What’s the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

Many of you may be confused about the difference between SEO and SEM. Here is a breakdown to help clarify and give you the 101. 

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, while SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. They both work hand-in-hand to help increase visibility on your website. To put it simply — SEO is the first step you should take to increase your website’s visibility, while SEM is basically the next step that will help take that visibility to the next level.

The sole purpose of SEO is to improve your website’s search result rankings organically and increase traffic for free. For example, if you own an automobile repair shop in Downtown Toronto, you’ll want your website to appear as one of the top 10 search results whenever someone searches for a “car repair shop in Toronto”. A few ways to increase this “free” traffic would be to add keywords, use good descriptions and use proper headings in your website to help search engines find you more easily. 

SEM goes a step further. It embodies SEO, as well as paid search advertising. Sometimes it also just utilizes paid search. With paid search advertising, you are essentially purchasing advertising space on a search engine to ensure that you appear in front of your competitors when specific keywords are used to search for your product or service. For example, you’ve probably seen on google search results where there are little “Ad” icons placed in front of a companies website as shown in the image below, this indicates a paid search result.  

The main difference between SEO and SEM is whether or not you would like your website to appear organically or through paid advertising. 

Take some time to review your website. See where you are ranking and if you should use SEO or SEM to help increase your search rank!

Scroll to Top