What is SEM (search engine marketing), and What’s the Difference with SEO?

sem vs seo

Search optimization is an efficient marketing tool for brands trying to build their company by gaining interest and driving website traffic by appearing on search engine results pages (SERPs). This digital marketing scheme utilizes efforts to boost rankings and improve search visibility so you can push more transactions to a website or particular webpages.

Productive as it may seem, search optimization contains multiple terms that sound the same or have similar definitions. But there’s no need to feel intimidated, especially if you’re a beginner because search optimization is a structured but manageable strategy.

Two tactics involved in digital marketing are search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO).

 SEM involves gaining website traffic by using paid ads to increase a website’s visibility on search engines. Brands that use SEM select keywords that match the target buyers’ search queries so that when a user types in those terms, they see an ad from the brand. The brand is charged only if a user clicks on the ad.

Search engines like Google and Bing are considered an SEM platform, meaning a brand can place search ads in these search engines, and they will be displayed when users perform a search.

It can be said that SEO is a component of SEM since the latter taps into strategies involved in the former such as keyword optimization and producing high-quality content, along with pay-per-click (PPC) ads to increase a site’s visibility.

The two share a common purpose: to boost website traffic, but they also possess some key differences.

For one, SEM and SEO differ in their approach to search optimization. SEM utilizes both organic and paid search, while SEO optimizes a website through organic search results only.

Second, SEM and SEO significantly differ in terms of speed. Based on the analysis, brands that use SEO take an average of 2 years to rank on the first page of Google. It takes tons of focus and hard work on SEO to be able to see your rankings and organic traffic begin to climb.

On the contrary, sites that use SEM reap the benefits a lot quicker because of PPC. When you run an ad, you can expect traffic and conversions to start instantaneously within the day.

Another key difference between SEM and SEO is their cost. SEM typically costs less compared to SEO, and here’s why. The idea that SEO is free is a big misconception. Before getting your site to rank first on the search page, there are various components that you need to spend on, like an SEO tool for keyword optimization, writing the content itself and a graphic designer for the visuals.

Simply put, organic search results don’t come without fees. You need to spend even if there are no expectations for your site to rank. For SEM, cash is spent up-front and results are guaranteed, thus making it way cheaper than SEO.

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