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SEO VS SEM: The Similarities and The Differences

SEO VS SEM: The Similarities and The Differences

“Brand credibility depends on optimum visibility”

Every enterprise needs to reach their audience that is determined by optimum visibility on the network which in the future will help you to land high value and therefore yield high profitability. Both SEO and SEM are used to increase and optimize the visibility of their content to reach more and more audiences. Both of these digital marketing techniques are implemented by all enterprises for all contents. This strategy in the long run has a high potential of turning the viewers into lifelong customers. Both SEO and SEM have their list of advantages and disadvantages that also brings out the similarities and differences between them.

What is Search Marketing?

The strategic implementation of search engine optimization by increasing the visibility of your website and showing a direct link to the viewers and therefore landing them to your website is called search marketing. It is a very frequently practiced tactic to grab the attention of the targeted audience by appearing on the Search Engine Results Pages or commonly known as SERPs. This digital marketing strategy helps to increase the ranks and therefore drive more traffic into your brand and business website.

They can be broadly categorized into two parts-

  • SEO or Search Engine Optimization
  • SEM or Search Engine Marketing

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization or commonly known as SEO is one of the most organic and best practices used in digital marketing. SEO techniques are mostly non-paid and are a more natural approach to increasing the rank in the Google SERPs. Most digital marketing companies adopt SEO services due to their easy blend with the network and audience together at the same time. There are also some of the best SEO services provider in India like Esolz Technologies Pvt Ltd that can form the best digital marketing strategy using SEO best-practices tools and techniques.

There are different types of SEO that can be found on the network. They are –

  • Technical SEO
  • Content SEO
  • On-Page SEO
  • Off-Page SEO

What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing or most commonly known as SEM is of the paid search marketing practices that are adopted by most of the PPC services for its easy yield as well as reaching the target audience. A budget constraint is present here which you need to decide while placing the ads. It is also known as PPC marketing or Pay-Per-Click marketing strategy. PPC marketing is where you as a business earn whenever a viewer clicks on your strategically placed ads on the internet which therefore also drives them to your website too.

There are different forms of SEM campaigns that can be located on the network. Some of them are-

  • Search Advertisements or Text Advertisements
  • Shopping Advertisements
  • Email Advertisements
  • Display Advertisements
  • Google Advertisements
  • Social Media Advertisements
  • Youtube Advertisements

Some of the similarities between SEO and SEM could be stated as follows-

1. Brand Appearance
Both SEO and SEM have the power to increase the visibility of your brand and business globally and help you excel the ranks in the Google SERPs. The strategy of this digital marketing technique is to target the audience and attach your brand and business with the search results and thus optimizing its visibility. This tactic is applicable in every industry type, sector, or enterprise no matter the size or scalability. SEO uses the most organic way and SEM is paid using PPC marketing tools and techniques. But both have the availability to bring out the best while any viewer searches for any specific things.

2. Traffic Engagement
SEO and SEM’s main aim is to drive traffic to your enterprise website and increase its engagement faster and in an efficient manner. The best way to drive traffic to your brand and business website is by strategically positioning your keywords and penetrating the search engine results. Each tactic employed increases the CTR or the Click- Through- Rates and thus makes your website rank higher in the search results. It also helps optimize the search results while attaching them to related search results using targeted techniques.

3. Know Your Audience
Both SEO and SEM target your desired audience that you need to increase the engagement of your brand and business online. In this digital marketing strategy, the knowledge of the audience is very crucial both geographically and demographically. Even specific interests and hobbies segregate the audience while penetrating the market online. Always keep thorough research and survey and then apply SEO and SEM strategies to your digital marketing. There are always viewers or potential customers’ online persona and what they usually search and look for online, you can position your products and services accordingly. This also creates a value for your brand and business online that you know your audience and customers and also this saves a lot of time and energy in the future.

4. Detailed Keyword Research and its Relevance
Using both SEO and SEM, you need to conduct thorough research before using keywords in your digital marketing strategy. You need to search and survey the most popular and frequently used keywords related to your website content and then put them to use. Most of the brands use the same target keywords, you also need to frame the top keywords and therefore compete for them or you can also easily buy those keywords. Most of the companies use the organic method and research the target keywords and some of the enterprises buy those keywords to increase their search results in the Google SERPs.

5. Continuous Testing and Optimization
Both the digital marketing strategies, that is SEO and SEM are not set in stone. You need to conduct proper research and keep testing your techniques over time at a particular interval. For proper lead generation, you need to check in detail and monitor, optimize your inputs and thus increase your website performance. This continuous check will help you to understand the need of being updated and be at par with the current trend so that your website ranks higher in the Google SERPs.

Some of the differences between SEO and SEM that could be pointed out are as follows-

1. Cost Incurred
In SEO, as it is an organic form of digital marketing, you do not need to pay the company or Google whenever a user clicks on your website or its extension. This way you do not need to incur any additional cost while using this digital marketing technique though you need to spend on digital marketing as a whole. But using SEO best practices will show the desired results over time. This also means you need to create any specific budget for this same purpose.

Whereas, in SEM, you need to pay Google or the company each time a viewer or a user clicks on the advertisement or its ad extension. Therefore, a budget needs to be created before you start spending on this particular digital marketing tool. The cost incurred varies each time and therefore has no fixed limit here.

2. Marketing Strategy
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a non-paid digital marketing tool that is used by most businesses and brands online. Therefore it is the most organic way of inserting your brand and business online and availing its presence over time using the best SEO practices always.

Whereas, SEM is a paid version of the digital marketing tool that is also employed by some of the enterprises online. Therefore, it is a penetrated way of marketing your brand and business online by carefully positioning your online presence with paid placements on the internet to drive traffic. They have call-to-actions, site links, and even site maps.

3. Visibility
SEO tools and techniques have a wider scope of targeting the audience. This type of digital marketing strategy targets a wider range of audiences and has a larger database to showcase your products and services. The visibility of your brand and business online may sometimes skip the desired audience due to its broader visibility range of the products and services. Lead generation takes time. You cannot specify your target audience here just imply the best SEO practices and hope for natural feedback.

Whereas, in SEM, there are no absolute chances of skipping out on your targeted audience. This digital marketing strategy has a narrow search and a small database thus creating immediate lead generation by clicking on the site links or call-to-action links. But here, you can specify your target audience geographically and demographically to narrow down the related search results. This drives huge immediate traffic to your website.

4. Search Results
SEO appears organically in the search results and does not have any designations in the related search. They only appear and are only featured as snippets. This opens a wider spectrum for you to market your brand and business wherever you deem right. There are no financial constraints where you can place your website and related ads of your products and services offered. Though it is a very organic way, sometimes it scoops out a larger audience for lead generation than what you need for your enterprise.

SEM appears in the search results in the forms of ‘advertisements and therefore have the advertisement extensions when clicked on it. from which you can earn money through the Pay-Per-Click system of digital marketing. There is always a financial constraint on where you can position your brand and business. This can be done in the form of paid advertisements and therefore limits your online business horizon. This narrows down the list of lead generation and proves to be efficient and effective in the short run.

5. Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
SEO has the higher CTRs or Click-Through-Rates because most of the time the top search results are organic which means it has the best SEO practices and is therefore determined by the users. Therefore, most of the time entrepreneurs choose this digital marketing tool for their online business.

Whereas, in SEM, though it is a paid form of digital marketing tool, it has a lower CTR than SEO because most of the viewers omit the advertisements and look for organic search results related to their content. Though it is a paid form of placing the ads, search engines show only the organic search results for their users and audiences.


Both SEO and SEM have a unique set of features that overlap each other and yet have some distinguishable differences. Where one aspect as stated before is better than the other based totally upon your choice of digital marketing strategy. Also, it is dependent on your online business and brand and how you want to be present over the network.