What is the difference between SEO and SEM

Difference between the Search Engine optimization(SEO) and Search Engine Marketing(SEM)

A general study about SEO and SEM

The success of an online marketing campaign is totally and completely depends on the driving a decent traffic to the company website. All of the webmasters and web engineers try to track down the ways for driving more traffic to their websites. Among the various methods, two are the most popular and practiced techniques are SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM(Search engine Marketing). As an overview both seen quite similar but basically they are quite different.

It is very important to understand the fundamental difference between these two before using them successfully in a marketing campaign.

In this article, we will have a brief study about the nature and applicability of SEO and SEM.

What is the difference between free SEO and paid SEM?

While SEO is an online marketing promotion scheme that includes all the link building and on-page optimization activities that actually aim to achieve higher rankings in SERPs, on the other hand, SEM means by everything else (other than SEO practices) you pay for, like PPC traffic. One more thing, the paid backlinks do not belong to SEM, they are black hat actions.

The suitable situations for free SEO:

It’s true that free SEO does not involve spending money, but never take it as a cheaper alternative. A great deal of time that it required for link building and on-page optimization  can never be  underestimated  because the time is money you input this resource in an unlimited amount. That’s why it is called an expensive free technique of online marketing. The situations in which we just need SEO are listed below:

  1. If you are focusing over the less competitive keywords/long tail keywords: While your campaign is based on less competitive keywords, input in SEO will surely pay off as achieving a good ranking don’t require much time and efforts. In the case of a long term keyword phrase, you will surely not get too many clicks. So it is very easy to get top ranking for the long tail keywords without many tiring schedules of SEO practices. What you need to concentrate is using the long term keywords a couple of times in your content. Also, you don’t need to work harder for getting loads of backlinks to your post.
  2. While you are dealing with limited resources: The other condition when SEO is not just better alternative but the only option is when you can spend a lot of time but have a tight budget for your promotional campaign. This is the situation when you can just afford the very little amount of PPC clicks, but with this effort, you are unable to make a big difference anyway.  Here, you should start with SEO practices, and when your budget allows, move further towards PPC.

Don’t consider SEO is not a very useful marketing tool, there are some situations when it the most obvious choice for the marketers. Though not anyone can afford to pay a lot of money on PPC, one can never deny the importance of organic ranking completely.

difference between SEO and SEM

When and why to use paid SEM:

After a certain time, you will reach to a point that your efforts and investment are not resulting as expected. It is specifically observed since the launch of recent updates of search algorithm such as Panda Update, that once your website highly ranked for the keywords is lost in the search results. Such conditions create an atmosphere where the marketers think about turning to PPC and paid search methods. Even when everything is going just normal, SEM is used to be practiced as a good alternative. The situations when SEM can work best are:

  1. Working with competitive keywords: It is very hard to organically conquer with competitive keywords. In the comparison of the time required in SEO methods, PPC is much cheaper for promotion with competitive phrases. It’s a fact that if you begin with Google Adwords and $2-3 clicks, you are going to pay a big amount, but if you try such phrases on some of the Adwords alternatives, you will get come better results by investing a lesser amount than Adwords.
  2. When a great traffic within a short period is what you need: With SEO tricks, you have to wait and watch for the results to come. But there are some sequences when you cannot wait, for an example, you sell stuff for 4th July and your keywords are too competitive, with organic ranking it will reach to the top until September, that is surely not good for your business. In the urge to get massive traffic in the month of June, using the PPC method is the smartest choice for a marketer.
  3. Needing a better exposure: In the traditional SEO techniques, the marketers target the top 10 positions in the SERPs for a particular keyword. But with the changing scenario and cutthroat competition, most of the experts feel that it the top 5 or even the top 3 ranking that really matters. So if you are interested in such a great exposure, you must go with paid listings. A paid listing for a specific keyword is visible in the search engine result above the organic ones. Here, one this is essential to mention that an average user prefers to click on the organic searches instead of paid listings as he feels them more authentic and natural.
  4. To find the keywords that convert well: The free SEO also gets benefitted by the paid SEM as it gets many keywords ideas through it. With a paid marketing campaign, you can meet with many keywords with superb potential for you, if you are ranked well for them in Google, don’t convert. On the logical ground, a competitive keyword is not necessary will convert well for you, and it is a tricky task to learn that whether is  best or you or not.  So you should invest in PPC campaigns and find the keywords that can convert well, and then increase your free SEO efforts for it.


So, we can come to the conclusion that both SEO and SEM work complementary to each other. And, due to pros and cons of these two, it will be a wiser approach to using them together in better combination. If you manage to find the perfect formula to deal with SEO and SEM at the same time, you will surely get the decent traffic to your website as well as higher rankings.

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