What’s the difference between SEM and SEO?

As a business owner, you want to implement the best online marketing solutions to raise brand awareness. If you've had your ear to the ground in the past five years, you've likely heard of search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO). While at first glance these practices may seem interchangeable, they're entirely different, and it's important to know when to use one versus the other.

SEM
SEM refers to the text advertisements that appear on search engine results pages (SERPs). These promotional pieces are often links you can purchase from services like Google AdWords or Bing Adcenter. SEM heavily relies on pay per click (PPC), meaning each time a prospect clicks an ad, the company pays for the impression. Additionally, this marketing strategy includes any banner advertising or ad placement that occurs on related sites.

SEO
SEO, on the other hand, refers to improving organic traffic through unique practices likes content marketing and link building. This effort is the more affordable option, as most of what SEO requires can be done for free by the company itself. With recent updates changing how SEO is conducted, many professionals have come to realize organic search rankings are influenced by the quality of the content published on their websites.

Sheila Kloefkorn (1031 Posts)

With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.