Search optimization is a necessary marketing strategy for new brands trying to grow their businesses. It is a great strategy to attract attention of the audience and drive the website traffic. But if you can’t make out the difference between SEM v/s SEO then the road ahead will not be as rosy as you think. A good marketing strategy is of utmost importance in this competitive world. We cannot rely on conventional methods in 21st century. Change has to happen.

In this article we are going to make out the difference between SEM & SEO.

Before we go into the differences let’s see what search marketing is.


What is Search Marketing?

Search marketing is associated with technique that helps a brand get necessary attention to appear on the search engine results page. The motive here is to appear in top search which helps get the website higher rankings and enhance search visibility so that more traffic is driven to a website.

Search Marketing has two categories

  1. SEM : Stands for Search Engine Marketing. It uses paid tactics to appear in search.
  2. SEO : Stands for Search Engine Optimization. It uses organic tactics to appear in search.

Two words are common to both terms and that it, Search engine. The terminology seems same but the final word is what makes the difference.

What is SEM?


SEM which stands for Search Engine Marketing is referred to as part of Search marketing that uses paid strategies to appear more in the search engine results pages.

This strategy is generally cited as paid search or pay per click (PPC) marketing.

Related article: Search Engine Marketing-How it works?

What is SEO?

SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization is considered a part of search marketing that uses organics strategies to appear more in the search engine results page. In SEO, brands don’t pay for placements search engine results page. Rather, brands use several tactics that instigate search engines to show their matter near the top of search engine results page because the result is relevant.


Related article: SEO risks you need to avoid

What’s the difference?

SEM vs. SEO both are important elements of search marketing. But they have some differences.

#. Target Audience- SEM v/s SEO

SEM results are shown to a selected target audience while results SEO do not. Both SEM & SEO strategies are made out to connect to a target audience. But only SEM can specify the target audience. It is possible through SEM to choose the type of audience you want to see the search results by putting filters based on location, age, income etc.

In SEO, you cannot choose what type of audience you want to see the search results.

#. Duration of impact

Paid SEM allows you to purposely put the search results in front of your audiences in just couple of clicks. The ads starts showing in Search engine results page as soon as you let the campaign set in motion. You can increase the visibility of ads or you can turn them off too. Basically, the results are seen in short term through SEM.

On the other hand, SEO takes longer time to produce results. Sometimes it takes months to carry out SEO tactic before the website starts to rank on search engines.

#. ‘Ad’ designation- SEM v/s SEO

Search results that are produced through adopting SEM practices appear different on Search engine results page. An ‘ad’ icon appears along with the search result. On The other hand, search results of organic SEO are not marked with any ad icon.

SEM search results may include ad extensions, which features some add on links like phone numbers. While SEO results do not have such a feature.

#. Paid clicks

Each time a user clicks on the result your brand is charged. SEM results are paid. You pay for each click on search results. On the other side, when a user clicks an organic result, no such charge is made.

#. Value addition-SEM v/s SEO

SEM does not add any value in the long run. Because the search results are paid, the moment you turn off the ads, SEM tactic no longer works. On the opposite side, SEO strategy takes time to grow and produce results that last for longer time.


SEM v/s SEO, there is no sure-shot choice to make. When you are trying to grow your brand it is necessary to focus on both the strategies SEO as well as SEM. You can’t count on just one. Well planned and well balanced strategy is crucial to make it successful. Every factor needs consideration before deciding what way you want to choose. The best way forward is to choose a well-made combination of both SEO & SEM. This way you are building a marketing practice which will give you returns immediately and in the long run as well.

Apoorva : I am a writing geek and a bookaholic who is exploring different genres of writing. Currently writing about Information technology, digital Marketing, SEO, latest technology & marketing trends. I am always curious to learn new things so I can enhance my knowledge. I like to maintain authenticity and originality in my writing. I assure my readers that I will try my best to produce the finest content for them.