seo vs sem

When it comes to looking up information on something people want, about 75% of internet users never go past the first page of a search engine like Google or Bing.

That’s not an insignificant statistic. The first page of any search engine is the best place to catch your customer’s attention, so using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are great tools to boost traffic to your website and make your brand more accessible to customers.

But what is the main difference between SEO and SEM? They need different strategies, but their goals are the same. Read on to learn more about SEO vs SEM.


It is easy to confuse SEO and SEM. While they both involve search engines, their purposes are different. Here is the main difference between SEO and SEM.


SEO is when you optimize your website for the purpose of getting free, organic traffic from search engines. This is important because the more you use SEO, the higher your website’s ranking on search engine result pages will be. 

Three types of SEO are

  • On-Page SEO: keyword research, content creation, optimizing keywords
  • Off-Page SEO: link building, managing listings locally and in directories
  • Technical SEO: mobile-friendliness, website architecture, site crawlibility, indexing

A great SEO plan will use all three of the types of SEO.


SEM is when you get organic traffic to your website through SEO or paid traffic through PPC (pay per click) or CPC (cost-per-click) advertising. Basically, it’s how to get your website the most attention to your audience at the first opportunity.

This is through buying advertising space in search results through tools like Google Ads or Facebook Ads.

What Are The Similarities?

As you can see, there are some key differences. But what are some commonalities that they share?

Both of them are designed to 

  • drive more traffic to a website
  • play on your understanding of your target audience and what they would like
  • use keyword research, meaning to find the best keywords to target your audience with
  • need continuous updating and optimization
  • most importantly, help your brand appear higher on search result lists

Knowing the similarities and differences between SEO and SEM can help you make a decision on how to use these tools for better traffic to your website.

SEO and SEM Strategies

In a marketing strategy, it’s not a matter of SEO vs SEM. It’s a matter of how to use these tools to improve your SEO and SEM strategies. To make a great marketing strategy using SEO and SEM, follow the steps below.

  1. Research your keywords
  2. Create your SEM campaigns and define them, ad groups, keywords, depending on who you are targeting.
  3. Implement keywords
  4. Keep track of results and adjust campaigns as needed 

If you need any help setting up strategies, search online for the best SEO services near me.

Make SEM and SEO Work For You

There’s no easy answer for using SEO vs SEM for your business’s website. Whether to use one or the other or use a combination of both is all dependent on your business and its goals. But knowing what SEO and SEM is can put you on the path to 

Did our blog post help you out? Be sure to check out more of our posts about marketing today to stay in the know.