SEO vs SEM: Which will Work Best for Your Blog or Website?

In today’s internet driven era, e-commerce has exploded onto the scene! It may seem bizarre and outlandish to young entrepreneurs now, but there used to exist an epoch of no internet, and more importantly-no social media! The world had not been blessed yet with the gift that is social media exposure.

Difference Between SEO and SEM

And ever since its inception, social media marketing techniques have grown and evolved to transform in to a massively integral part of any small up–and–coming growing business! So, if you own an ecommerce website or a food blog or a coupons & offers website or an education portal or a public forum then one thing you want to do before anything else is garner an audience.

But gaining exposure used to be a very difficult and hard–earned task back in the day. However, thanks to the onset of social networking sites and platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and YouTube and many more, everything has become accessible with the touch of your fingertips! The power of the Web in the palm of your hand!

The Two Sides of The Coin

Like every coin has a flip side, this case too has two sides to the equation. The terms SEO and SEM are used very frequently when online e–commerce is involved. These two concepts are used almost interchangeably as well, but that is not so! They are actually two distinct entities.

Here we will show you the difference. Which is better? What are the differences between the two social media marketing techniques? Which is suitable for your blog or business? All of these are all valid questions. And so, we will differentiate the two for you right now, so that you can pick and choose the one that favours you the most, and which one helps you get the most out of your business!

Search Engine Optimization


Search Engine Optimization-or as it is commonly known as SEO, is a fantastic way to increase your web site’s ranking in the search results of any search engine (for example, Google, Yahoo, Bing etc). This technique can be described as strategies and tactics that are used to ensure that “a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine”. The main objective or goal of a successfully carried out search engine optimization is to help the user obtain a high–ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine.

And here is why. The thing is, users who are surfing the internet for information (this can be regarding anything-from wanting to carry out a purchase, to looking for good books to read, to browsing for local restaurants or even fishing for academic research papers), they barely search past the first page of the search results shown on their search engine.

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These users often do not click through pages and pages of search results. A common example can be taken with you the reader himself. When was the last time you clicked on page 2 of your Google search results?

So, where a site ends up in a search results page on a search engine is vitally important. It plays a pivotal role in directing more web traffic toward web sites. This placement of the link of a site is determined by the web site rank. The higher a web site naturally ranks in the organic results of a search, the greater the chance that that site will be visited by a user. Obviously!

In fact, statistics show that up to 92.5 per cent of web traffic can be correlated back to the first 3 links that show up on a search result page. Moreover, another research finds that only about 17 per cent of web users actually click on links that are outside of the top 5 that first show up on a search engine. This shows how crucial the placement of a web site link is!

Majority of websites and other major online stores use this practise of SEO to generate more reach and hence more traffic for their website. More predominantly, sites dealing in digital or affiliate marketing, say coupon websites uses this means extensively to engage with a wider possible audience.

SEO is typically a set of white hat practices that web masters and web content producers follow to help them achieve a better ranking for their web site so that their web site link ends up higher in the search results page engine results. White Hat practises are ways to improve your site ranking on a search engine legally and within the given guidelines.

Some of these best white hat practices to increase your site rank include:

  • Creating and publishing excellent content on your web site.
  • Using key words and utilization of key word analysis for your web site.
  • Improve link popularity suing link building techniques.
  • Using social media links on major sites to promote your work.
  • Improving your web site’s navigation to provide an excellent user experience.

Search Engine Marketing:


Up next is the other side of the coin. Many people start with a good web site, adding in everything it needs to be very attractive and garner an audience. They even invest in an SEO. However, most of these people do not necessarily follow through with another very important component. A very important component if you want your web site or blog to gain a larger exposure. And that component is search engine marketing.

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Search Engine Marketing-or commonly acronymed as SEM-is a broader term than just search engine optimization, and encompasses a lot more than just that. It incorporates different options available to use a search engine’s technology, including but not limited to, paid ads! The picture opposite shows the dioramic flow of how SEM has the option of SEO under it.

The aim/goal of using SEMs is simply to gain more visibility in search engines either by getting more free traffic (SEO) or paid traffic (Paid search advertising).

Other than search engine optimization, SEM also includes the use of the paid search component. One such example is that of the pay per click (PPC) technique. Pay per click listings and advertisements are becoming a more and more common feat in social media marketing, primarily fuelled by their usefulness. Most of the time, SEM strictly includes PPC campaigns and activities, but if you use SEO and paid search, that falls under SEM efforts.

Some of these best SEM white hat practices to increase your site rank include:

  • Using key words and key word analysis, just as in the case of SEO
  • Building advertisements and content for local listings and geo-targeted ads.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns as mentioned above.

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

The difference between search engine optimization and search engine marketing is a very simple one. Search engine optimization comes under the broader, more conclusive concept of search engine marketing strategies.

An example of this is as follows:

When people wish to carry out a search query for fashion hand bags for instance, the organic search results is where SEO techniques (as mentioned above) come in to play. These techniques help your web site or blog be more visible and gain a high rank in the search engine results page listings. The paid advertising (PPC) or sponsored links are the ones which are displayed above these search result links or on their sides. The picture below shows this.

As seen in the picture above, the very first section on the search engine results page is a sponsored ad. Users can buy this ad space with paid search advertising. This will help you web site or blog gain more visibility, and thus, more visitors.

As we go lower in the picture, you can see where the search engine optimization plays a role, and a search engine can fetch your web site or blog up as part of their top 3 top links. This too can give your web site some credibility and hence end up attracting more visitors, improving business!

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What Do We Recommend?

While both have their own merits and own flaws, one must understand that no technique can be perfect. And in a volatile market space like it is currently on the internet, businesses and entrepreneurs are still trying out new techniques. Social media promotions have come a long way from when they just started, but it is still young and will grow and evolve better over the years.

One thing, however, that everyone must understand though, is that SEO and SEM are not competing services! In fact, search engine optimization is considered a subset of search engine marketing services as mentioned above.

If you want to conduct business on the Internet you need to be visible in both organic search results (normal links without funding) and advertised links, which means a small business needs both SEO and SEM. And that is out recommendation. If you have a small blog or a web site and are aspiring to make your business grow, then employ both these techniques!

And so there you have it. These were some of the most basic principal differences between search engine optimization and search engine marketing. But, as mentioned above, if you are a start-up business and are wishful for it to grow and become a big venture in the future, then we would firmly recommend you take help from both of these strategies.

After all, why not make use of the best of what you got?

Kritika Mitra

Kritika is a full-time content author, freelance copywriter and a tech enthusiast. Besides a big fan of retro music and a trained dancer, she regularly writes for a few renowned tabloids on technology topics.