SEO vs. SEM – Which Is Better For Businesses?

SEM and SEO are not passing fads; they are here to stay. They are not myths to any business owners anymore either, but the general level of online marketing knowledge among most businesses is quite low. However, understanding either of them does not require anything beyond a rudimentary knowledge of how search engines work. Gaining this knowledge will help you extend your brand presence in several ways.

The Correlation between SEO and SEM

Broadly speaking, the spectrum of marketing practices with the expected outcome of establishing a more robust presence on the cyberspace or in search engine result pages on Google, Bing or Yahoo is referred to as Search Engine Marketing or SEM. One of the most viable and important aspects of SEM is Search Engine Optimization or SEO. This is a marketing practice in which a strategy is formulated, employing several techniques to “optimize” web content such that it fetches your websites or web pages higher ranks on SERPs. Other popular SEM aspects include paid search advertising and much more.

SEM- A Primer

At the very top of SERPs, you will find some results with a small indicator saying “Ad” beside them. These are, in fact, paid advertisements made through platforms like Google AdWords. There are two modes of purchasing ads, as follows:

  • Pay-Per-Click or PPC (pay-per-click), meaning you are charged based on the number of clicks.
  • Cost per thousand impressions or CPM, where you pay a fixed rate for every 1000 clicks or impressions.

This form of advertising usually involves auctioning popular keywords for search queries off to advertisers and then displaying their ads every time one of these queries pops up. The primary goal of this is to maximize click-through rates while minimizing the cost-per-click or CPC. The other facets of SEM include paid ads on social media, mobile advertisements and retargeting.

A Brief Overview of SEO

There can be two broad classifications for SEO, off-site and on-site. Off-site SEO would involve building a strategy to gain backlinks from trustworthy, well-ranked websites to boost your ranking. This would require you to research the prospects and create relevant content which they can link to. Next, you should reach out to them and build relationships so as to promote sharing in the present and the future.

On-Site SEO is composed of the several tactics which are employed to improve and optimize the content which goes on your site so as to get a higher ranking organically. There are no set rules for this, and only so much is known about the behavior of the ranking algorithms, which too are updated regularly, so it involves a good deal of tinkering and experimentation. You can handle all of this yourself, or outsource the entire operation to a reliable SEO agency in Mumbai. Good tactics for SEO include:

  • Choosing keywords which are relevant but do not attract much competition.
  • Using keywords smartly instead of stuffing them wherever possible.
  • Writing top-quality content to draw more visitors and keep them interested using smart related posts plug-ins and the like.
  • Enhancing posts with relevant multimedia without compromising page loading time.
  • Using keywords in the title tags, image alt tags and metadata in the HTML source code.

How SEO Fares in Importance against the Rest of SEM

For corporations or business owners who have a large budget, SEM is a great thing to have. That said, paid advertising is quite pricey, so it would be difficult for someone operating on a tight leash to be able to compete for high-traffic keywords. SEM is a good idea for e-commerce sites or product-based sites which would need immediate traffic for sales or product launches but will offer only short-term growth as long as you keep paying the fees, which makes it a temporary option.

The growth curve for SEO is usually much slower but involves the building of a solid organic online presence and a great backlink portfolio too, both of which are long-term benefits. If you’re able to generate good, diverse content which gets good ranks for several keywords, you can be sure that you’ve cemented a reasonably good position on the cyberspace. SEO is entirely free, and the only thing it costs is the time you take to build a good strategy. Organic traffic has also been known to have click-through rates which are miles better than those of PPC ads.


As a business owner or the head of a startup which wants a long-term online presence without spending too much on the website itself, it is a fantastic idea to go for a holistic SEO strategy. This has not only long-term organic effects but also improves the overall quality of the content you put up. On the other hand, SEM can be useful for a number of specific applications and must not be ignored. It is particularly effective in generating high traffic on a short-term basis, and targets specific keywords very well. These are all worth keeping in mind when discussing marketing strategy.

  1. Great insight into the different between SEO vs SEM. Thanks Eric!

  2. Excellent guide! Keep up the good work Eric!

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