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SEO vs. SEM: What's the Difference?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising. SEM may incorporate search engine optimization (SEO), which adjusts or rewrites website content and site architecture to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results pages to enhance pay per click (PPC) listings.

Search engine optimization (SEO), is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

If you’re new to both terms it can get pretty confusing to identify the advantages between the two. Here are 3 basic differences between SEO and SEM:

  • SEM is a paid search strategy. SEO is an organic search strategy. What you’re essentially using SEM for is gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.

  • SEO is made up of on-page and off-page (i.e., "on-site" and "off-site") activities as its two main pillars. SEM strictly involves earning search visibility through paid advertisements on search engines like Google. These advertisements are commonly referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) ads. There are lots of other terms used for SEM activities including cost-per-click (CPC) ads, paid search ads, and paid search advertising.

  • SEM uses paid advertising with AdWords or Bing Ads, pay per click (particularly beneficial for local providers as it enables potential consumers to contact a company directly with one click), article submissions, advertising, and making sure SEO has been done. SEM and SEO both need to be monitored and updated frequently to reflect evolving best practices.

The main idea - SEO is expanding the number of site guests by getting the webpage to show up high on results returned by a search engine. SEM is viewed as web showcasing that builds a website's perceivability through natural web search tools results and promotion.

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