At present, there are two dominant strategies for website marketing in use today. First is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a strategy focused on generation of organic traffic. Second is Search Engine Marketing (SEM), focused on promoting sales through paid ads. The question is, is one strategy more effective than the other? Should both be used together, and in what order? What is the difference between SEO and SEM?!

Comparing SEO and SEM

The central aim of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is to make a website an authority in its particular niche. This strategy focuses on bringing organic (natural) traffic to the site by designing the website and its content for more usefulness and user-friendliness. The main driver of organic traffic is informative, readable content. Following that is the simplicity of site navigation, the website’s loading speed, and content structure such as article subheadings. All these are recognized by search engines, which award the website with higher page rankings.


The focus of Search Engine Marketing or SEM is mainly on sales conversion. Through paid advertisements on platforms such as Google AdWords and Facebook Ads, websites are able to market and promote promos, offers, or their own home pages. Because the ads usually respond to a user’s search terms, direct sales may be gained just through this. Included in the SEM strategy are pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and listings in static sponsored advertisements. The SEM approach may take the form of promoted posts in a Newsfeed, like in Facebook, or as high-ranking results in response to a search term (for Google).

Search Engine Optimization

SEO Marketing has the advantage over SEM in terms of price–at least in direct cash output. Since the focus is on organic traffic generation, the traffic brought to the site must also be self-sustaining. In other words, the site should gain a base foundation of repeat readers. The price is paid in time, for the design and crafting of the website and its content, and the waiting period before and between backlinks.


Websites built up through SEO also have the advantage of site authenticity and credibility. Because of search engines’ goal to bring out the most relevant content in response to a search term, a high-ranking site that is not a paid advertisement is given automatic trust by the user. That trust is most likely well-earned, as the best websites rise in the page rankings through recognition that they are authority sites.

Search Engine Marketing

SEM’s advantage over SEO is that the sites instantly make their presences known, on the top and sides of the search engine pages (for Google AdWords), or in the Newsfeeds (for Facebook Ads). After researching and analysing the needed keywords, setting up a PPC plan or listing in a static sponsored advertisement brings instant results. This means that websites using SEM can quickly judge the impact of their sites on visitors, and adjust accordingly.


SEM, because of its near-instant presence, has an advantage over SEO in the speedy promotion of the website brand. When web users type search terms into Google and other search engines, the first results will be accompanied by ads directly linked to specific sites. Without clicking through, the brand name is still more likely to be recalled if it is mentioned or seen outside of the ad.

SEO vs. SEM?

The answer is SEO and SEM. SEO builds the website as an authority through organic traffic, but the results are slower and knowledge of any mistakes made is slower. SEM can plug that loophole by beginning sales, spreading brand awareness, and discovering early what problems the site has in terms of design and content. It is advisable to use SEM before SEO. Any issues with the keywords being used and the site navigation can be fixed in response to user behavior. Meanwhile, SEO builds the foundations of organic traffic, and then merges with SEM.