SEO vs SEM: What Exactly is the Difference? (And Which is Better?)

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The concepts of SEO and SEM can be confusing, especially since they are often used interchangeably. You may not even know what each of these two initialisms stand for.

Both of these processes are means of increasing traffic to your website, but they are not the same thing. It is important to understand these two terms so that you can better equip yourself and your business for success.

Are you confused about the differences between SEO and SEM? Below you will find an explanation for each of these concepts as we attempt to answer this question. SEO vs SEM: what’s the difference, and which is better?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is an internet marketing strategy that aims to gain visibility by ranking higher in search engine results.

The goal of SEO is to optimize your website to gain free traffic from search engines. SEO is comprised of two main components: on-site and off-site SEO.

On-Site SEO

On-site SEO is a set of rules to make your website or blog to make it more search engine friendly.

This includes but is not limited to incorporating certain keywords, quality blog posts and page copy, page load speed, social sharing, and more.

Off-Site SEO

Off-site SEO is the process by which your website gains trust from search engines. This is achieved by getting votes from other websites.

These votes come in the form of links back to your website. Both the number and quality of these links are important. The goal is to build a larger number of links from reputable websites.

Other factors that play an important role in off-site SEO are social bookmarking, social sharing signals, and more.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM stands for search engine marketing. This is the process by which a company gains online visibility by either free or paid traffic.

In the modern technological world, people use search engines to find answers to their problems. People will often not go past the first page of search engine results.

SEM includes internet marketing tactics, including SEO, pay per click (PPC) campaigns, and social media marketing (SMM).


Although SEO and SEM are intimately related, they are not the same. Although they are often used interchangeably, they shouldn’t be.

SEM is just one component of your overall internet marketing strategy. However, it is often considered the most important means of generating traffic.

Some argue that SEO is the most important, as SEO is intended to organically grow traffic and is less costly. SEM cannot truly succeed without the use of SEO.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can use these internet marketing strategies, SEO Sydney can help.

Planning Your Internet Marketing Strategy

If you want to increase traffic to your website, employing an effective internet marketing strategy is essential. If you are just getting started, all of this can sound a bit confusing.

In a head to head battle (SEO vs SEM) which marketing strategy is best for your business? The truth is that they are both important, and you will likely use both to gain visibility.

If you would like to learn more about how to grow your business, get started here to find more useful tips.