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Differences between SEO and SEM

The phrases SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) are similar and sometimes misused. They are different services and in this post we want to explain the main differences between SEO and SEM.

SEO = Search Engine Optimization = Optimization of your website for search engines
SEM = Search Engine Marketing = Search Engine Advertising

In Spain we find that most SMEs have little knowledge about the differences between SEO and SEM and the different tactics to improve their results on search engines. Since SEO is a medium to long-term technique, it is sometimes important to carry out SEM campaigns. These campaigns work by paying per click using different keywords.

At the beginning of the projects and when we do not have positions in the SEO keywords, we can use SEM to bring visits to our website. Of course, our page should be prepared at the SEO level to lower the price of SEM campaigns, since SEO (and the quality of the page itself) directly influences the final price of the campaigns.

What is SEO

SEO can be described as the different strategies and tactics that we use to ensure that search engines access our website and improve our chances of being found.

The ultimate goal of successful SEO is to get a good ranking in search results from engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo! Since users focus on the first search results, it is essential to ensure our presence at the top of the rankings to attract the highest number of visits.
The higher the organic growth in the search results, the greater the chances that a user will visit you.

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In SEO there are practically obligatory actions if you want to obtain good results from the beginning:

  • Create and publish quality content. Do not copy + paste
  • Do a keyword analysis and use them to create our menu and our content
  • Link building
  • Use links on social networks to our website
  • Constantly improve the performance of your website to offer the best possible user experience
  • And all the factors that SEO depends on (today)

What is SEM

Many companies start by investing in a good website and SEO, but they don’t necessarily follow up with another important component like SEM.

SEM is a broader term than SEO, and is used to match different actions available to use search engine technology. SEM offers you the opportunity to pay based on clicks (you pay only for each click that leads from the ad to your website). Ads from a successful SEM campaign will be shown to consumers who specifically search for your products or services, increasing traffic and therefore the number of conversions.

Differences between SEO and SEM

One of the main differences between SEO and SEM is that SEO is done in a “natural” way, that is, without payments to search engines. Currently it depends fundamentally on our content. It is not a free Digital Marketing technique , since we need to create those contents and this has a cost, but it is true that it depends largely on our actions and not on payment to a search engine.

The SEM depends on the quality of our website, but you need a budget to get visits. We will appear in the search results while we pay the search engine in question.

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The positions in the search engines are also different. At Google, SEM results appear at the top of search results, differentiated by an “Ad” tag. Previously these results had a different background color, but today Google has tried to equate their design as much as possible with SEO results.

Generally the positions are achieved in an indeterminate period, although it can be estimated if we have an SEO with a lot of experience. On the other hand, with SEM we can get traffic immediately once we configure the campaign.

SEO and SEM combinations

SEO and SEM are not competing techniques. As we always say, its use depends on many factors, such as: the efforts of our competition in each digital marketing technique, the time we have to manage projects, the training of our employees, etc.

SEO and SEM are two techniques that can be combined in very effective ways: If we need immediate results we can use SEM to gain the traffic that we want to achieve by SEO. If we are doubting whether developing an entire SEO strategy will be profitable, we can “test” those words in SEM and if our campaigns bring visits and conversions, get down to work with the content.

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