The difference between SEO and SEM lies simply in the fact that search engine optimization is part of search engine marketing or search marketing, as it is widely known. Both processes aim to increase visibility in search engines.
SEO is about optimizing your website to get better rankings in search results, while SEM goes beyond SEO. It involves other methods that can bring you more visitors to search engines like PPC advertising.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In a previous article, I explained what SEO is, why it is important and I presented the most important SEO types and tips.
In order to make a comparison between SEO and SEM, it is important to start by defining SEO so that the difference between the two is clear.
What is SEO?
SEO is about optimizing your website to get free traffic from search engines.
Search engine bots more easily include an optimized website, which increases the chances of getting a higher ranking in SERPs.
On-site and off-site referencing
There are two main pillars of SEO: so-called on-site SEO and off-site SEO. SEO rules on-site are rules that you can apply to your website or blog so that it is adapted to search engines.
For example, you need to use optimized titles, good descriptions, well-formatted URLs, proper use of H1, H2 and images, etc.
Off-site referencing refers to the process of obtaining votes from other websites in order to increase the trust of your website in the eyes of search engines.
For beginners, this can be confusing, but try to think of it as a ranking system in which the website with the most votes ranks higher.
The votes in our case are links from other websites to your site. This is also the reason why offsite SEO is referred to as “link building”.
To avoid misunderstanding, it’s not enough to know how many links point to your website, but also where these links (and a number of other factors) come from.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search engine marketing is beyond SEO, but it is only a subset of your overall Internet marketing strategy. The diagram below shows the relationship between Internet Marketing, SEM and SEO.
As you can see, there are many more ways to increase your website traffic than SEM and SEO.
What is SEM?
SEM is, therefore, the marketing process with the objective of obtaining more visibility in the search engines by getting more free traffic (SEO) or paid traffic (paid advertising by search).
Through paid search advertising, you essentially buy advertising space in the search engine results. So, instead of trying to rank higher and get free traffic, you pay to appear in front of the searches.
The most known advertising agency of PSA is Google Adwords. With Google Adwords, your ads can appear in Google search results and you only pay for clicks on your ads.
This is also why the whole process is called Pay-per-click or PPC. Bing and Yahoo have a similar system, but it has not been so successful and is widely known as Adwords.
Importance of SEM traffic
SEM traffic is considered the most important source of Internet traffic because it is targeted. It is widely accepted that people use search engines to find a solution to a problem, an answer to their question or to learn to do something.
So when searches are done on a website from search results or on an ad, they are more likely to be converted. The relevance of websites and ads displayed gives SEM traffic a greater value than any other source.
Facebook and Twitter are trying to optimize their advertising platforms to use targeted traffic, but traffic coming directly from search engines has a better return on investment.
The 9 differences between search engine optimization and search engine marketing:
The two terms “SEO” and “SEM” are not always well understood, we even tend to confuse them. As a reminder, SEO, or search engine optimization, is a technique used to improve the visibility and SEO of a website within the search results. It is a question of optimizing the contents and technical characteristics of its site in order to “please” to the search engines. SEO optimization can take place on the web page but also outside.
In parallel, the SEM, or search engine marketing, is a broader term, which covers the advertising “paid” (paid to search engines such as Google or Yahoo). Its role is to boost the traffic and the conversion rate of the sites.
The 9 differences between SEO and SEM
- SEO provides results at no cost, while SEM is paid.
- The term SEM is broader than SEO, which is simply a technical marketing search technique.
- The SEO includes optimization techniques present on the web page but also outside. SEM includes PPC (pay per click), SEO and SMM (social media marketing).
- SEO focuses on putting the website at the top of search results when a user types keywords related to your business. The SEM, on the contrary, is to bid on keywords and invest heavily on those that the user is likely to type in the search bar.
- SEO produces results over the long term, while SEM is efficient enough fast.
- SEO only makes it possible to appear in the search results, while SEM concerns paid and sponsored links.
- SEM requires more investment. Indeed, Google gets paid on each click related to your advertising.
- SEM does not require any modifications to the site structure. Just start a campaign under Google AdWords for ads to work in one hour. SEO, on the contrary, involves making changes to the structure of the site. The platform must be designed and developed according to the requirements of referencing.
- By launching an SEM campaign, you may find yourself facing “fraudulent clicks”, for which you still have to pay back to the search engines. Clicks made by your competitors also cause you a fee. However, there are techniques to detect and resolve these problems, which do not exist in an SEO campaign.
Now, to make it all the more complex, although the functions of SEM and SEO seem different, they are more effective when used together. The success of SEM and SEO relies heavily on the words or context that users enter every time they search for something on the Internet. Regarding SEM, let’s take for example the sponsored links. The PPC is an advertisement that is triggered by a word or phrase used by a user. When a particular word or phrase is searched for, a corresponding PPC ad is displayed. SEO works the same way. The designer defines a specific keyword (or expression) in his HTML code that he thinks is used by most Internet users who are looking for information, information that the site must contain.
Although all these processes involving SEM and SEO are painful and time-consuming, they are meant to target your traffic. A site publisher must be able to discern both the needs and expectations of users, as well as having a real passion for informing and providing Internet users with the product or service they are looking for.