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SEM vs. SEO: What’s The Difference?

SEM vs. SEO: What’s The Difference?

The most common mistakes when developing a digital marketing strategy happens when it comes to the similar and related, but different concepts of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). These items are also referred to as organic (SEO) and inorganic (SEM) search, both are focused on using Google (and to a lesser extent other search engines) to drive traffic to a specific website. SEO is the process of improving your website to generate traffic, while SEM is using paid methods to show up in searches. 

Now, let’s throw in PPC (Pay-Per-Click) in addition to SEO and SEM. PPC is another term for SEM or part of SEM. Pay-per-click and search engine marketing means paid digital marketing advertisements on search platforms. Pay-per-click can also be referred to CPC (cost-per-click), paid search, or search ads. This is used in paid search marketing, typically through search engines like Google and Bing. Marketers optimize content and websites for search engines (and humans), so they can better understand, access, and direct searchers to your website. PPC marketing and SEM overlap because:

  • Both are paid initiatives.
  • Both need a budget.
  • Both make search engines like Google and other advertising platforms a lot of money.

SEO is not a component of SEM. PPC is typically the largest and most demanding component of SEM. Both PPC and SEM are paid initiatives that offer real-time data, ROI, and protected data that can only be accessed by advertisers on certain platforms. SEM includes PPC ads on not only search engines but also on third-party platforms like Amazon and YouTube, as well as industry-focused platforms like Houzz, Thumbtack, or Yelp. It also includes display ads and remarketing efforts.

Should you use SEO or SEM? Ideally, you would want to utilize both, but if you only have the compacity to use one here are some questions to help guide a decision:

  • What are your goals?
    • SEM: drive web traffic quickly, promote a sale, more website exposer.
    • SEO: long-term growth, future results, and compounding value.
  • What is your budget? 
  • How is your site currently performing? 
  • How much visitor data do you have or need?
  • How is you online reputation? 

We provide both SEO and SEM service! Call 248.528.360. to get started. 

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