What is The Difference Between SEO and SEM

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In previous lessons, we discussed SEO’s importance along with its advantages and disadvantages.

In this lesson we are going learn the difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) vs. Search Engine Marketing (SEM).


Now that we have a good understanding of SEO, let’s see the differences between SEO and SEM and how to choose right one for you?

SEM and SEO is not the same thing.

SEO is the process of improving your site’s position in search engine’s organic or unpaid results.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to the optimization of the paid advertisement on search engines, also known as PPC advertising which is displaying ads on SERP pages.

Bing and Google are the two most popular search engines that offer ads for their users.

The differences between SEO vs. SEM
The differences between SEO and SEM

Advantages of Using SEO over SEM

You don’t need to pay for clicks since search traffic is free but in SEM you need to pay for every click you receive even if they leave your website as soon as they clicked or didn’t make any interactions within your website.

Many people block search engines and other websites’ advertisements with their ad blockers. According to the report (Statista, 2021) in the United States alone, 27% of users block ads using adblocking tech.

Reports show that ads have a lower click-through rate than organic listing. There can many reasons for this factor from psychology to tech.

Even though SEO is slower compared to SEM but SEO has a higher chance of huge profits & ROI in the long run.

Advantages of Using SEM over SEO

In SEO you can’t expect results within a short time frame but with SEM you can expect it because as soon as you set up an AD campaign and when it’s published then your ad will be shown to all your target audience in SERP results.

You can target many keywords at once: PPC ads cost will range according to industry and number of advertisers bidding for the keywords. It can range anywhere from 0.10$ to 500$ or more for every click so when you have enough budget then you can instantly target as many keywords as you want.

You don’t need to worry about SEO: SEM is not about SEO optimization where you don’t need on-page optimization, backlinks, and SEO power. It’s all about spending money on ads and managing your ads effectively. So if you decide to choose SEM then you don’t need to worry about SEO factors.

SEM is very responsive and flexible: Since you can expect to see results fast with SEM you can immediately check whether the choosen keyword(s) or niche is profitable or it requires any changes in your end then you easily adjust accordingly and restart the process. This makes your workflow very flexible and fast and due to this SEM can be profitable in the short run.


Both SEO and SEM are great digital marketing strategies.

Both have various pros and cons as we seen in this lesson and there is no right or wrong strategy instead you choose whichever strategy you want to focus on most according to your requirement.

Sometimes you don’t even have to choose because you can start working on both simultaneously where you get results in short term through SEM (Since SEO takes time) and get higher ROI in long term through SEO (Since you don’t need to pay for every click).

That should clarify the differences between search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

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