SEO vs SEM – Whats The Difference

SEO vs SEM – What’s The Difference?

If you’ve overheard people debating about SEO vs SEM, you can safely come to a very logical conclusion. These people don’t really know what SEO or SEM is. They are not alone- many people are clearing the dark about the differences between the two terms. The fact is that SEO and SEM have a lot more in common than most people realize. To make the most out of website optimization, you need to use both these aspects, not just one.

Back To Basics

The first step in clearing the air about SEO vs SEM is to understand what these abbreviations mean. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization while SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. So aren’t these two different things? Not really and this is exactly where most people make their mistake. SEM consists of different methods and strategies for promoting and advertising a website. In other words, SEO is a part of SEM- in fact, it’s probably one of the most important SEM methods used these days.

By now, it’s probably clear why the SEO vs SEM argument is a little silly. It’s a bit like saying which is better, the thumb or the hand? You need to have both components working together to have a successful online business. But let’s go a little deeper into the issue to get a better understanding of where SEO and SEM differ.


SEO basically refers to the tools and tactics that are used to optimize a website. The majority of these tools are focused on keywords and how to design the website in such a way so that it’s picked up quickly by the search engines. This includes making sure that the web pages are keyword enriched and placing the keywords in the title and domain name of the website. Alt tags are also used in the naming of images on the website.

Unlike SEO, SEM focuses on other ways to market the site as a whole- in other words, it looks at ways other than the search engines to get your website noticed. This includes submitting articles to directories and magazines as well as joining different communities and forums. Video marketing via sites like YouTube is also an important marketing method. Using Pay Per Click ads is another very popular SEM strategy.

Rather than debate about SEO vs SEM, the question should be whether you can have one without the other. Technically yes, but your overall business strategy will be one-sided as a result. Focusing simply on the search engines and keyword enrichment only reaches a portion of your potential market. Similarly, if you bank only on articles, social networking and Pay Per Click, you will not be exploiting your full market reach. A well-rounded business plan needs to have both SEO and SEM- instead of looking at SEO vs SEM, you should be looking at how they can work together to make your online business better.

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