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What Is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

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If you’ve been researching how to drive more traffic to your website and have looked into SEO software for agency, you’ve probably come across a lot of information on SEO (search engine optimization). That said, there is another effective way to drive traffic to your website: SEM (search engine marketing). Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at SEO vs SEM to help you determine whether you should focus on one or the other or take a two-pronged traffic driving approach.

SEO vs SEM: What’s the Difference?

Search engine optimization is a marketing technique designed to drive traffic to a website only through organic search results. On the other hand, search engine marketing incorporates organic web traffic and traffic through paid searches, referred to as PPC or pay-per-click.

What SEO Involves

Google’s algorithm takes into account more than 200 ranking signals. However, each ranking signal falls neatly into one of four sub-categories:

  • User interaction signals
  • On-page search engine optimization
  • Off-page search engine optimization
  • Technical search engine optimization

User interaction signals that boost your web page ranking include a low bounce rate, a high click-through rate, and a long time spent on the site. On-page SEO entails choosing long-tail keywords that you want to rank for, and successful off-page SEO requires earning high-quality backlinks. Finally, technical search engine optimization requires providing an excellent user experience and indexing your site so it can be read by search engines easily both options.

What SEM Involves

As stated above, SEM involves combining SEO and paid advertising. Pay-per-click advertising is extremely similar irrespective of the search engine that you plan to use. First, you have to decide on a keyword that you think potential customers will search for. Then, you have to bid on that keyword. Finally, your ad will appear on your search engine of choice’s front page when the keyword you bid on or a similar search query is searched for.

If you place the winning bid on a keyword, your ad will be the first to show. If another company outbids you, their ad will show above yours in the search results. Note, you will only be charged the amount you bid when someone clicks on your ad.

Quality Score

Quality Score is one of the most important Google Ads metrics. Put simply, the higher the Quality Score is, the more relevant your advertisement is to a searcher. Consider, for example, that you are advertising the “best triathlon shorts.” Someone searching for information on what to wear to their first triathlon would likely click on your ad, and the Quality Score would be high.

On the other hand, your ad would get a low Quality Score if someone was searching for what to wear to their first mountain biking race. Note, if your quality score is high enough, you will receive a discount for the click on your ad.

Compelling Copy

Compelling ad copy is also a very important part of search engine marketing. The more compelling your copy is, the better clickthrough rate (CTR) you will have. Your CTR is calculated by dividing the number of times your ad was shown by the number of times it was clicked on.

For example, if your ad was shown to 1,000 people and 500 people clicked on it, you would have a CTR of 0.5 or 50%. Note, a high CTR results in a high Quality Score. Therefore, if your ad copy is so compelling that many people click on it, you will get a discount on each click. Also, compelling ad copy, especially when combined with a well-designed landing page, increases the likelihood that ad viewers will purchase your service or product.

Which Traffic-Driving Technique Is Right for Me?

Both PPC advertising and SEO have their advantages. In some cases, it is best to invest in both paid and organic traffic. However, not all businesses can afford to pay for visits to their website and invest in SEO best practices. Here is a closer look at who should invest in paid traffic and who should invest in organic traffic.

Should You Focus on SEO?

Do You Have a Limited Advertising Budget?

If your business has a limited advertising budget, you should focus on SEO. You should understand that SEO is not free website traffic. There is quite a bit of work required to get to the front page of a search engine. However, once you’re there, there is a solid chance that you will stay there. You just have to remember to check your SERP ranking occasionally.

Every so often, search engines change their algorithms, so small tweaks to your site may be necessary to keep you on the first page for a given keyword. Note, you may benefit from using a web developer to help you improve your SERP ranking. People are often shocked when they learn how important website source coding is to algorithms determining search engine results page rankings.

Can You Rank for Informational Keywords?

If you feel confident that you can get onto the first page of search engines for informational keywords, search engine optimization is right for your business. You should be aware that long-tail keywords don’t always lead to the best conversion rates. However, they are extremely beneficial because the search volume for long-term keywords is enormous.

If you write articles that are optimized for ranking for a long-tail keyword, your site will get a lot of traffic. If you make it to the first page of Google for many long-tail keywords, visitors to your site will recognize your brand and think of you when they have a problem that your product or service can solve.

Do You Have Time On Your Side?

If you have time on your side, you should definitely invest it into search engine optimization. If your goal is to advertise a product that will launch in just a few months, your best option would be to invest in PPC advertising. However, if you want to set your business up for long-term success, you need to start working towards ranking on the first page of Google for keywords that are relevant to your business.

However, you need to keep in mind that ranking on the first page of Google in just a few months isn’t impossible. It usually takes between six and 12 months to rank on Google’s first page. Sometimes, it can take a couple of years. How long it will take your business to climb to Google’s first 10 suggested pages depends on several factors, including the quality of the marketing team optimizing your web pages for search engines.

Are You Good at Link Building?

Remember, off-page SEO (link building) is one of the four most important factors determining where a page ranks on Google.

Should You Focus on SEM?

Can You Manage an Adwords Account?

If you feel confident that someone on your team can manage an Adwords account, you can benefit from investing in search engine marketing. It is worth mentioning, however, that this is a general rule. If you’re lacking the bandwidth to do any more marketing than you already are, you can still benefit from SEM by hiring a team of digital marketing experts to manage an Adwords account for your business.

PPC advertising sounds simple on the surface. You decide how much you’re willing to pay per click for a given keyword and watch the traffic come in. However, it doesn’t matter where your ad is placed if nobody is searching for the keyword. The keywords need to be researched based on your targeted search engine’s search term volume metrics. Also, ads need to be written and key performance indicators need to be assessed.

Can You Launch and Test Landing Pages?

Another sign that SEM could benefit your business is the ability to launch and test landing pages. Again, if nobody on your team has the bandwidth or expertise to get this done, SEM may still be right for you if you hire a team of experts to do it on your behalf. Launching landing pages is a crucial part of PPC advertising because, at the very least, each ad group requires a targeted landing page. Ideally, each ad should have a unique landing page.

Having potential customers visit your web page is great. However, the bottom line is that your landing page needs to be compelling enough to move them through the sales funnel. You need to convert visitors to your site to paying customers. To maximize your chance of being successful, you need to create as many high-quality unique web pages as possible and run A/B tests to determine which ads perform the best.

When it comes to SEO vs SEM, the former is appropriate for businesses with plenty of time on their side, a limited advertising budget, and the ability to rank for informational keywords. The latter is appropriate for businesses that have a very healthy advertising budget. SEM involves driving paid and organic traffic, making SEO (organic traffic) a component of SEM. If you’re ready to maximize your return on investment, contact Anthem Software now for a free consult.

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