SEM vs SEO: Which is Better for Your Business?

By on July 9, 2018

The spectrum of digital marketing had changed over the course of time. There are now more metrics to consider for a business to thrive online. There are many tools you can use, depending on your opinion, you can utilize which you think is more viable for your business.

One thing for sure, search is the force to reckon with when it comes to surfing the web for things to look for. With the likes of Google, Bing and Yahoo, this is the life source of businesses to keep them alive. Back in the day, when internet was not that accessible, web algorithms are not as complex as today. In this era, a website should consider many things to thrive at the 1st page of every Google, Bing or yahoo.

With that being said, websites must be equipped with the proper tools to make it on the top search. There are two digital arms that can be considered powerful in terms of driving traffic to your website: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, and Search Engine Marketing, or SEM in short.

Let’s take a closer look at the two and compare which is more beneficial for the business.

Search Engine Marketing

According to Wikipedia  “Search engine marketing is a form of Internet marketing that involved the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) through optimization and advertising.”

SEM helps boost websites though paid ads such as pay per click (PPC) which is mostly done through Google Adwords. It drives traffic through paid advertisements which enables a website to land at the first few pages of search engines.

Search Engine Optimization

Meanwhile, SEO drives traffic through natural and organic results. This method keeps your website alive whether on-site (on-page) or off-site (off-page). It doesn’t involve any PPC on pages and depends mainly on hard work in driving traffic.

It optimizes websites through the use of link building and keyword density among others. This strategy profits from consistently producing high value and unique contents such as blog posts and articles which is reader-friendly.

The Different Strategies of SEO and SEM

With any tool, maximizing its usage is always vital. Even if you have the most expensive and sophisticated tools and software but not knowing how to use it to the fullest capacity will not help you in any way.

This is where strategies come into play. Combining what you know and the tools you have will always be crucial in building you (your business) up online. For SEO and SEM, utilizing these tools correctly will bring relevance to your website all the more.

SEO Strategies

With the use of organic and natural means to drive traffic to websites, focusing on where traffic comes from is essential. SEO should provide both on-site and off-site optimization for traffic to come in. These are the key points to look into:


  • Link building
  • Social media relevance
  • Keywords and Anchor text
  • Social bookmarking


  • Infographics
  • Usage of H1/H2 Headers
  • Proper keyword density
  • Optimized metadata, title tags, description and images
  • Page URL
  • High quality and unique contents
  • Social media integration

Combining all these elements together is important to build up a website and obtain a high rank in terms of searches. On the other hand, if you provide high value contents, chances are, you will be able to receive backlinks from other websites because of the quality you provide to drive in traffic.

SEM strategies

Driving traffic via search engine marketing may have a little bit of similarity with SEO but the approach has a very big difference. SEM relies more on marketing strategy which translates to monetary use. While SEO relies heavily on organic optimization, SEM funds its way to the first page of search engines.

SEM operates through:

  • Pay per click (PPC)
  • Google Adwords
  • Having a projected budget on ads
  • Campaigns for a target demographic
  • Keywords for ad group creation
  • Ad copy which is relevant and natural with the use of certain keywords
  • Purchasing of banners or other means of ad materials to be linked in authoritative websites

These elements of SEM must be utilized together for it to land at the first page of search engines. It is crucial for the aforementioned components to be included in the process for a successful campaign to take effect.

Which One is Better

As what was mentioned above, you can see the big differences between the two. Is it good for these two key components of digital marketing to go against each other? Or is it better if these two are utilized to work together?

Search engine marketing differs in approach from SEO in a way that it invests in monetary form. On the other hand, SEO strategy is investing more on quality, effort and trust. If these two are not used to work side by side, there might be a big miss on opportunities.

It is safe to say that both has its disadvantages as well. As we all know, there is always two sides of a coin.

  • SEM disadvantages:

It is costly

Your data is available for competitors to see

  • SEO disadvantages:

Contents should always be optimized


Competition is high

Disadvantages should not be taken on a negative perspective, rather, it should be a factor on how you will strategize in using either or both of these digital marketing tools.

Taking all of these into consideration, it is how you utilize these two that will bring success to your business. Perhaps, it is better to invest in SEM at first to gain immediate traffic and after a while switch to SEO, or use it simultaneously along the course of time.

Needless to say, SEO and SEM are effective and efficient tools that can help a business thrive in the digital world of marketing. Instead of choosing one, why not choose both since it is very obvious that it can work side by side. Instead of choosing which is better for your business, incorporate both tools to boost your online presence and relevance in the days to come.

About Usman Raza

Usman Raza is a marketing specialist at and founder of Christian Marketing Experts. He has been writing for magazines and newspapers since 2001, and editing and managing websites since 2006. A generalist, his most covered topics are business and technology. Follow him on Twitter.

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