SEO vs SEM: Key Similarities and Differences

SEO versus SEM, hand insert the letters on the advertising lightbox, concept for SEO and SEM or Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Matketing

Over 250,000 new websites get created online every single day.

With so many websites to compete against, you may be considering which digital marketing strategies are best for you: SEO vs SEM? It can be challenging to tell the difference if you are a relative beginner in online marketing. They can both help your website grow its traffic, but where do you start?

If you want to learn more, keep reading, and we will clarify the difference between SEM vs SEO and how you can get the best from both of them.

How Does SEO work?

Let’s start by looking at Search Engine Optimisation. 

SEO is the art of making your website attractive to search engines. This means that you will be easier to find on the search engine results pages when people look for keywords matching your product or service. Search engines will look at particular ‘ranking factors’ when comparing websites against each other and then build their results pages based on how well they do.

SEO also likes to focus on organic search marketing, which is driving traffic to a site naturally without the need for advertising. They will build organic traffic by creating quality content that users love, improving the user experience when on the site, and building a solid backlink profile with other sites. These factors will help organically grow the website by bringing customers to the site who have an active interest in the content.

This small business SEO guide can help you understand the topic better.

How Does SEM work?

Search Engine Marketing or SEM is the other side of the coin. It involves using paid search marketing strategies to get your website in front of potential customers. Advertising appears before organic results on Google, so it pays well to be good at SEM if you want to reap the maximum benefits for your site.

SEM activities include building advertising campaigns around specific keywords. These campaigns will have a budget that needs managing and specific ad copy that you must create to match the keywords. SEM also has key performance indicators that are used to measure the success of a campaign.

SEM generally requires more specialized expertise than SEO. You need to understand specialized tools like Google Ad Sense and also have a good knowledge of paid search and how to get the best ROI.


Both SEO and SEM will add value to your business’s digital marketing plan. You can do each individually without the other, but they work best in tandem. They will both drive users and traffic to your website if done well and boost your online presence.

If you master both skills and apply them, then you are far more likely to get your website noticed by potential customers. Either through organic search results with SEO or through paid advertising with SEM.

SEO & SEM: For Best Results, Use Both

Hopefully, the guide has shown you that it is not really SEO vs SEM but using them together yields the best result. Speaking to a search marketing expert will help clarify which is best for you to start with for good results. Each website is different and will require a personalized campaign, so be sure to find an expert who can provide you with what you need.

If you want to learn more about search marketing, please read some other blogs on our site.