What Are The Main Difference Between SEO And SEM in Digital Marketing?

Difference Between SEO And SEM

What Is The Difference Between SEO And SEM


The main difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO is an approach to generate organic search results whereas SEM is a paid strategy. SEO focus on the organic traffic and leads to your website.  On the other  hand SEM focus more on paid methods for traffic generation.

seo vs sem

Keep reading to find out more about the differences between SEO and SEM, and also find out which strategy is best for your website to implement,

What is SEO specifically?

SEO Search Engine Optimization, which deals with the optimization of a website, to be found through search engines like Google, Bing, etc.

What Are The Main Difference Between SEO And SEM in Digital Marketing?

Using particular techniques, we go to work on the positioning of each page (erroneously called indexing).

With the term indexing, we simply indicate the addition of the site in the archives of a search engine.

All this is done to position the site in the first search results, according to certain keys, to increase the percentage of conversions displayed invaluable potential customers.

Having a good copyrighter who creates the right content makes a difference.

How to use Yoast on WordPress or All in One SEO Pack can help a newbie, but it doesn’t work miracles nor a strategy.

What is SEM specifically?

SEM, literally Search engine marketing, includes all the techniques that aim to bring a page to have a good ranking.

seo and sem

What is the purpose? having the right audience targeting, that is, being found only by the right people, at the right time, so that they can become future customers. how? with keys studied!

The main ways to do this, through the web, are 3:

  • Through social media
  • Through email marketing
  • Through good SEO

The latter is formed by

  1. Organic results
  2. Paid results

The first is done through SEO, the second for example with Google Adwords or SEA.

SEO and SEM: what they are and what is the difference

The acronym SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and SEM for Search Engine Marketing. Yes, only one-word changes but it is the one that can make a substantial difference.

sem and seo

For this reason, it is good to specify that it is not possible to use one of the two terms independently because they are not interchangeable.

Therefore, we define SEO as those strategies whose purpose is to improve positioning on search engines. These are often practices designed to climb the SERP and to achieve the coveted goal: to be first on Google.

A series of practices that, therefore, give greater visibility to the brand and the site and that generate organic traffic on search engines.

When we talk about SEM, on the other hand, we take into consideration different strategies that fall within the SEO field but not only. These activities also include the management of paid link campaigns ( SEA ) and pay per click campaigns, creation of landing pagesmonitoring of search results, and so on.

In light of the above, it is possible to identify the big difference between SEO and SEM. The first is part of a much broader category which is that of SEM.

Another substantial difference lies in the type of results. We can say that for the SEM strategy it is necessary to wait less time to obtain results, while with SEO the speech is different.

Because? Very simple: SEO works organically, while SEM takes advantage of paid mechanisms and campaigns which, therefore, lead to results in the short term. With SEO, however, the optimization work is constant and progress and results are seen little by little. In this case, you do not pay for campaigns, but you need to create valuable content that can position the site for what are the search intent of your interest.

The areas of SEO expertise

When it comes to SEO, it is necessary to make a difference between on-page and off-page SEO, including link building. We are therefore talking about techniques to be used within the site to be optimized and indexed and techniques which, on the other hand, are to be used outside the site.

The on-page SEO therefore directly concerns the contents of the site and their optimization. Various techniques are used that involve the insertion of keywords in the text, in the title tag, in the meta description, in the URL, the improvement of the site speed, and so on.

When it comes to off-page activities, on the other hand, everything that leads to natural backlinks and sharing on social networks is taken into consideration.

The areas of SEM expertise

The SEM, on the other hand, aims at different objectives as mentioned previously. Also, paid campaigns are used in this case.

Therefore, online branding actions fall within this area but not only. Search engines are studied and their possibilities are highlighted, the perception of the brand is monitored through the results of search engines, lead generation campaigns are created to create a network of contacts, and so on.

SEO AND SEM: Which one to choose?

The question that everyone asks is whether it is preferable to opt for SEO or SEM. It depends. Like everything related to online marketing, the answer cannot be straightforward.

Doing SEM means developing strategies and targeted actions, to position your site at the top of the list of search engine results. These marketing techniques can be organic placement (Seo) or paid placement (AdWords ads).

Here the first difference between Seo and Sem stands out Sem is a macro-category that also includes Seo, in addition to other less known techniques.

So what changes for those who want to promote their business on search engines? If you use paid ads (Search Engine Advertising), the site will be visible for a defined period and labeled with the words “Ad”. To have this positioning, a fee must be paid to the search engine, which changes based on many factors.

So is SEO also paid? Yes and no!

So implementing SEO means actually putting out work for doing On-page optimization, building backlinks etc to gain organic traffic that will last for very long time. But SEM on the other hand may give you instant traffic for the price you pay but it will not insure you high traffic in future.

So it is up to you to consider the option while choosing the best favourable situation for you. If you are running a campaign on some current matter them SEM will be best but if you are a blogger writting regular content then SEM may not be the best option.

But you can always be a wise person and use both SEO and SEM side by side and get the best result possible.


We have seen that to have your site at the top of the list of results, you just have to pay the search engine. But what are the cons then?

The site positioned by paying will be present at the top of the list only for a set period, moreover, the site owner will have to pay the search engine every time someone clicks on the ad.

Here comes SEO!

Read Also: Best SEO Techniques For WordPress In 2020

Search Engine Optimization is the set of techniques that allow a site to scale the lists of results without having to pay the search engines for the ads. So is SEO free? If we remove the costs for a well-integrated communication agency that takes care of its strategy, we can say yes!

Ours is a complete Seo and Sem marketing consultancy: we will decide together if it is necessary to resort to paid ads or if it is better to dedicate yourself to implementing Seo optimization in the best way.


Seo is made up of many things, many factors influence the positioning of a site on search engines. Here are just some of the most important elements:

  • the domain name of the site
  • domain age
  • site content
  • the link between SEO and Social Media
  • keywords

Frequently Asked Questions

What is SEM and SEO?

SEM(Search Engine marketing), includes all the techniques that aim to bring a page to have a good ranking including both paid and organic methods to generate traffic.
SEO(Search Engine Optimization) is the set of techniques that allow a site to scale the lists of results without having to pay the search engines for the ads.

How is SEO different from SEM?

The main difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO is an organic traffic whereas SEM is an paid strategy. SEO focus on the betterment of the website structure and good content that generates more organic traffic to the site. Whereas SEM means getting traffic using PPC ads.

Is SEO Part of SEM?

Yes, SEM actually has two components: SEO(Search Engine Optimization) and PPC(Pay Per Click). Although SEO is a part of SEM, people consider SEM as Paid strategy that uses PPC ads to get traffic.

Which is better: SEO or SEM?

Considering that the SEO is an organic approach and is more authentic in the eyes of google algorithm. SEO is much better that SEM.

Final Words

If you are passionate about this discourse, I recommend the book “Advanced Seo and Sem guide” by Marco Maltravers.

As in all things, you could get by with a lot of studies, a lot of practice and see the first results within a few… years!

If, on the other hand, you want to contact an integrated communication agency to receive advice on search engine marketing, all you have to do is contact us. at thememiles@gmail.com

We are waiting for you, to open the doors to the wonderful world of Sem and Seo!

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