Main differences between SEO and SEM

Within the world of digital marketing, various terminologies have very varied and sometimes complex meanings. But they are necessary for understanding this medium that is so important today. That is why we will clarify the difference between SEO and SEM.

If you are interested in understanding some areas of digital marketing or are simply passing through this vast world, knowing what each one consists of and the differences between SEO and SEM is essential since it is highly relevant. In digital marketing, you will come across these concepts very frequently.

What is SEO?

SEO is applying techniques to improve a web page’s positioning in different search engines. It should be noted that the objective is always to appear in the first organic results that search engines show. That is, if you have a hardware store and a potential customer searches for “HARDWARE STORE IN ALICANTE,” SEO helps your hardware store’s website appear in the top positions offered by Google as a result of this search.

This way, you will have more chances of potential customers coming to your business. SEO increases the visibility and traffic of users who visit a web page organically through medium and long-term work.

What is SEM, and what is it for?

SEM Positioning represents all the techniques and strategies implemented to improve search engine marketing, so at first, it would also encompass what SEO is.

However, this conception has mutated by what is currently known as SEM to those techniques that improve a website’s positioning through paid strategies. Within this are Google Ads campaigns, for example.

What are the main differences between SEO and SEM?

Although various elements highlight the difference between SEO and SEM, the main one focuses on the fact that SEO positioning seeks to improve visibility in an organic environment and naturally in search engines.

However, SEM positioning focuses on advertising campaigns and other payment strategies to appear in specific spaces. It improves visibility in search engines, depending on the amount of money available.

In addition, another big difference between these two terms is that within SEM, it is necessary to assume certain costs that will vary depending on the strategy that is built and how it is configured.

It can be the cost per click, per visit, or impression, but within SEM strategies, there will always be a cost for the space where it is being advertised.

In SEO, this works differently since it has to do with techniques applied within the web page that improve its positioning, and these have the advantage that they are more durable in the long term. That is, if you stop doing SEM, your positioning disappears. In SEO, the positioning of your website remains until your competition surpasses you.

Time and quality in the results of SEO and SEM strategies

Among other elements that make differences between SEO and SEM, it is found that the time needed in SEO is much greater. Within this strategy, work requires more effort and slower progress. That depends on the quality and techniques implemented and how little by little the web page rises in the search engine results.

However, the fruits obtained by SEO have more excellent value in the long term, even for users, because a certain prestige and trust are formed.

On the other hand, SEM positioning achieves results in much shorter times, without so much effort. Of course, it is essential to clarify that it also requires technical knowledge and experience not to waste the budget.


In the case of the content that must be positioned in each SEO and SEM strategy, it differs in several aspects.

In SEO, original content must be achieved with a degree of extension that allows the development well what is being expressed without neglecting the quality and relevance today. Extensive content, but that it is only filler will make organic positioning very difficult.

But if we talk about SEM, the content is more related to relevance, and commercial focus since conversion is mostly sought with this strategy. In addition, short and straightforward content must encourage the user to acquire what is offered.

Measurement and analysis

A key factor for a marketing strategy is the ability to constantly measure development, adjust what is deficient and obtain better results.

In this case, the difference between SEO and SEM is that in SEO, we can analyze the positioning of our website through the SEO AUDIT. An SEO audit will provide relevant information about user traffic, positioned keywords, domain authority, backlinks, etc.

However, in the case of SEM, the different platforms that offer this paid positioning service provide all the tools to carry out a correct and accurate measurement of conversions, clicks, cost per click, CTR, etc. All this offers us valuable data to know if our SEM strategy is on the way to success or if there are deviations.

Attract customers with SEO and SEM

The combination of both strategies can generate great results to achieve success.

SEO is one of the best ways to generate visibility for a starting business. We have few resources because they can give you visibility when nobody knows you. On the other hand, it also makes a lot of sense to start a business by investing more in SEM or PPC because the return is higher in the short and medium term.

The problem with SEM is that you get results in the short term, but as you invest, the return decreases. For this reason, it is advisable to work on both strategies at the same time so that both strategies can complement each other and that when the SEM campaigns stop contributing business, we can take advantage of the return that SEO is already providing us, which works more as a long-term strategy. Term.

SEM positioning makes it possible to ensure that the content is located in the spaces provided for advertisements and that it is the first thing the user sees when performing a search. The quality of the place where the ads are positioned will be directly affected by the investment made.

Unlike SEM, SEO appearing in the first place will be a more protracted process. That will depend on the techniques and strategies applied. But getting one of the first positions guarantees a significant traffic of users who will enter naturally.

It should be noted that once the first places are reached, there is no excellent fluctuation, and the permanence of the web page in those places will no longer generate so much effort.

SEO or SEM, which is better?

From the differences between SEO and SEM, the question may arise: What is better, SEO or SEM? But there is no specific answer that places one above the other. Both have great value in different contexts.

There is a constant discussion on the question: SEO or SEM, which is better? But the truth is that the best marketing strategies combine the two. Each has different objectives and results, but they interpenetrate.

The good thing about SEO is that it is a medium and long-term strategy. Instead, SEM works while you pay. Since you stop paying, the positioning it generates disappears.

For example, if we position an ad for a product in Google Ads, we apply an SEM strategy. But this ad will lead to the website of the product or the store, increasing the site’s traffic and improving the SEO positioning.

Like this example, there are many where they mutually interpenetrate, improving the organic positioning and the quality of the page in front of the users. Because although there are differences between SEO and SEM, both are necessary for digital marketing.

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