What Is The Difference Between SEO And SEM

Digital Marketing
Difference between SEO And SEM

What Is The Difference Between SEO And SEM

Introduction to SEO and SEM

With the increase in the number of businesses that are investing in digital marketing, the two most heard terms are SEO and SEM.

But what are they? Aren’t they the same thing? Do I have to use them? 

There is a lot of uncertainty with these two terms. In this article, we have discussed both of them to help you understand what is SEO and SEM and Which one do you need for your business. 

What is SEO and SEM?

Both of these are acronyms. Though they are similar in nature there is a basic difference to their approach.

What is a Search Engine?


You have obviously heard about Google and it holds almost 92% of the search engine market. Another famous search engine is Bing. Other than these, every platform has its own dedicated search engine like YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc. 

You can promote your content through these search engines. With optimized content, you can rank in them. You can even reach the first page of the search results. I mean nobody really goes beyond the first page, honestly.

What Do The Terms SEO and SEM Stand For?


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which brings organic traffic.

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing where you pay for traffic. 

Whenever you search on any search engine, you can see paid ads at the top before the organic searches. The paid ads are part of SEM. It also embodies Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing. What this means is you need to pay the search engine whenever someone clicks on the ad. They usually have high conversion rates and attract traffic almost immediately. 

The rest of the search results are SEO. The content uses related keywords along with an SEO title. The use of SEO tools usually takes a much longer time to show results. It usually takes 2-3 years for content to appear on the first page. 

What Is The Difference Between SEO and SEM?


Even though both of these are marketing strategies used for ranking, there are major differences between the two. Let’s take a look at the most important instances. 

Organic and Paid. 


SEO is the way to bring in organic traffic. The way to do that is to add keywords into content and sprinkle long-tail keywords along with the entire content so that your content consistently shows up for those keywords. Whereas SEM is the paid ads characterised by PPCs. But even with SEM, the ad content has to be filled with high ranking keywords. The only benefit is the keywords are replaced for any relatable keywords and will appear for any such search. This is not the case for SEO. 



SEM obviously has higher visibility as it will target your audience and will appear in searches for any relatable keywords. SEO requires a much longer time to make the content visible, as it requires a lot of backlinking and a strong domain authority. But, if it ranks once, it stays there forever. So, the hard work does pay off in the end. 

Long Term Value. 

This is where SEO wins. SEM stops bringing any traffic as soon as you stop paying for the ads. It drops to zero. But if you can organically rank your content high with SEO, you retain your traffic and it usually stays at the top of the search results.
Difference between SEO and SEM

Bounce Rate


This is something which is very rarely mentioned. But your content needs to be bang-on, top-notch quality. This applies to both your website or any kind of content you want to rank and ad content. If any search engine notices that audiences usually bounce off your page in a very short time- it means that your content is not providing value or did not serve the need. So, the search engine will lower your content among search results or even take you off the first page. 

Similarly, if your ad content is not attracting many clicks it will become more expensive over time. 

Click-Through Rate (CTR). 


This means how many people on seeing the search result clicked through. Statistics have shown that with SEM across any sector the CTR is 3.4%. That is only 3 out of 100 people clicked through the ads, which is very low. 

But with SEO, if your content is the first search result it usually has a CTR of 36%. Even if your content is the last among the first-page search results it still has the same CTR as paid ads. 



There is no upfront cost for SEO. It is literally a free marketing tool. But SEM, on the other hand, is obviously paid. 

So, The Question Is Which One Should You Choose For Your Business?


Most successful businesses use a marketing strategy that includes both SEO and SEM. This ensures continuous traffic. 

Go through the following questionnaire to see which is your way to go.

1) Do you have money to invest in advertising?

If yes, You should do both. 

If not, then SEO should be your primary strategy for now. 

2) Do you need results ASAP?

If yes, then you should do both. 

If not, then also you should try both. (Try the next question to filter)

3) Do you have high domain authority?

What this means is it brings in enough traffic from other sources like social media or external links. 

If yes, then you should do both. SEO will obviously help but SEM is not going to hurt. 

If not, still then you should do both. Since SEM will start bringing in the traffic while you keep working with SEO and backlinking. 

4) Is your product on a long or short buying cycle?

If it is short, SEM will be more profitable for you. 

If it is long, SEM is going to prove more expensive. A good SEO strategy will be more fruitful. 

Still, confused?


If you are still confused and have further queries, don’t be shy to reach us at info@digitalipsum.in

If you are looking for a full-fledged digital marketing strategy in place for your business check us out at Digital Ipsum Pvt. Ltd . We are here to help you with all your SEO and SEM worries.