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SEM and SEO -What's the Difference?

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

SEM and SEO are two aspects of online marketing that you'll come across time and time again, but what do they mean? First things first, SEM stands for search engine marketing, which involves using various methods to help your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Meanwhile, SEO stands for search engine optimization, which refers to the use of certain techniques to make your website more attractive to search engines and their algorithms. You might think this means that these two terms are interchangeable, but there's actually quite a big difference between them, which we'll explain in this article.


To be clear, search engine optimization (SEO) actually falls under the umbrella of search engine marketing and is just one of the techniques used to get your website to rank higher in search results organically.


When it comes to digital marketing, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is one of your primary options. Search engine marketing focuses on paid search, which includes both pay-per-click (PPC) ads as well as search engine optimization. By using SEM, you can make sure that when people search for keywords related to your business or brand, they will find you.

With paid search, you only pay when a user clicks on your ad or uses keywords within their query that is associated with your company or brand. You may want to use SEM to drive traffic to an eCommerce site for product purchases or create awareness for a specific campaign about an upcoming event or product launch. Paid search is an excellent tool for accelerating organic growth by turning casual browsers into customers.


Search engine optimization (SEO) is an organic way to increase website traffic. It involves making small changes to your site so that it ranks higher on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

For example, if you rank highly for how to apply eyeliner, more people will find your site when they search for how to apply eyeliner than if you don't have any rankings at all. Of course, once you rank high enough on a search engine like Google (but not too high), people might actually click on your results as well, which is called organic growth—it happens all by itself.


While it may be tempting to think of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) as two sides of a coin, they're actually more like distant cousins. Both disciplines strive to make sure you are listed prominently in search results, but they differ in many important ways.

Let’s take a look at how SEO and SEM work together to help your business get found online.

First, let’s start with what they have in common: both SEO and SEM rely on keywords. The goal is to use relevant keywords that will attract searchers looking for products or services similar to yours.

Next, both disciplines require effective content creation—good copywriting is essential if you want people to visit your site.

Finally, while there are certainly some businesses that specialize in just one or the other, most companies need a combination of both strategies because each discipline has its own strengths and weaknesses.

For example, an effective keyword strategy can help boost organic rankings; however, paid advertising can reach customers who aren't actively searching for your product or service but might still be interested nonetheless.

SEO and SEM working together


Search engine marketing, commonly known as SEM, can be hard to understand at first, especially if you’re new to digital marketing and digital marketing management. But SEM can be one of the most effective and powerful ways to promote your business and connect with your customers in today’s digital age. There are many reasons why it’s important to learn about what SEM has to offer, whether you’re just starting out with internet marketing or have been doing it for years already. With that in mind, here are the top five reasons why SEM is so effective and important.

Internet Users are Growing

Nearly two out of every three people on Earth use a cell phone or access mobile broadband service at least once per month. With more and more people having constant access to the internet, companies are always on high alert for new ways to reach potential customers. As such, businesses are using search engine marketing (SEM) is an effective way to advertise their products and services on search engines like Google, and Yahoo!

Global Searches are Increasing

Over 2 billion searches are conducted on Google every day. If you are looking to be found, search engine marketing is your best bet. Search Engine Marketing services can help companies increase their rankings in online search results, maximizing their exposure and drawing more traffic to a business website.

Internet ads pay better than banner ads

That’s not to say that banner ads aren’t effective because they can be. But Internet search marketing (also known as search engine marketing or SEM) has some unique advantages over traditional advertising methods that make it worth a second look.

For example, when you advertise on Google and other sites using SEM techniques, your ad is shown to people who actually want to see it, not to anyone that just happens to pass by.


SEO, or search engine optimization, is an essential part of any business today that relies on the internet to generate revenue. If you’re still not convinced of the importance of SEO, here are the top reasons why it’s important to optimize your website.

Do you need help managing your website? Keeping things up to date and working smoothly is not as easy as you think; especially when it comes to the constant updates, Google is running. Utilize a website manager to get the most out of your website.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a process of finding important words and phrases in your niche that people are using when they look for something online. Finding these terms helps you build out your content with keywords that your target audience will use to find it. Even better, these are words and phrases that don’t even have any competition yet! That means your website can rank for those searches immediately.

Create Quality Content

When Google—the undisputed king of search—crawls your site, you want it to return to its home page and declare, Yo! I just found some great content. One way to make that happen is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). However, SEO often receives a bad rap for being overly complex or only for big-time brands.

User Experience

Having a poor user experience is going to be noticed almost immediately. In today’s world, people have plenty of choices for products and services. If you don’t offer something that differentiates your brand from others, or your online presence doesn’t let them interact with you in a personal way, they may click away and find someone else who can better meet their needs.

Why Your Business Should Utilize SEM

There are many reasons businesses should use search engine marketing (SEM). SEM is an effective way to reach out to potential customers who are actively searching for products or services that your business offers. SEM also allows you to target a specific audience through the use of keywords and other targeting tools. Additionally, SEM can help improve your website's visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), which can lead to increased traffic and brand awareness.

If you have any questions about SEM or would like to talk to an agency that can help you get started, look no further!


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Founded by William Mingione and managed by Dominick Galauran.

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Slaterock Automation is a Digital Marketing Agency focused on bringing the power of Ai to small and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States and Canada. "We utilize Ai for businesses through functional web design, Ai SEO, and business process automation."


Slaterock Automation is a Certified Wix Partner, Certified Semrush Partner, and Certified Google Partner.  Slaterock has served over 100 Wix clients and currently manages over 25 active SEO and PPC campaigns.

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