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SEO vs. SEM: What’s the difference and can they work together?

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Written by
2 Nov 2022

The biggest similarity between SEO vs. SEM is that they both utilize keywords to increase search engine traffic to a website, despite the fact that the methods employed to draw that traffic are completely different.

what are the differences between seo and sem?
What are the differences between SEO and SEM? (Source: EverRanks)

So what are the differences between SEO vs. SEM? Are they complementary to each other? Today, EverRanks will answer these questions for you.

What is SEO?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of attempting to rank in a search engine’s organic results. The biggest advantage of being found for a particular keyword is that it will bring “free” traffic to your website. Typical SEO activities include keyword research, on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO.

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Keyword research

The main goal of keyword research is understanding the words and phrases that your clients enter into the search engines bar. You can do this with the help of keyword research tools like Google Trends or Google Keyword Planner Tool.

On-page SEO

The goal of on-page SEO is to create interesting content that meets users’ needs. The approach you choose depends on what keywords you are using. You can provide them with what they are looking for by investing their search intent.

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For instance, those who search for “seo vs sem” are seeking knowledge. They want a recap that highlights the main distinctions. The organic search results reveal this.

When users search for " seo vs sem", they want to get information
When users search for ” seo vs sem”, they want to get information (Source: Internet)

Meanwhile, when people type “tablecloth”, they tend to search for products and e-commerce.

When they type "tablecloth", they are likely to seek for products
When they type “tablecloth”, they are likely to seek for products (Source: Internet)

But not everything that affects on-page SEO is related to search intent. These are some other crucial elements such as keywords density, creating a catchy title, using detailed URLs, optimized pictures,…

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to actions performed outside of your website to demonstrate to Google that your pages are worthy of ranking.

One of the most effective off-page SEO techniques is link building, which attempts to get mentioned and linked to other websites. Building high-quality backlinks is super important because Google considers backlinks to be one of top ranking factors. They function as online votes from other websites.

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Off-page SEO refers to actions performed outside of your website
Off-page SEO refers to actions performed outside of your website (Source: Internet)

For illustration, suppose this article receives backlinks from other well-known websites concerning SEO. This demonstrates to Google that other experts in the field are promoting our information, which may suggest that it deserves a higher ranking.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO contains several tactics. Overall, the fundamental objective of technical SEO is making sure that search engines can quickly identify, crawl, and index all of the pages on your website. Another aspect is making sure your pages load promptly and your site’s architecture is configured properly.

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Technical SEO includes ensuring search engines identify, crawl and index your content quickly
Technical SEO includes ensuring search engines identify, crawl and index your content quickly (Source: Internet)

What is SEM?

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is the practice of attracting search engine traffic to your website. This traffic may come from either organic or paid results, or from both. PPC (Pay-per-click) is used to gain traffic from paid results, whereas SEO is used to get traffic from organic results.

What are the differences between SEO vs. SEM?

The primary distinction between SEO vs. SEM is that SEO concentrates 100% on ranking through organic results while SEM uses both SEO and PPC to increase search engine traffic.

In a nutshell, SEM is a comprehensive phrase that includes SEO and PPC.

SEO falls “under” the umbrella category of SEM
SEO falls “under” the umbrella category of SEM (Source: Internet)

SEO vs. SEM: How long does it take?

Timing is one of the key distinctions between SEO and SEM.

SEO is a time-consuming process, quite a lot of time. Especially if your website is fresh and doesn’t currently have many backlinks. Even if you aim for long tail keywords and follow best SEO practices, you might gain some returns within a few months.

However if you concentrate your SEM efforts on PPC, you can almost receive benefits immediately. You can post an advertisement in the morning and see traffic as well as conversions start to come in the afternoon.

SEO vs. SEM: How much does it cost?

SEM costs money. Regardless of whether you use SEO or PPC, search engine marketing has costs. Each click while using PPC costs you money. More clicks mean more money spent.

On the other hand, SEO is almost likely less expensive than PPC in many circumstances. Once you rank for keywords in SEO, clicks are “free.” However, ranking requires time and effort. You need to invest a great time and effort to research, generate and promote content through email outreach as well as link building.

How do SEO and SEM work together?

For the purpose of leading visitors to your business websites or web pages, SEO and SEM both largely rely on keywords. Both are concerned with traffic flows despite the fact that the marketing strategies employed for each are different.

How can SEO vs. SEM work together?
How can SEO vs. SEM work together? (Source: Internet)

When people use search engines to look for something, they have the possibility to find it either through the organic results (SEO) or the paid results (SEM). SEM is used for targeted, paid advertisements, whereas SEO is used for unpaid or free listings. They may work together, but only if the website is already optimized for search engines, then SEM can have more chances to succeed.

If your website is relatively new, you can prioritize your PPC campaign first as SEO rankings can take some time to take effect. However, don’t neglect your SEO at this time.

Frequently asked questions about SEO and SEM?

What is PPC?

PPC (pay-per-click) is a type of advertising where you are charged for website clicks from well-known platforms. In the case of SEM,  the platform is search engines like Google. Here is what Google PPC advertising entails:

  • Keyword research: Find what customers are searching for and how much ads are likely to cost.
  • Bid setting: Decide how much you are willing to pay Google for an ad click.
  • Ad creation: Create an interesting and relevant advertisement.
  • Audience targeting: Decide who should see your ad.

When should I use SEO or SEM?

While SEO frequently appears to be the best option, there are some circumstances where SEM is more effective than SEO. The decision whether to choose SEO or SEM ultimately comes down to your needs and how quickly you want something.

You should use SEO:

  • When you should expect to see traffic, leads, and online purchases within three to six months.
  • When you want to employ a digital marketing plan that isn’t reliant on monthly ad spending.
  • When you (or your SEO company) have the time and resources to manage your SEO strategies proactively.

You should use SEM:

  • When you must generate leads, sales, or traffic right away.
  • When you want the results of searches to appear with a lot of competition without having to wait for SEO to work.
  • When you have the money, time, and resources to handle your advertising on a weekly basis.

EverRanks has shown you the differences between SEO and SEM. If you find this article useful and interesting, please share it with your friends. Don’t forget to learn more about SEO at EverRanks!

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