SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference?

Learn what SEO and SEM are and how they can work together to create a successful digital marketing strategy.

Graphic that says SEO vs. SEM What's the Difference?

When you’re looking to make your website rank higher in searches, you’ll inevitably encounter some technical lingo that may leave you scratching your head. Two of the most common are SEO, or “search engine optimization,” and SEM, or “search engine marketing”. So, SEO vs. SEM – what’s the difference? And more importantly, which one should you focus on to help your business thrive?

What is SEO and How Does it Work?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This refers to optimizing the information on a website so it ranks higher on search engines, including Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

A strong SEO strategy can lead to an increase in organic traffic and involves identifying the keywords or keyword phrases your target market uses to find your service online. For example, a dentist’s office in Raleigh may want to be found for “Raleigh Dentist,” but also for specific services they offer, such as “Raleigh Sedation Dentistry,” “Raleigh Teeth Whitening,” and “Raleigh Oral Surgery.”

By optimizing your website to rank on search engines for these keywords, you will show up first when potential clients search for the services you offer. Without having to pay for advertising, your site will bring in free, organic traffic. If you’re just starting out, this is a great way to get traffic without spending a penny. Even for well-established businesses, SEO is an excellent tool to continually bring in more traffic.

On-Page SEO Strategies

There are many elements to creating a page that ranks well on search engines. Google wants to serve the best possible content for each user’s search query. This is what makes them a valued search engine. Your website’s job is to communicate to Google’s crawlers that your page is the optimal place for your chosen keywords.

Here are just a few elements of a solid on-page optimization strategy:

  • Keyword-relevant H1s and H2s
  • Keyword-friendly URL
  • Developing keyword-rich content
  • Creating regular, fresh content
  • Optimizing images by putting keywords in their name and alt-descriptions
  • Internal linking to other meaningful content on your site
  • External linking to other, authoritative sites
  • Social media integration with your other digital properties
  • Filling out all meta-data
  • Schema mark-up
  • Creating a clear call-to-action
  • Ensuring fast page load speed
  • Being mobile-friendly

You want to incorporate all of these to get the best results from your SEO practices.

Off-Page SEO Strategies

There are many ways to signal to Google – and to potential clients – that your website and business are relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy. How?

These all communicate your website’s value to Google and can increase your ranking. You also want to include these elements of a solid off-page optimization strategy:

Keeping all of these strategies in mind can help in your SEO efforts.

Technical SEO

When we’re talking about technical SEO, we’re talking about making sure Google and other search engines can crawl and index all of the pages on your websites. This includes making sure your pages load quickly and that your site is set the right way.

What is SEM and How Does It Work?

Now that we know what SEO is and how it works, we can take a look at SEM.

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. SEM does include SEO but also utilizes targeted paid search, popularly known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.

Search Engine Marketing encompasses everything involved in search engine optimization, as SEO is simply one leg of an overall SEM strategy. SEM also includes Social Media Marketing (SMM), pay-per-click (PPC), and components like reputation management.

However, when most people discuss SEM, what they’re really talking about is paid search, digital advertising, and PPC. In particular, a strategic paid search campaign can dramatically increase your site’s traffic, helping you get ahead of the competition.

Types of Pay-Per-Click or Digital Advertising

  • Google AdSense
  • Facebook ads and post boosting
  • Affiliate links
  • Digital advertising on high-traffic web publications or media

SEO and SEM can work together to provide excellent results for your business.

Search engine optimization is a major part of bringing in organic, unpaid traffic; however, it can take time to develop enough content to help your site gain visibility and rankings on Google. SEO is the long-haul solution; it will increase as your business grows backlinks, gains quality reviews from happy customers, and builds out pages and blog entries.

When you want to see immediate results, SEM practices are the way to go. Simply pay for a few valuable keywords, and your site has a better chance of grabbing a top spot on Google. Paid search, specifically PPC through AdSense, is targeted. This means that traffic brought through PPC is more likely to convert. Meanwhile, increased traffic and conversions can lead to quality reviews or links to your content that will benefit your SEO.

Similarly, paid advertising campaigns and boosted posts on Facebook can lead to more awareness about your business’ social properties, and therefore increase your followers. Increased followers lay the groundwork for more organic future click-throughs and conversions.

In these ways, SEO and PPC can work together to maximize your marketing strategies!

Ready to Boost Your SEO and SEM Strategies?

Our SEM specialists can develop an SEO and paid search plan tailor-made for your website and business. Contact the internet marketing and SEO experts at TheeDigital. Give us a call at 919-341-8901 or fill out the form below.

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