SEO vs. SEM: What's the difference?

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Difference between SEO and SEM

Although SEO and SEM may sound almost the same and in fact may seem like one and the same thing, they are actually two different activities at the core. Both of them are admittedly invaluable for website marketing and promotion in this day and age, although their considerable differences call for a more thorough comparison…and here it is!


SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it has the primary goal of improving a web sites' chances of getting a high rank in the results pages of the major search engines.

SEM for its part is mainly concerned with the use of paid subscriptions and article directories, as well as content submissions to search engines.

What They Entail

SEO is comprised of a wide array of on-page optimization techniques, which covers proper keyword density and usage, title tag optimization, original high-quality content, meta tags, sitemaps, link structuring, and web page indexing. In addition, SEO also involves a variety of off-page optimization techniques such as establishing incoming links to quality sites, improving the relevancy of links, and proper use of keywords in the anchor text.

Search Engine Marketing on the other hand mostly involves the effective use of text advertisements that commonly show up on the top or the right of the search engine results pages. These links are typically purchased from Google in the case of Adwords, and from Yahoo in the case of Overture ads. These ads are then published on secondary ad networks.

Scope And Coverage

SEO can be considered a long-term approach to website marketing, and it uses commonly accepted web design standards. Among the most important components of SEO are good quality original content, page optimization and robust link building campaigns. Secondary to the goal of helping a website get a high ranking is building a site that visitors will want to come back to again and again.

As for SEM, it has the notable advantage of helping a site get qualified traffic almost instantaneously, with the resulting traffic dependent only on the budget. The main drawback of SEM is the risk of using up the marketing budget quickly, particularly if the ads aren't optimized properly. In addition, this may also result in a relatively low conversion rate.



  • Refers to techniques that aim to improve a websites' ranking in the results pages of the major search engines
  • May be a slow and long drawn out process, taking up to a year to get good rankings on Google
  • Involves on-page as well as off-page optimization
  • Uses many of the best web design techniques


  • Refers to text advertisements that show up on the right of the search engine results pages Typically purchased from Google and Yahoo
  • A highly controllable form of marketing
  • Allows you more flexibility with regard to budget, keywords and targeted websites
  • Gives you the advantage of instant qualified traffic


comments 4 Comments

  • Nick k . 3+ yrs. ago

Very clear. Seo on steroids.thanks for sharing.

  • seo india . 3+ yrs. ago

Very informative post!!will refer to lots of friends so they can also clarify their doubts..Thanks for sharing :)

  • forum link building . 3+ yrs. ago

This is a great help to me as I was looking for it so that I can gathered a huge knowledge.. I am glad I visited here and come to know about many facts related to it..

  • Onpage optimization techniques . 3+ yrs. ago

wonderful information, I had come to know about your blog from my friend nandu , hyderabad,i have read atleast 7 posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your website gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new posts, once again hats off to you! Thanks a ton once again, Regards, Onpage optimization techniques

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