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SEO vs SEM – Know the Difference

Marketers turn to SEO and SEM strategies to increase the visibility of their content on search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) both offer ways to increase sales, but with different techniques. Google’s search results are divided into two categories: paid search results and organic search results. Let’s have a look at both SEO and SEM.

What is SEO?

SEO is the process of improving a website to increase its organic or unpaid visibility on major search engines. You can also get your website in the paid area using PPC (pay per click). Google uses an algorithm to make sure that its engines show relevant, high-quality search results, so marketers use SEO strategies to ensure that the algorithms rank their content high. 

When to Focus on SEO

If you have a limited budget or are a small business, it is best to focus on SEO so that you do not run through your marketing budget on ads that may only run for a week. If you believe you can write really good content that customers search for on Google with informative keywords, like “What is X,” go with SEO. SEO takes time, so if you can play the waiting game for at least six months, go with SEO.

What is SEM?

SEM is the use of paid advertisements to increase search visibility. There are two types of content found on search engines: organic results and advertisements that are paid to be there. On Google, paid advertisements normally appear at the top, side, or bottom of a SERP. 

When to Focus on SEM

If you have an amount set aside for ads, SEM may be your best option because you can play with the different combinations of keywords, landing pages, and bids that work best. Managing a Google Ads account is no joke and takes a lot of work. Research and data processing are necessary to make the best decision for your company. 

Main Differences Between SEO and SEM

Although they both help generate web traffic, marketers should know the difference between the two.

  1. They target different search results: SEO and SEM aim to increase the visibility on search engines. However, they focus on different ways to reach those goals. SEO focuses on the creation of web pages to improve their rankings. SEM focuses on paid advertisements at the top of SERPs. Some of the algorithms on how they rank pages include the following:
  • Title tags- The title of a main page should include the content’s keyword.
  • Quality content- The content should be well-written and well-organized.
  • Mobile friendly- Search engines prioritize sites that fit on mobile search engines. 
  1. SEO takes longer to deliver results than SEM: Speed is one of the main differences between SEO and SEM. An SEO strategy can take three months to two years to show significant ranking improvements, whereas SEM can show results within hours. This does not mean you should wait two years to see it rank. If you use keywords and implement SEO best practices, you can see results within a few months. On the other hand, if you focus SEM on pay per click, you can see results instantly. After a marketing team launches a campaign, SEM can generate traffic immediately. 
  2. SEO costs more than SEM in the short term. SEO doesn’t cost money in the same way that SEM does. With SEO, you don’t pay when someone clicks on your site in the organic search results, but it is NOT free. In the long run, PPC is cheaper than SEO, but when you stop paying, your traffic goes down. Once you rank with SEO, you’re set, meaning that you don’t have to invest a lot of money to maintain where you are.

If you have the staff to manage both SEO and PPC then go for it. Otherwise, pick one and do your best to get your company out there and be seen and heard.

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