SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference?


Search engine optimization and search engine marketing can be a confusing concept to grasp. Therefore, we will discuss SEO vs. SEM.


What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Search engine optimization (SEO) utilizes strategies and tactics to ensure that a website is accessible to a search engine. It also improves the chances of people finding the site on the search engine.

The objective of successful SEO is to obtain a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine. Search engines can include Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. Internet browsers often do not click through pages and pages of search results. Therefore, where a website ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the website. The higher a website naturally ranks in organic results of a search, the greater the chance that individuals will visit the website.

SEO is generally a set of “white hat” best practices to follow to help achieve a better ranking in search engine results. Some of these practices include the following:

  • Creating and publishing excellent content
  • Using keywords and keyword analysis
  • Link building to improve link popularity
  • Using social media links on websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn
  • Improving a website’s navigation to provide a positive user experience

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPS) through optimization and advertising. SEM includes tactics used in SEO, as well as several other search marketing tactics.

SEM is a broader term than SEO. It encompasses different options available to use a search engine’s technology, including paid ads. SEM frequently describes acts associated with researching, submitting and positioning a website within search engines. This includes such things as search engine optimization, paid listings and other search-engine related services and functions that will increase exposure and traffic to a website.

Search engine marketing also offers the opportunity to pay based on clicks (you pay only for each click through from the advertisement to your website). A successful SEM campaign shows ads to those consumers specifically searching for your products or services, which results in a higher conversion rate.

So Which is Better? SEO or SEM?

Effective search engine optimization is the most essential aspect of building an online web presence. Search engine marketing is an invaluable tool for driving specific consumers directly to the products they are searching for. SEO and SEM go hand and hand. However, they are not two terms you can use interchangeably for the same thing.

For SEM to be a worthwhile investment, it is a ideal to have effective SEO already in place. No matter where you are in the process of starting your online business, make sure to invest some time and money into performing local SEO keyword research and fully optimizing your website before making a large investment in paid advertising.


These are just the basics between SEO vs. SEM. Centennial Arts key to web marketing is to plan, design and build a site with results in mind. This includes aligning design elements, features and content with the goal of getting traffic to your website, thus creating new customers.

We are available to assist you with ongoing web strategy, including guidance with SEO keywords and phrases research, email marketing, social media and content for your website. Contact us with the link below to begin your marketing strategy for your website today!

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