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SEO vs SEM- Things you need to know!

You might be sometime perplexed with the terms SEO and SEM. Are both term same or is there any difference between them?

It’s easy to get confused among the concepts, even many of the professionals working in search marketing domain know roughly what these terms mean, but how many of them can articulate how these two diverge?

The two terms are frequently used interchangeably in online marketing, which makes this confusion even worse. But, it is important to know the difference between the two terms, especially for professionals working in the digital marketing domain.

This article will help you to know the details comparison between SEO and SEM on various fundamental factors such as: –

Return on Investment (ROI)

SEO: The process of SEO might be slow, but it gives long-term and efficient result when it concerns ROI. If you successfully rank on the first page of search engine and maintain that position, then you will experience more steady revenue generation and stability within search engines.

SEM: In case of SEM, you can get the more immediate result and better return on investment. And if you work effectively with AdWords with your result oriented campaigns, then you can be surely able to generate conversion with minimum spend. Beyond that, the frequent algorithm updates, insufficiency of data, need for original content and high competition has made the process of SEO more complicated and expensive.


SEO: If your website is optimized effectively for search engines and hold a good ranking over SERP (search engine ranking pages), then it will drive traffic to your site. However, when it comes to conversion rate, it is usually higher for SEM. Though you might have optimized your website effectively for Google, it’s lastly the Google who will decide the ranking process depending on the relevancy factor.

SEM: SEM allows you to directly target a range of commercial keywords and create ads with convincing call-to-action. Although, channels like social media, email marketing, reviews and phone marketing result in immediate traffic conversion, which leads to the better conversion rate for online ads. Along with that, AdWords let you do split testing by setting multiple landing pages for same keywords, which will help you to know which one has a better result. Also, the process of remarketing in SEM helps you to target those who are more likely to convert.

Effects (Short term and Long Term)

SEO: No doubt, SEM will win the race in regards to the short-term result as it gives you instant result. SEM is an effective marketing strategy if you are beginning from scratch but if your website is well establishing and your target is uncompetitive untapped keywords, then SEO will lead better result for you. Although, when marketed effectively, quality content created for SEO can exceptionally provide traffic and lead generation for your business even in the shorter span of time. SEO stand ahead when talking about the long-term result, as it allows for the organic search result. You need to update your website with Google algorithm and experience the higher ranking on SERPs.

SEM: As already discussed, SEM proves excellent for short-term results. All you need to do is switch on the campaigns, and you’ll get instant result, while for SEO campaign, it is a bit time-consuming in planning and execution. SEM give more flexibility in targeting your audience. But for the long-term scenario, it would not be recommended to get a result with same ads & over same keywords as the user doesn’t want to watch the same ad again and it loses its attention and attraction. It needs to create ads more frequently in SEM as ads are a way of creating awareness but not enough for trust development.

Brand Building

SEO: Though the process of SEO takes time but provide more coverage as compared to SEM. Indeed, with an effective SEO practice, you can easily dominate the entire first page of search engine, while ads only give you a single listing per search. SEO not only create your brand awareness among people but also advertise your brand and builds its reputation. SEO provides you the knowledge graph information which SEM doesn’t.

SEM: While it comes to building a brand, SEM does not lag behind too. With the useful display and banner advertising, you can quickly make your brand image. Also, remarketing on Google Display Network and search partners are such amazing platforms to create awareness for any brand. Besides that, with demographic settings, you can effectively target your audiences.

High competition

SEO: You can surely compete in this competitive online marketing era with active SEO practice by being relevant and noticeable. There are few things you need to consider to drive better result through SEO such as your site should be technically efficient with search engine alignment, quality web content, engaging & sharable blogs on your site, it will give you dominance over your competitors. Creating backlinks to your site with license sites, will add to it and so on. Also, going SoLoMo (i.e., going social, local, mobile) will prove to be a useful trick.

SEM: SEM requires good quality scores for productive and successful competition among your competitors. For that you need to create specific landing pages for your top converting keywords, require to follow remarketing practice and analysis various campaigns to figure out which gets better click-through rate.


SEO: The result generated through SEO is always organic, so one thing you need to consider is that it is free, but it is not free at all. You need to evaluate where you need to spend more money, either in making a responsive web design, social media or in link creation or any other area of marketing. Since there is a famous quote that says ‘Content is King’ in SEO, so wherever you spend your expenses for SEO, the content needs to be a prime priority. For effective result. Also, even a good SEO can’t rank you on top in just one day, it takes time, but the result will be long term.

SEM: In SEM, the money will be spending straight for the campaigns, though you need to decide on which area you’ll be focusing more such as on product listing ads or else, whether you would be bidding more for mobile devices or laptop and so on.

The Future

SEO: With the advance evolution in technology & frequently changing Google Algorithms, it is not possible in online marketing space to just set the things once and drive the result. The SEO practice needs to be done regularly to stay at the top. But it is also true that SEO never goes out of fashion.  With technology advancement, the practices of SEO may changes, as of now it’s the time for Social, Local and Mobile marketing trend to get ahead in the digital arena.

SEM: Since from early days to now, advertisement (ads) always grab user attention either it be a traditional way (Television, radio ads) or in a digital form (Google ads, YouTube ads and so on). So, online ads will be staying forever in trend. You need to know how to manage cross-device campaigns & upgrade bid adjustments. Also, implement AdWords in your strategy, it not only saves your time but also keeps you ahead of your competitors.

I hope, this article has helped you to figure out the difference between SEO and SEM. Though there are a lot of difference as well as similarities among both the term, but both, have their importance for online marketing for your business. You cannot rely on anyone, as both are important at present and will be in future as well.

You can learn the concepts of SEO and SEM, to either grow your business or boost your career in the digital marketing domain. There is a bright scope of the job in SEO/SEM industry for skilled professionals. Companies are looking out for experts in the field and are paying high salaries to such professionals (even fresher’s).

Looking out for SEO or SEM training, have a look at Skillzlearn certification courses.

Join our classroom training at our centers in Delhi, Gurgaon, and Bangalore or either enroll in our online Live classes from the comfort of your home. Learn from IIT- experts and become a professional Digital Marketer.

For any inquiry regarding our certified courses, please visit www.skillzlearn,com or call us now on 8800226570.







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