Skip to content
mobile-alt icon

+1 315 415 1436

envelope-open icon

map icon

New York, NY | Syracuse, NY | Tampa, FL

Trading Up Media Blog

What’s the Difference between SEM and SEO

If this is your first time being exposed to the advertising side of a business, it can be a tad bit confusing when you encounter different terminologies and acronyms like SEM and SEO, especially when there are 100+ other commonly used terms. The best way to understand SEM and SEO is by dissecting each one separately.

Search Engine Marketing, also known as SEM, is the practice of marketing a business while using paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages, SERPs. The core of SEM is utilizing keywords. Keywords allow a business to be specific with its targeting to get the results the business want. Advertisers will bid on keywords that users of search engines will enter when looking for a certain product or service. This gives the advertiser the opportunity for their ads to appear alongside results for any of those search queries. These ads, often known as pay-per-click ads, come in many different formats. Some can be small, text-based ads, whereas others may be visual product listing ads. 

Why are they so effective? It allows a business the opportunity to put its ads in front of already interested customers who are ready to buy something at that exact moment. No other advertising outlet can do this. Additionally, it is great for brand recognition, it allows the business to be at the top of the list every time someone searches. You can bring in targeted traffic to your website and it is fairly easy to understand the ROI with this. 

On the other hand, what is Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO? SEO is the science behind having visitors to your website. It refers to the process of improving the ranking on your website based on different search engines (Google, BING, Yahoo, etc.). According to Fits Small Business, there are over 8.5 billion Google searches per day. This attests to why SEO is such an important key in digital marketing.

Search engines will assess a number of factors on a website (such as keywords, tags, and link titles) and rank it for its capacity to attract organic traffic based on those factors. The process involves four main steps:

  • Keyword Research - Finds what people are searching for

  • On-page SEO - Creates content specifically for searchers

  • Off-page SEO - Builds trust and authority from other websites

  • Technical SEO - Ensures that search engines can find the website 

When are you building out your website, it is important to keep in mind that your website has quality content, a good user experience, and link patterns. This is a slow process however over time it can be very rewarding for a business.

With all this in mind, SEO can be seen as a bracket for SEM. Google is a great demonstration of these two. Search engine results on Google are usually classified as followed: sponsored search results and organic search results. SEO is the groundwork for SEM when they are both utilized effectively together. In fact, SEO is often used as an umbrella term for SEM. SEM is seen as a short-term strategy when it comes to generating traffic, it is best to pair these two together to increase visibility.

But what’s the difference between the two? When talking about SEO and SEM, in reality, you are just talking about different approaches to advertising. SEM is solely focused on getting traffic through paid advertising, and SEO is focused on acquiring, monitoring, and analyzing organic traffic. It is important for any business to use both of these tactics to their full potential. They go hand in hand and ultimately can get a business the results they want.

Caylee Wilson

Caylee Wilson / About Author

Caylee is a lover of all things Marvel, horror, and her cat Kody. She is currently finishing up her Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications from Florida State University.

Leave a Reply