Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) can be a confusing concept, but whats the difference between them? As both terms are used interchangeably it makes it even more confusing to understand. It is simply that search engine optimization is a part of search marketing and both of the terms aim at increasing visibility in search engines. While these two phrases are similar but actually serve different purposes. In a nut shell, SEO is a component of the larger SEM. However, to understand them specific explanation of both is necessary.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be described as tactics and strategies to ensure that a site will be found by the search engine. It is the process of optimizing a website for the purpose of getting traffic from search engines. There are more chances of ranking higher in SERPs because an optimized website is more easily understood by search engine. As internet users do not click-through pages therefore, a site ranking in a search is essential for getting more traffic toward the site. In organic results of search the higher a website ranks naturally the greater will be the chance that the site will be visited by a user. SEO comprises of two different services one is On-Page and the other is Off-Page SEO.

On-Page SEO Comprises of:

  • Clean and formatting page URLs
  • Incorporating keywords into title and heading tags and meta descriptions, etc.
  • Social sharing integration within the content.
  • Incorporation of Google Author Tag
  • and the list goes on.

Off-Page SEO Comprises of:

  • Social bookmarking
  • Social sharing signals
  • Link building (back links)
  • and much more.

What is SEM?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is broader than SEO and is a marketing process with a goal of getting more visibility in search engines. It is used to describe the money-backed portion of search engine marketing that takes the shape of cost-per-click (CPC) or pay-per-click (PPC). Unlike SEO, SEM includes the use of paid search results such as ads and PPC listings. The term SEM is strictly used to refer to the activities and PPC campaigns by marketers but if one uses both paid search and organic SEO, it can be said that all these fall within SEM.

SEM Comprises of:

  • Use of paid search like PPC and ads.
  • Strictly includes PPC campaigns and activities.
  • Both paid search and SEO falls under SEM.

Lastly, both SEO and SEM are not competing services; however, SEO is a subset of SEM. But one will need both SEO and SEM when it comes to conducting a business on the internet because one needs to be visible in both advertised and organic links.