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What Is the Difference Between Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization?

Ezinne Osemene, 2021 Summer Internship Program
Marketing & Advertising • July 21, 2021

In marketing and advertising, both SEO and SEM are strategies used to place a particular business or client on the first pages of a given search results page. Each goes about it however, in different ways.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing is paid advertising. This is also known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. The idea behind PPC is to pay your way into the first page on a particular keyword that someone is searching. 

Paid advertisements show up as search results or imagery such as items available for sale on top or on the side of your computer or phone screen. Whenever someone searches keywords that either relate to or are exact phrases to the keywords you are paying for,  your ads will also show up. The challenge many people face here is that they are not able to separate themselves from their business or industry and many times they think people are searching for them in ways they think they are being searched for — which is often not the case. 

SEM is a paid advertising method to have your ads displayed for your intended audience and to get the best return on investment, you need an independent agency to do the work.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is similar to SEM but instead of paying for advertisements, you are ranking on the first page organically. This method requires time and strategic marketing, but in the long-term is the best choice.

People rarely scroll past the first page and more so, they rarely click on ads.  Website owners must work hard to appear on the first page and ahead of their competitors. This is why many choose to hire our SEO services.

Though they serve different purposes, both SEO and SEM are important in building and progressing a business – each has advantages in certain areas that really depend on the client’s immediate and long-term goals. 

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