What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

A part of optimization and marketing, both SEO and SEM is conducted with the sole purpose of promoting the product or business in the Search Engine for the growth in sales, revenue, and brand image.

Let’s talk about SEO and SEM, and some of the key differences between them.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

Although these two terms are often used interchangeably without a clear understanding of how they're related, SEO and SEM refer to two different processes. When both are leveraged to their full potential, they can get you great marketing results.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is one of the oldest methods of digital marketing. This method is adopted to bring the website to the top results of the Search engine. It refers to a complex process of optimizing webpages to get higher search engine rankings for better visibility and prominence. It may take longer to get results from SEO, hence, a dedicated team of SEO specialists is required to get positive results in the long run.

What is an SEO friendly webpage?

How can you optimize a web page? How can it affect a website’s presence in Google? And, how can it help bring in the much-needed customer or revenue? –There are some of the frequently asked questions.

SEO is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. Here are few of the essentials of an SEO friendly webpage

An Accessible URL

The first thing that determines your SEO approach is the accessibility of the URL. Specifically, that’s a URL that Google’s bots can easily reach and crawl. A website must be accessible for the Google bot to reach and read the content, which requires a simple URL that hasn’t been restricted in any way.

To ensure that, you can consider adding robots.txt file that basically informs Google and other bots where to look for in a website. Similarly, a sitemap informs Google what to look for.

Page Speed (Including Mobile Page Speed)

Although improving internet connections around the world allow a user to access a webpage at no time, Google still considers this an important factor in judging whether a web page meets the SEO guidelines. Page speed has been cited as one of the main SEO ranking factors for years. A fast loading web page doesn’t only help the search engine but generic users too who are the prime audience of any website.

Mobile Friendliness

Over 70% of total web searches are generated through mobile phones or cellular devices. The need for a website that caters to every single device is a necessity. Mobile-friendliness or responsive website is the major factor determining the ranking in Google as well as general users.

Google’s mobile-first index is now a reality, which means it’s drawing its results from mobile-optimized sites first, rather than sites geared to desktop computers.

Domain Age, URL, and Authority

The authority of any website also comes from the age of the domain. Did you know that nearly 60% of the sites that have a top ten Google search ranking are three years old or more? The younger the domain, the more it needs SEO.

Similarly, the domain should always be generic to avoid any penalty from Google.

Optimized Content

“Content is King!” Indeed, content is the king when it comes to determining the best websites. Content is the valuable portion of any website which delivers the information to users. In return, it helps a website to rank in Google. The use of keyword is possible through the content. The content may include website information, blogs, images, graphics, videos, etc.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM refers to different marketing techniques to gain visibility in the Search Engine. SEM generally includes paid marketing or inorganic marketing techniques. As a part of the Pay per Click method, SEM focuses on growing prominence through paid results in search engines.

Google Adwords and Bing Ads are two popular forms of search engine marketing. The keyword relevance, market size, competition, and the geographical region generally determine the price a marketer is willing to pay to bring a visit to the website.

Elements of Off-page SEO

  • Link building to attract quality inbound links.
  • Social signals (e.g., increasing traffic to a website from social media sharing)
  • Attracting visitors from social bookmarking sites like Reddit, Digg, and Stumbleupon

Interesting Facts about SEM

  1. 96% of marketers use search engine marketing to provide content to their prospects
  2. Organic and paid search engine traffic contribute to more than 60% of total website visitors
  3. 81% of B2B purchase cycles start with a web search
  4. The highest spenders are most likely to turn to search for purchase information
  5. Conversion rates are 10 times higher from search than from social media
  6. Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average
  7. 60% of Google users are unable to identify the fact that they are looking at a paid ad, rather than an organic listing
  8. 75% of consumers who find useful, local information online are more likely to visit the physical stores associated with that information
  9. 50% of search queries consist of 4 words or more
  10. 72% of marketers report that content creation is currently their most effective SEO tactic

How to prioritize one over the other?

Although both can be effective methods to provide your website an edge over your competitors, you should always prioritize one method at a time.

When to Focus on SEO

SEO is the most basic among every marketing process. It lays the groundwork for SEM through well-optimized content that customers find helpful. Without landing pages, web pages and blog content optimized for search, the latter marketing efforts may fall flat.

The major benefit of Organic SEO is that it is cost-effective over the long term and helps establish search credibility. But it’s important to maintain it with the consistent creation of quality content and social media sharing.

When to Focus on SEM

While SEO is the basic process, SEM is implemented when you need an immediate audience. SEM will help bring immediate visibility in search. With a strategic PPC (Pay per Click) campaign, you'll be able to achieve this.

What you shouldn’t do is rely strictly on PPC over the long-term while ignoring organic SEO. SEO ensures great content, better User Interaction, and User Experience, and engagement needed to get conversions.

SEO and SEM search results


  • SEO is the best marketing tactic for long-lasting results, while SEM is a marketing tactic intended for quick results.
  • Websites that rank high in the organic results enjoy free traffic, industry recognition and enjoy all the benefits of SEO. Websites that use SEM tactics such as PPPC can enjoy targeted traffic from search engines but they have to pay for it. Once they stop the paid campaigns, the traffic disappears.
  • Another major difference between SEO and SEM is that it takes a lot of time for SEO to work and generate results while PPC is almost instant.
  • The choice for SEO and SEM depends on your overall digital marketing goal. You can choose both if you need a good amount of traffic and great results.

Searchable Design is a premier SEO company in Des Moines specializing in designing a responsive website, search engine optimization, and search engine marketing (PPC). Get in touch with us for SEO in Des Moines.

Comments are closed