The Difference Between SEM and SEO, Explained by a Marketing Expert

Jan 11, 2022 | Digital Marketing, Marketing, Marketing in a Minute

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are both techniques to get people to find your website. But what exactly is SEM? What is SEO? What is the difference between them?
I’m here to explain exactly what SEM and SEO are and why they are both important to your overall digital marketing strategy

What is SEM?

SEM stands for search engine marketing and it is the process of advertising a business using paid ads that appear on search engine results pages (or SERPs, another acronym for you!)

The most common search engine is of course Google, and marketers can pay to have their ads displayed as a result of particular keywords entered into the search engine. For example, if I have a website selling umbrellas, I can pay for my ad to come up when someone types “Umbrellas” into Google.

Google ads can come in a variety of formats:

  • Text/words only
  • Image ads
  • Product shopping ads
  • In video streaming
  • Call only ads
  • Responsive ads
  • In app ads

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it refers to the techniques used to generate traffic to your website without paying for it.

SEO can be incredibly valuable to your business as it is an ongoing asset and helps your website to rank highly in the search engine results pages. However, SEO takes a lot of time, effort and planning. Some companies hire full time SEO specialists, just to keep on top of the ever changing digital landscape. However there are certain tips and tricks that can be employed when building a website that will help to ensure your website will appear in search engine results.

What is the difference?

Simply – SEM is paid search and SEO is organic (unpaid) search.

It is important to factor in both SEM and SEO into any digital marketing strategy. SEO should be thought about when building a website and then monitored regularly to keep on top of changing algorithms.
SEM on the other hand can be more agile and easier to implement, especially if you want to advertise a new product or service. However, it can get costly if you are using SEM as your only tool to drive people to your website.

We recommend a combination of organic and paid options to maximise your advertising investment.

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