Web search is one of the most useful tools someone in the marketing industry can have today. You probably use search engines like Google, just like everyone else, to learn new things, find solutions, and understand our world a little better. One of the newer tools that are being used by businesses in countries like the U.S. and the Philippines are SEO and SEM.
SEO and SEM stand for search engine optimization and search engine marketing respectively. While they may both be quite confusing concepts to understand, there are differences between the two even though both terms are typically used interchangeably.
Before beginning to compare the two, however, it is important to start by defining these terms so it can be easier to clear up what the differences between them are.
What is SEO?
In essence, SEO is a part of the larger category, SEM. According to Google themselves, SEO, or search engine optimization, is “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”
The industry of SEO is changing continuously because of the frequent changes Google makes to its algorithms. There is one aspect of SEO that remains constant, though: it is made up of On-Site and Off-Site activities.
On-Site and Off-Site SEO
These are the two main pillars of SEO. On-Site SEO is simply following the rules you can implement on your blog or website so that it can be search engine friendly. The articles you write for your blog or website need to use titles that are optimized, and URLs that are well formatted. Your site needs to have good descriptions, correctly use headings and images, and so on.
Off-Site SEO, on the other hand, is the process of obtaining votes from other websites in order to increase the trust of your website in the eyes of search engines. This concept might be very confusing, especially for beginners, so try to think about it as a ranking system.
The website that garners the most votes ranks higher, but in this case, votes are links that come from other websites to your site. This is why off-site SEO is often referred to as link building.
What is SEM?
The process which aims to get more visibility in search engines by either getting paid traffic or more free traffic is called SEM. Essentially, when you do SEM, you buy advertising space in the results of the search engines through the use of paid advertising.
Instead of trying to rank higher in and get free traffic, you pay to appear in front of the search results.
SEO vs. SEM – Which one is better?
There is a lot of debate among marketers about which one is better. There are some that argue that organic SEO is the better approach because true SEM cannot succeed without the use of organic SEO.
There are also many situations where the use of certain components of SEM makes more sense than SEO. If you are first launching your site, for instance, it is a good idea to launch a campaign based on SEM if you want to gain immediate visibility. Even though it takes less time than SEO, it would not be smart to work exclusively with SEM without even doing basic search engine optimization.
While doing and implementing a proper SEO process can take longer before it shows results, it will help you establish a credibility among search engines that you might not get with SEM. SEO can even end up costing you less in the long run compared to SEM.
It is important to determine your specific needs before you choose your marketing tactic. But before doing so, make sure that you fully understand the differences between these methods and establish a plan on how you will maintain your efforts.
By Jamie Cordon
Jamie is a professional writer who worked as an editor for newspapers but decided to bring his skills online. He now writes for different blogs both as a job and as a hobby. He mainly contributes to SEO-Hacker.net.