Difference Between SEM vs SEO

The difference between Search engine optimization (SEO) and Search engine marketing (SEM) is really simple, SEO is part of SEM or Search Marketing as it is widely known. Both the optimization processes aim at increasing visibility of websites or web pages on search engines.

SEO is all about optimizing the respective website to get higher rankings in the organic SERPs (search results) while SEM goes beyond SEO. It generally involves many other methods that can help you get search engine traffic like PPC advertising.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is generally the process of optimizing your website for the aim of getting free traffic from respective search engines. The traffic coming from Search engine optimization is also referred to as organic traffic.

Search engine optimization is important as the majority of search engine traffic normally goes to the top of the organic results. Hence, if you want to get all the organic traffic from search engines without even paying for it, then your website needs to appear in one of the top 5 positions or search engine result pages.
A Search engine optimized website undoubtedly understood by search engine crawlers and this further increases the chances of ranking higher in SERPs.

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search engine marketing is basically a digital marketing process with several goals of increasing all the visibility in search engines. It is done either by getting basic organic traffic through Search engine optimization or usual paid traffic through Pay-per-click advertising.
Search Engine Marketing is definitely over and above Search engine optimization but it is only a subset of digital marketing and not the whole digital marketing.

Digital Marketing precisely includes many other channels that you can further use to increase your respective website’s organic traffic besides Search engine marketing and Search engine optimization like social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing and video marketing.


Generally, a typical search engine’s results page (SERP) includes two types of results. The first and most basic one is the paid search results and the second one is then defined to be the organic search results.

Paid results are precisely denoted with the letters ‘AD’ in order to help the visitors or users to distinguish them from the respective organic results. They are mostly shown on top and below the organic search results.

That way to further get your website to appear on top of the known ‘paid search results’, you need to use pay per click ads to bid and win one of such top positions.
You can also do this through different pay per click platforms offered by most of the search engines to advertisers.

For instance, Google Ads is the advertising tool of Google only. The same way Microsoft Advertising is the known ad platform for Bing. Thus, each search engine has its own tool.

To get your own website to appear on SERPs or say top of the organic results, you have to use good Search engine optimization practices.

To conclude, this means, having a Search engine optimization friendly website and publishing content that satisfies the intent of the user for required and particular search terms.

FactorsSearch engine optimizationSearch engine marketing
AdsSEO normally doesn’t include ad designation, and search results of SEO have featured snippets.SEM does include ad designation, and Search results of SEM have the ad extension.
SpecialityIt improves the visibility of the website.It can improve the sales of a small business.
Value over timeIt generally offers high value to your website over time.It offers immediate results, but it doesn’t stay effective over time.
PayingThere is no such payment required when a visitor clicks on the search result of SEO.In this case, payment is required when a visitor clicks on the search result of SEM.
TestingSEO is certainly not good for testing your website.It is good for testing your website.
Specify AudienceThe SEO search result doesn’t normally target the audience.Search result of SEM targets the selected audience.
CompetitionIn this, competition is lesser due to the requirement of organic search results or organic content.Competition is precisely higher in the targeted keywords.
ImpactsThe Impact of Search engine optimization requires time.Search engine marketing impacts are immediate
Click-Through Rate (CTR)Click-Through Rate (CTR) of search engine optimization is higherClick-Through Rate (CTR) of Search engine marketing is lower than Search engine optimization

Key Learning’s

Search Engine Marketing generally has two components, Search engine optimization marketing, and pay per click marketing.

Although Search engine optimization is technically an important part of SEM, many people when referring to search engine marketing, they mean that the process of using pay per click ads to precisely get traffic from search engines.

In general, SEM is the most critical digital marketing channel. Talking about if you want to create a long-lasting online business, it becomes more crucial to use both of them for more effective and efficient results.

Pay per click can usually help you in getting faster and more organic results but even then, you will have to keep paying for the traffic, Search engine optimization certainly takes longer to generate organic results and requires a bigger initial investment of time and effort.

Both the processes whether it is search engine marketing or search engine optimization aim at increasing each website’s search engine visibility on search engines for the purpose of getting highly targeted organic traffic and search engine result.