Difference Between SEO and SEM and How They Work Great Together

If you are marketing your business online, you surely have encountered the terms SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Some businesses might want to go just for one of these, but that would beat the purpose of building your brand for the long term. SEO and SEM essentially work hand in hand as a “pull” and “push” strategy for internet marketing, and below, we discuss their differences and how they blend together to strengthen your name in the digital landscape.




SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting free, organically-obtained traffic to your website. You achieve this by optimizing your website according to the best practices in the industry which include using SEO keywords on your written content, creating and publishing excellent content regularly, building links to improve popularity, leveraging on social media to reach a more targeted audience and get more chances of being shared, and improving your site’s interface and navigation for an excellent user experience. This is what we call the “pull” strategy which means that you are drawing the customers in because of your excellent layout, content, and offerings.


A website that is optimized has a greater chance of being understood by “crawlers” of search engines, having a greater probability to rank higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This is essential to any business because let’s face it, not everyone wants to go through a myriad of results when finding something. A study from online ad network, Chitika, has shown that a whopping 91.5% of Google’s traffic focus only on Page 1 results. The second page gets only 4.8% of Google’s total traffic and that definitely means one thing—you have to get on top of the first page to get noticed by your customers. However, that is not the be-all and end-all of the process. SEO success takes a lot of time, and it’s always better to go slowly and surely. Before making any great content, you have to know how to market yourself out in the open. This is where the aid of SEM comes in…



Search Engine Marketing, on the other hand, is a “push” strategy because the process involves buying advertising space on search engines to appear in front of searchers, instead of earning a high ranking and getting free traffic through SEO. SEO is considered a subcategory of SEM because it has something to do with search engine functions, however, the paid categories are the paid listings or pay-per-click ads (PPC), sponsored links, search retargeting, and social media marketing. Businesses can utilise the ad space on search engines by bidding for particular keywords that is related to their product or service, and when a user types these keywords into the search field, the paid ads will have a chance to be shown. The PPC strategy makes the ad more targeted and cost-effective, only charging the client when a user clicks on the ad itself. In totality, SEM helps to improve a site’s ranking in search results, but is not ideal for long-term since it is rather costly.



The Integration of SEO and SEM

SEO and SEM are not competing services, instead, they are complementary. One couldn’t work well without the other. Sure, your paid ads can drive traffic, but not as much as when you do search optimization. Ideally, you start with an SEM campaign, to introduce your name to your audience and to lure in potential customers to your website. You can also use SEM during peak times when people search for something that you are offering, for that extra push ahead of the competition. The role of SEO is to keep those customers with you by having valuable content which they would have a wonderful experience in, and encourage even more people to visit your website.


Relying on SEM alone to be on top of search results could be a costly endeavour, and is short-lived. For you to have a sustainable form of being visible in search engine results, you must do your SEO wholeheartedly. Consumers definitely trust organic results more than paid ads, so it’s always best to stay on top of your game with clean practices, and of course, living up to your name. Consider SEM as the boost when your business needs it most. Imagine having your business name on top of search engine results organically, as well as a paid ad on top or on the side—your customers wouldn’t go anywhere else. These two, when done right, will cement your brand in the industry for the long haul.