SEO vs SEM: What's the Difference?

December 14, 2021
SEO vs SEM: What's the Difference?

The difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) lies in how the two strategies are used to enhance the traffic coming from Google search and other search engines. SEO focuses on optimizing your website and content to improve your organic search results. SEM includes the marketing tactics you use to gain visibility and increase traffic for both your organic search and paid search results.

  • SEO Tactics: Uses SEO strategies to improve your organic search position
  • SEM Tactics: Uses SEO and Pay Per Click (PPC) to get referral traffic from search engines.

SEO Best Practices

SEO is a never-ending practice to optimize your website to take advantage of best practices to improve your search engine rankings.Google search, for example, uses more than 200 ranking signals in its algorithm to decide which websites to show and in what order. SEO strategies boost your performance in areas that contribute to these ranking signals.There are several types of SEO, including on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. All of these contribute to how your content ranks when users search.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO concerns what your website or webpage is about. It includes the use of relevant keywords as part of your content development. It also includes:

  • Relevant page content
  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Layout, including internal headers
  • Internal links
  • External links

Each of these sends important ranking signals to search engines.

Off-Page SEO

The biggest contributor to off-page SEO is backlinks. The number and quality of people linking to your content help Google and other search engines understand the value. When you have a lot of backlinks from high-authority sites, your rankings will improve.Building off-page SEO includes tactics such as:

  • Creating great content that people find valuable
  • Social media sharing to generate links
  • Guest blogging on other sites
  • Contacting industry influencers to provide links

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is aimed at the way search engines catalog your web content. When search engine spiders crawl and index your site, they want to see certain things that indicate a high-quality experience. This includes much of the behind-the-scenes technical performance, such as:

  • XML site maps and Robots.text file
  • Structured data markup
  • Eliminating duplicate content
  • Minimizing dead links
  • Optimized navigation and URL structure
  • Canonical URLs

Google also wants to provide a secure, fast, and mobile-friendly experience for its users. So, making sure you are optimizing your technical SEO will also include things such as:

  • Use of HTTPS and SSL certificates
  • Fast loading website
  • Optimized for mobile

How important is SEO? The first 5 organic search results get 70% of all clicks. If you’re not on the first page of search results, you have less than a 1% chance of getting traffic.

SEM Best Practices

While SEO is part of SEM implementation, SEM goes further by including your strategy for PPC. By buying targeted advertising on Google search or other search engines, you are improving the odds of being found by consumers.Paid search results show up at the top of search results above organic search and, in many cases, the local map pack. Paid results are the first results on the page and account for 28% of all clicks. So, if you’re not using PPC, 28% of your potential customers are headed to your competitor’s sites.

Sound Complex? Let Us Handle the Heavy Lifting

SEM using paid search will yield faster results. It is also the most expensive solution. And, as soon as you stop buying PPC ads, traffic stops. SEO takes longer to work but produces lasting results that can provide traffic for years to come.The best marketing strategy usually combines SEO and SEM for the best results.To learn more about SEO and SEM and how these strategies can grow your business, contact 20North Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency today.