

The first step is that you create an account before applying any of the SEM strategies. You choose the network or the platform that you think is the most relevant one and add all the required information on it, along with the credit card information, to inform them about your payment method. Make sure you have an ad ready as well. 

Selecting the keywords

The next step is to research and select the most relevant keyword that you will be running your ads on through SEM. It is straightforward, users will search for the relevant keywords you might have used, and people will begin to see your Google ad. Therefore, selecting the related keywords is very important. 

Bidding for the keywords

If your keywords are common and not very unique, this means that you will be competing with other advertisers for ad space. Therefore, you need to bid smartly to win the ad space and get the best ROI. There may be a difference between SEO vs SEM, but these are required to be part of the search terms in both SEM and SEO.

Adding headlines and descriptions

It is essential to add a headline and description but remember that you have limited space, so only add the relevant headlines and descriptions to address the user directly. 

Setting the budget for the ad campaign.

Now, the advertising platforms are used to set up a periodic budget to avoid cost per overruns and make sure that you set the proper budget and nothing too much. 

Launching your campaign

The final step is launching the campaign, which is done after everything is set up properly. After that, you need to click a button, and the campaign is now running.

A common question regarding this paid search is where the ad appears? Well, ads appear on the results of various search engines for the audience to view. Google ads are an effective way to make sure that your audience views your ads.

Difference between SEO vs. SEM

Now that you know what SEO vs SEM are and what SEO strategy involves, and what does an SEM strategy involves, you need to understand the difference between SEO vs SEM to understand better which one you should use. 

Cost per click

analytic on laptop screen

There are no charges involved when a user clicks on an SEO result. The cost you might have to pay would be the SEO specialist you hire for writing all the SEO-centric blogs and content for your landing page. On the other hand, if you hire a digital marketing expert, you will have to pay them, and that you have to pay whenever someone clicks on your SEM result. 

Targeting your specific audience

If you choose to work with SEO, you cannot specify your search results, but with SEM, it’s different. While you are setting up your ad, SEM lets you choose the various filters that it has, like age, income, and many other parameters which help you decide who sees your ad. Then, SEM only shows it to your particular audience. There are several noticeable differences between SEO vs SEM, including PPC as well.


people using analytic on paper

Organic results are those you have not paid, but paid SEM results are different from organic results. Whenever someone puts up an SEM (google ad), there is always an icon next to the result that reads, “AD.” Simultaneously, a row of SEM ad images has a “Sponsored” tag next to it. If you see these words written, then it means that they are paid placements. SEM results also have ad extensions containing extra links, phone numbers, while with SEO results, you will find featured snippets. 


When you place a Google ad with SEM’s paid placement, your audience will see the ad right away. This happens when the campaign launches, and you can also turn the ads on and off as per your requirement.

This can be done when you put up a promotion; once the promotion ends, you can stop showing the ads altogether. SEM is instant, while on the other hand, if you use organic SEO, it takes months before the brand starts to show up on the search engine result. You build an entire content strategy, take time making a site, and later see its impact. 


SEO takes a long time to rank your website high in the search engine results pages, but it adds a long-term value to your brand. SEO results only tend to grow over time. The first two to three organic search results have the most click-throughs. The search results that are lower than that are often not paid a lot of attention to. 

In SEM, it is a bit different. SEM works when you use it. As soon as you turn off the ads, the strategy automatically ends; but if your organic search results are low, SEM will put your ad in front of the audience. 

A/B testing

If you have started something new and want to test your idea, the best thing is that you use SEM. SEM ads are paid so that they can be turned off and on with a choice. Do you want to make some changes to the ad you made and revise the copy and other settings? You can easily make the required changes and turn it back on.

So, in simple terms, you see a difference between SEO vs SEM (PPC). While SEO SEM might be working to achieve the same goal, SEO and PPC still have different approaches to reach it.

Look at the key differences in the comparison table:

Time To Get ResultsLong termCan be in short results
Marketing TypeInboundInbound/Outbound
ChannelsSEOSEO, PPC, Display, Local & more

SEO vs. SEM (PPC): what do you want to achieve from the two?

The important thing is to understand the goal you want to achieve by using the two search marketing techniques (SEO vs. SEM). There is a difference between the two (SEO vs. SEM), but you need to see what you are doing? Are you putting up google ads just randomly, or do you wish to gain something from it? Read below to understand some of the goals that you can achieve by using the two. 

Driving traffic towards the website

The main goal of using both of these is to increase the traffic coming towards the site. Both try to improve the click-through rates. This will eventually lead to a noticeable increase in the landing page visitors and help with the ranking. 

Apply Keyword Research

It does not matter if it’s SEO or SEM; keyword research is essential in both of these. Ensure that you research all the relevant keywords related to your company and then use those appropriate keywords to reach your audience. Another tip is that you research your competitors as well and see the words that they use. It will help to give you an idea. This is important for SEM and SEO to appear in the search terms even though there is a difference between them.

Identifying the target audience

Every business does not cater to everybody; they have a specific audience that they cater to, which is true. Whether it is an SEO strategy or an SEM strategy, both rely on your target audience. Ensure that you create the ad copy, add all the relevant demographics according to them, and then place an ad that will attract them. 

Getting your website in search results. 

SEO vs SEM’s goal is to ensure that your web pages appear in the search results and the top rankings of the search engine results pages. This will help them attract more and more audiences with the prospect of making your site one of the top websites for the particular product or service you offer. 

Do SEO and PPC (SEM) help?

SEO and SEM are separate efforts that you make to run your various Google ads. There is a difference between SEO and the SEM mentioned above, but if you are using PPC and targeting particular keywords to get traffic, it won’t affect your SEO efforts.

SEO rankings are decided depending on many different factors, and PPC or SEM is not any one of them. To provide you with a much better idea, have a PPC overview:

PPC Overview

PPC is basically paid search advertising where you buy the advertising space in the search engine results. So, PPC is a paid effort to get in the top rankings of the search results, while SEO is an effort to get free and organic traffic.

The most well-known paid search advertising is Google Ads that was previously known as Google Adwords. By using Google Ads, your ads appear in the Google search results, and you are only bound to pay for the recorded number of clicks on your Google ad. Hence, this is known as PPC.

person working with laptop and analytics on paper

If you want to go for PPC, follow the below mentioned the point process:

  • Create an account with a PPC platform (Like Google Ads)
  • The keywords that you want to show in the search results.
  • Creation of ads (search engines showing text ads in their results)
  • Setting a budget limit
  • Run the campaign for as much time as you want, and then monitor the results.

After your set budget ends, the campaign comes to an end automatically. You can even try a keyword search campaign to have a better idea if you are starting for the first time, then you can either monitor all the results in the platform you used or even have the platform sent it to the email address. You can use this for the short or long term, depending on your need.

This also depends on how much you are willing to pay per click and secure one of the top ad placements. SEM is also when you use menu SEO and PPC to get more traffic to your page.

Key Takeaway

Although both SEO vs SEM aim to increase the website’s ranking in the search engine’s search results, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a free and unpaid strategy that aims to get organic traffic to the web pages. In contrast, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a paid strategy focused on getting more paid. Organic traffic to the website accordingly, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can also be identified as a part of SEM.

The strategies applied to both keyword search and analysis or (PPC) pay-per-click advertising are slightly different and tend to affect the site. There are other strategies as well apart from SEO and (PPC) SEM that can be tried. But sem SEO vs. all the other strategies are not seen to be that effective.

No wonder these are some of the essential skills required and the services offered in digital marketing

A significant thing that needs to be realized is that both are applied as per requirement, and they take their amount of time to affect the audience and play their part. 

Filed under: Marketing

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