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SEO vs SEM: What's the Difference and Which is Best for Your Business?

When it comes to online marketing, a pair of key strategies can help your website reach greater visibility and attract more traffic, that is: SEO and SEM. While they’re both designed to help your website rank higher in search results, SEM and SEO have distinct differences. To understand which strategy is best for your business depends on the nature of your business and its goals. 

Here are highlights of what SEO and SEM do and how they differ: 

Definition of SEO and SEM

SEO, or Search engine optimization, helps websites rank higher in search engines like Google and Bing. With over 1 billion daily users, Google is the largest search engine in the world, and over 90 percent of those users use Google to search for something on the web. With SEO, your website can reach those users who are specifically searching for what you provide. 

SEM, or Search engine marketing, assists SEO efforts but also involves paid advertisements. While SEO helps your website rank organically, SEM allows you to reach the top of the search results page when users click on it. 

Which is better- SEO or SEM?

Both SEO and SEM are needed to achieve a number of marketing goals, including bringing in new leads, increasing sales, and strengthening a brand’s online presence. While both do similar things, SEM can be considered an extension of SEO because it pays to get your website noticed ahead of the competition. The cost to advertise on search engines, such as Google, is determined by a number of factors, including how competitive a keyword or phrase is. SEM allows you to choose from a range of competitive keywords and phrases that aren’t so popular, therefore costing less than doing SEO for keywords and phrases that are extremely popular and competitive. This can mean greater value and cost-effectivity for your business. 

SEM is more reactive than SEO. When utilizing SEM, you’re reactively doing something because users are already searching for something. SEO is more proactive. You are proactively making users search for something by making it easy for them to find. While both are forms of advertising, SEM is a more visible form of advertising because users see what you’re advertising as they search for something. This can be both a positive and negative thing, depending on what you’re hoping to get out of your SEM campaign. 

While SEM involves paid advertising, you don’t have to spend lots of money to see results. Small, targeted  SEM campaigns can be run without spending a large amount of money. While SEM is a great way to launch a new website or introduce a new product, it can also help improve upon an existing SEO strategy. 

What are the goals of SEO vs. SEM? 

Both SEO and SEM have the same goal: to make a website rank high in search engines like Google for particular search terms or keywords. The high rankings that these search engines provide can lead to a large amount of organic traffic to your website. This traffic is worth gold because it’s completely free. SEM aims to get your website noticed in the first positions of a search result page for particular queries or phrases. SEO aims to get your website indexed by the major search engines. However, the latter doesn’t seem to be an easy task nowadays. 

SEO is more complex and takes time to accomplish. SEM is simpler and tends to be shorter-term. This doesn’t mean that SEM is easier to do; it simply means that both form different strategies to accomplish the same goal. 

Which is best for your business- SEO or SEM? 

Both SEO and SEM are great tools for growing a business. However, everyone’s needs and goals for their website are different. So, it may be better for you to use both forms of marketing. You should consider your budget when deciding which to go with. 

The cost of an SEM campaign can vary greatly, but they can be run cheaply if you stick to the essentials. SEM can cost a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what you’re looking for. 

On the other hand, SEO is free! Well, except for the costs associated to hire an SEO professional or agency to do it for you. This form of marketing can greatly boost the visibility and traffic of your website. Thus, increasing the chance of making a sale. 

The difference between SEO and SEM

SEO is for improving the visibility and rank of a website in search engines like Google and Bing. SEM is an acronym for Search Engine Marketing or “pay-per-click,” which is a form of paid advertising in search engines. While the main aim of SEO is to improve the ranking and quality of a website in search engine results, SEM aims to get people to click on ads that appear above or beside organic search results. 

The keywords that people type into search  engines are called “search engine query.” The result is the collection of information from multiple websites. A high ranking, in search engines, means that your website appears at the top of the list whenever a query is typed in. SEO aims to get your website to that place. SEM ensures that people actually click on those websites. 

SEO  Advantages

There are many advantages to doing SEO for your website. 

  1. Low cost - The most notable advantage of SEO is the relatively low cost. Costs can range from zero to hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, there are ways to do SEO cheaply. 
  1. Helps build reputation and brand awareness- Another advantage of SEO is that it helps build a website’s reputation and brand awareness. This form of marketing increases a website’s traffic, which means more leads and more sales potential. 
  1. Cost-effective- Compared to other forms of digital marketing, SEO is very cost-effective. You won’t have to break the bank to see results. 
  1. Long-term benefits- Lastly, SEO provides long-term benefits. Once your website starts ranking higher, it will continue to do so over time. 

SEM  Advantages 

While SEO has many advantages, it does not directly lead to direct sales. SEM helps your website generate leads and convert those leads into sales. 

  1. Increases traffic and rank of websites- Like SEO, SEM increases a website’s traffic and rank in search engines. This form of marketing brings direct sales leads. 
  1. Focuses on the buying stage of the customer journey - SEM focuses on the buying stage of the customer journey. This form of marketing is perfect for leading customers toward a purchase. 
  1. Cost-effective - Like SEO, SEM is also cost-effective. You get what you pay for, but you certainly don’t have to break the bank to see results. 


Why do you need both SEO and SEM?

If both SEO and SEM are designed to help a website rank higher in search engines, why does a business need to do both? The truth is that they are not comparable. SEO does what SEM can’t do. The same goes for SEM and SEO. 

The truth is, you need both SEO and SEM to reach your full potential. Each form of marketing complements the other. SEM helps SEO work its magic. 

In conclusion, SEO and SEM are both great options for marketing your business. However, it is important to understand the difference between the two in order to choose the best option for your business. SEM can be a great option for businesses that are looking to get an immediate return on investment, while SEO is a longer-term strategy that can help your business rank higher in search engine results pages. Whichever option you choose, make sure you invest time and money into it in order to see the best results. 

Jumpptech employs a wide range of research tools to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that will meet your business goals. Call us today, to explore ways we can help your business grow!  

Are you looking to increase sales or grow your company? Please contact us for an in-depth discussion about our offerings and services, and partner with us to take your business to next level.  

You might like to read – How digital marketing differs from traditional marketing 

Article Written by Banashree Aribenchi
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