The Difference Between SEO & SEM

12th August 2021

SEO and SEM are fundamental tools for success in any business. Appearing as high as you can on search engine rankings has never been more critical.

The statistics make it clear. On average, the site that ranks No1 on a Google search receives 21% of the traffic from that search. Optimising your site, so it appeals to search engine algorithms takes time, but it is an essential investment. You need to develop plans around link building and creating backlinks, which also takes time, but make that effort and you will reap the rewards.

  • 35% of product searches start on Google
  • 64% use search to influence their ‘I want to buy’ moments

What is the Difference Between SEO & SEM

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of increasing traffic to your site by improving your ranking on search engines. Utilising a mixture of keywords, onsite optimisations, content and link building. SEO fits into two clear categories.

Onsite SEO – Boosting your website visibility utilising onsite methods. (UX, UI,

Offsite SEO – Building your website visibility utilising PR, social media and directories.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of growing traffic to your site by taking out advertisements on search engines.

Bing Ads

Google Ads

Baidu Advertising

The difference between SEO and SEM are that with SEO, you are looking to improve results without paying the search engine company. With SEM, you are directly paying the search engine company to promote your site to push for a conversion.

How SEO and SEM Can Make The difference?

We have seen how featuring high on search engines allows you to reaches consumers as they are make their buying decisions, as well as how appearing as high as you can drives a larger proportion of traffic to your site. Here are some other benefits:

A high organic SEO keyword rank on search engines is their recognition that your visitors are happy with the experience your site gives them. It’s a key indicator of the health of your business, your site and it’s stickiness.

We recommend building strong SEO foundations before investing heavily in SEM. As you’re more likely to successfully convert customers.

Influences on SEO

When expanding into new markets, SEM is an effective way to reach consumers who may not have known about you before. It also forms a part of a broader marketing plan. Utilising Google Search Console you can also see what keywords get the most traction by country, allowing you to plan content and website pages for when you want to do a marketing push or product launch.

Site Speed

It’s essential that pages on your site load as quickly as possible. Google

penalises sites that take an inordinately long time to load.

Quality of pages

Google likes to see multiple pages filled with quality, useable


Quality of keywords

Check that people actually search for the keywords you want to

rank for. Otherwise, all your efforts could be in vain. On the other hand, for

keywords that receive a high number of searches, there will be more competition to appear at the top.


Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how likely a website is to rank in search engine result pages (SERPs). Domain Authority scores range from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to greater likelihood of ranking.


Google Trends allows you to explore what the world is searching for. Does your site directly appeal to the searches real people make?

Number of backlinks

Links to your website from referring websites show search engines that your

site produces high-quality content. Cultivate as many backlinks as you can and build.

Outbound & Internal links

Links within your content help Google index your site and crosslinks within the site and accurately represent it in search rankings.

Image SEO

Every image on your site is an opportunity for you to build SEO traction. Add ALT tags to each of your images on the site. Don’t pass it up.

Header Tags

Header tags helps search engines understand the structure of the text on your website.

Meta Descriptions and SEO Headers

Meta and header descriptions give you the opportunity to tell Google how to talk about your content and improve click through rates. Take time to optimise meta & header descriptions for every page on your site.

SEM Opportunities

Google and other search engine companies offer businesses various paid-for opportunities to feature in their search.

Google My Business

Building a profile on Google My Business helps you control how you appear in search results. It also allows you to feature on Google Maps, which is essential if you target local customers.

Google My Business

How SEO & SEM Can Make A Difference

The underlying principle behind SEO is that Search Engines want to provide the most valuable and engaging content for their users. They want to present people with exactly what they are looking for, fast.

When you appreciate this, it becomes easier to understand SEO. When you make your site as appealing as possible to your target customer, search engines are more likely to show it to them when they search.

Make sure your SEO is as effective as it can be, then it’s time to take it to the next level with SEM. SEM can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy, with high impact and low wastage.

Alex Lawford The DIfference Group

Alex Lawford

I unlock the potential of your SME, startup or scale-up; building and scaling brands. I work directly with founders, CEOs and senior leadership teams to craft strategies, implement marketing and unlock opportunities utilising technology.

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