What Exactly Is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

difference between seo and sem

Did you know about 82% of people look at their smartphones before making an in-store purchase? These consumers research using search engines like Google to find information about products and services. By leveraging this habit, you can boost brand awareness and sales.

Both search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) can help.

Before you start strategizing, it helps to understand the two a little more thoroughly. What is the difference between SEO and SEM? Which one can better help your business?

Keep reading to find out. In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about SEO vs SEM. Start researching your search options with this guide today!

What is SEO?

Before we discuss the difference between SEO and SEM, let’s discuss the two separately. 

Search engine optimization is exactly as it sounds: it allows you to optimize your web content for search engines like Google. By optimizing your content, you can appear for searches that are relevant to your business.

Otherwise, consumers might fail to find your website during a search. Instead, they could visit your competitors’ websites and make a purchase there. 

It’s essential to accomplish a high ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). Many consumers don’t look beyond the first page of a search. If you’re not on the first page, you might struggle to reach your target audience.

There are a few other ways a higher ranking can benefit your business, including:

  • More brand awareness
  • Increased site traffic
  • Better brand authority and credibility
  • Brand trust
  • Increased leads, conversions, and sales
  • An improved ROI

It’s important to note that Google makes updates to its search algorithm constantly. If you don’t remain up-to-date with the latest trends, your ranking could drop.

Different ranking factors can impact your search engine optimization as well.

For example, Google likes at factors such as your:

  • Website speed
  • Page structure
  • Keyword choices and placement
  • Readability
  • User experience
  • Bounce rate
  • Clickthrough rates
  • Security

If your website is slow and out-of-date, you could struggle to achieve a high ranking. 

That’s why it’s important to consider on-page and off-page SEO. We’ve reviewed a little more about these factors to answer the question “what is SEO?” below.

On-Page and Off-Page Optimization

Google looks at ranking facts on and off your website.

On-page SEO requires you to optimize your own site. Google’s bots will crawl and index your site based on your:

  • Page speed loading times
  • Target keywords
  • Image alt tags
  • Mobile-optimization
  • Title tags
  • Social sharing integration
  • Content

Most companies start developing a search engine optimization strategy by researching target keywords. Then, you’ll create high-quality, unique content like blog posts and videos for these keywords.

Google now uses mobile-first indexing to determine SEO rankings. If your website isn’t optimized for smaller screens, it could impact the user experience.

Off-page SEO looks at factors outside of your website.

For example, do you have a link building strategy? Links on other sites that send people to your pages can improve your credibility.

Are people sharing your content? Are they talking about you on social media? Do you have an updated Google My Business listing?

Keep these factors in mind when building your SEO strategy.

What is SEM?

Now that you have a better understanding of SEO, let’s talk about search engine marketing. What is SEM?

SEM involves many different strategies under one umbrella. In fact, many people don’t realize that SEO is a type of SEM. Other forms of SEM include:

  • Display advertising
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Remarketing
  • Shopping advertising

You can create SEM pay-per-click (PPC) ads that will display on search engines and social media platforms like Instagram. PPC ads appear above SEO listings. 

Remarketing is a very cost-effective strategy you can use to reach customers. After someone visits your website, you can use cookies to reappear in front of the same customer later. Your ads will appear on the websites they visit and apps they use.

With remarketing, you have a second chance to draw in a lead or sale.

SEM is a great way to attract a large target audience. You can specify who you want to target based on demographics like age and location. 

However, you’ll have to pay for clicks on your ads. If you don’t have a big marketing budget, search engine marketing might not feel like the ideal choice. 

The Difference

Now that you understand them separately, let’s discuss the difference between SEO and SEM.

SEO listings are organic, while SEM uses paid strategies. As a result, SEO is considered the more cost-effective option, especially for small businesses.

With SEM strategies like PPC ads, you’ll either pay for each click or each impression. You can set limitations on how much you want to spend. However, you’ll need to keep track of your spending to avoid unwanted costs.

It can take a while before your organic website pages appear on Google. With PPC, however, you won’t have to wait. SEM allows you to display ads in front of customers the same day you make them. 

Both SEO and SEM allow you to boost website traffic for your business. However, not everyone who visits your site is an ideal customer.

SEM allows you to use more precise targeting methods. You can choose who your pages appear in front of. You can also use negative keywords to avoid appearing for certain searches.

With SEO, it’s important to review your site data. You might need to use long-tail organic keywords for more precise targeting. 

When considering SEO vs SEM, it’s important to consider the benefits of using both. When you attract more traffic to your site, Google will take notice. Your SEO ranking will improve as a result.

Since 93% of all online activity begins on a search engine, they’re both a great way to generate business!

You can use SEM to boost your SEO ranking, allowing you to attract more customers.

What is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?: Understanding Your Search Options

To recap, what’s the difference between SEO and SEM? SEO is organic while SEM uses paid advertising tactics. While they use different methods, both can help you grow your business. 

Not sure where to start when marketing your residential properties? We can help. 

Reach out to our property management SEO experts today to get better rankings and more leads!