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Difference between SEO and SEM

Difference between SEO and SEM

An explanation of the difference between SEO and SEM

If you’re new to the digital marketing world, you might wonder what these terms mean and how they differ. The first – and most obvious – difference is that they stand for different things. The full form of SEO is Search Engine Optimisation, while SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. While both are ways to get your website on search engine results pages (SERPs), the difference between SEO and SEM is that one is a subset of the other.

The key to understanding the difference between SEO and SEM…

…lies in how search engines display their results. If you search for something on Google and carefully check out the results page, you will see that it is divided into two parts. The first part shows paid results and the second part displays organic ones. It has become more and more difficult to tell at a glance which results are paid and which are organic, but for paid results, you will see the word “Ad” written before the URL. SEO focuses only on generating traffic through organic search results, while SEM caters to both paid and organic leads. To get your website in the paid section of SERPs, you have to engage in pay-per-click marketing.


An overview of SEO

The three main sub-categories of SEO are on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. All three are critical factors for your website to be listed high on SERPs.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing the elements of your website that show up on the web page. The first step to successful on-page SEO is to publish high-quality, engaging content. You want to choose topics that will most likely be searched for by your potential customers. To do this, you have to engage in keyword research. Once you have a list of keywords, weave them into your content seamlessly so that your audience is engrossed in what they are reading.

In addition to text, images are also essential to on-page SEO. Several consumers prefer to search for items visually, so you will lose out on a lot of customers if you do not use any images at all. You also want to make sure that, while your graphics are clear and of good quality, they are not too large. Larger images take a longer time to load, which will cause your audience to lose interest and click away.

Finally, the HTML code you use to structure your content plays a role in on-page SEO as well. You have to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions so that both search engines and the people who search know what your web page is about.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to the things you have to do outside your website that can impact your search engine rankings. This practice mainly involves building backlinks to your web pages to signal to search engines that your page is an authority and can be trusted.

Technical SEO

Apart from on- and off-page SEO, there are a host of other factors that can affect your ranking in SERPs. You want to engage in this practice so that your website is technically optimized. The main pillars of technical optimization are ensuring that your web pages are crawlable, secure, and do not take a long time to load. You also want to avoid duplicate content on your website because that can confuse search engines. The most salient difference between SEO and SEM is that it is technically possible to do all of the above yourself for free, but the PPC component of SEM requires a monetary investment. You have to remember, however, that SEO is not really “free” because it requires a lot of time and dedicated work.

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An overview of SEM

Since SEO is a part of SEM, everything we have said until now is applicable to both. However, as mentioned before, in addition to SEO, SEM includes PPC. In this section, we’ll take a quick look at the features of PPC.

PPC primarily works on the concept of bidding on keywords. When someone searches for a keyword you have bid on, an ad for your website will appear. Since everyone wants to get their web page at the top of SERPs, the highest bidder will get their URL displayed above the others. When a user clicks on your ad, you pay the amount that you have bid.

Google also assigns quality scores to your web page to decide whether or not your ad is a good fit for any particular keyword. You receive a quality score based on your click-through rate and the quality of your landing page. You have to make sure your ad copy is spotless so that you receive more clicks.

Difference between SEM and SEO

The main differences between SEO and SEM are speed and cost.

If you’re looking for quick results, SEM (PPC) is what you should choose. It is possible to get traffic within twenty-four hours of posting your ad. However, you still need to experiment and test your copy continuously to ensure a positive return on investment. On the other hand, SEO is a very slow process. It takes an average of two years to get your website on the first page of Google.

When it comes to cost, you have to look at both your short- and long-term goals. In the short run, an SEM approach that consists only of PPC is in effect cheaper, because you are sure that you will get some results from your investment. However, as soon as you stop bidding on keywords, your traffic goes to zero.

As we mentioned before, it takes a lot of time and effort to build a strong organic presence. You will end up spending a lot of money on designers, developers, and research. That being said, all of this investment is up-front. Once you get your page to rank, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to maintain that ranking.

SEO vs. SEM: which one should you choose?

You have to take into account all of the differences between SEO and SEM and decide which one is best for you. It is a good idea to focus only on SEO if you have a very limited budget and if you can wait for a few months before receiving returns. On the other hand, if you have a consistent ad budget and you’re looking for quick traffic, you should go with PPC.

iTrobes is a digital marketing company that services locations worldwide. We can not only help you better understand the difference between SEO and SEM, but we can also help you get the best possible returns on your investment. Write to us today to get started!

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