The Importance of SEO/SEM


What is SEO?

If you have a website or have talked about creating one, SEO and SEM are two things you’ve heard about before. What exactly are they? Let’s start with SEO, (Search Engine Optimization), which by direct definition is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid search results. To put that simply, SEO determines whether your website shows up when people are searching via Google, Bing, or other search engines. When dealing with SEO and trying to optimize your results word choice and titles matter. Search engines will narrow someones results down to the sites that use only the words they selected. So, if your website is about landscaping, but you don’t have the word “landscaping” at all on your website, the search engine is not going to find you. The more you use target words the higher you will be ranked to be found in the search engine. Using effective titles is also very important because often this summarizes the website entirely.

Why are titles critical?

seo 2

Be sure to choose a title that is relevant to what your website is about. If your website is about landscaping services you probably don’t want to have a title that talks about your trucks, instead you want to have something people are looking for like “3 tricks to kill dandelions for good”.Links and reputation also play a big part in SEO to determine where your website gets ranked by the search engine. If your website has a large amount of links relating to your website the search engines can see this also which can result in a higher rank, but only if they are legit. If you just buy a bunch of links to point to your page that aren’t relating at all this will be noticed, but if you have trustworthy sites this works in your favor, kind of like kudo points for your ranking. The key to SEO is making the search engines happy. The only way to do this is by use of effective links, titles, and words. With quality information on your site it’s only a matter of time before your site is the #1 recommended by the search engine’s.

 What is SEM?

So that’s SEO, but what is SEM? SEM is Search Engine Marketing, Which is a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites, generally through PPC which is short for “pay per click”. PPC are the paid ads that you see show up at the top of search results or in the sidebar. The main difference between SEO and SEM is cost, one is free and the other is money driven. Also while SEO is very broad and SEM is used to target specific users with paid links. When using SEM you are paying to bring more users to your site and potentially can increase your search engine rank. Together these two search tools help provide you with the best visibility possible for your website. Another difference is that SEO is used to capture a broad audience of people via generic search, while SEM is used to target specific users with paid links. The idea behind SEM is to figure out other searches people do that identifies them as possible customers for your business.The basic idea behind SEM is to target likely customers who may not be searching directly for your products or services.

So why are they important?

Obviously the more people who see your website is more potential revenue. To be successful you will need both of these search tools not just one as they work together. So by maximizing SEO/SEM you can achieve the highest traffic from users possible with the end result of more business for you!

How SEO and SEM Relate to Each Other

SEM refers to any and all marketing practices geared towards achieving a greater presence for your digital content in a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing). For the sake of our discussion we will use Google as a stand in representative for all search engines, as most SEM and SEO practices are in most cases strategically focused on Google due it’s dominant status as the preferred search engine of most users.

SEO falls under the domain of SEM, i.e., it is digital marketing practice whereby certain tactics are implemented to web content as to achieve a higher ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs).

In addition to SEO, SEM includes other marketing methods that aim to gain greater visibility in search engines, most notably paid search advertising. When most people speak of SEM, they are usually referencing paid search advertising specifically.

SEM: Brief Overview of Concepts

The results for a query in Google will yield pages upon pages of results. When examining those results, you will notice that at the top of the SERPs, some of the results will contain a little box next to them containing the word “Ad.” These are paid search ads that companies pay for using digital ad platforms, the famous of which is Google’s Adwords.

Ads can be purchased under various models. Search Engine Land breaks these down below:

  1. PPC (pay-per-click) – ads charged by the number of clicks the ad receives
  2. CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) – you pay an ad rate for 1000 impressions

PPC advertising with Adwords involves businesses bidding on popular keywords that their audience uses as search queries in the hope of converting those interested users into consumers of your product or content. PPC advertising involves a great deal of strategy and analytic study that goes beyond the breadth of this article. But briefly, the primary goal is to pay the lowest rate for cost per click (CPC). To achieve the lowest CPC for your PPC requires analysis of online ad success and the current state of the market in which you are competing.RECOMMENDED FOR YOUWebcast, November 27th: Why Podcasting is the Ultimate ABM Strategy

Other aspects of SEM include retargeting, mobile ads, and paid ads on social media channels.

SEO: Brief Overview of Concepts

SEO can be broken up into two primary subdomains: On-site SEO and off-site SEO. Off-site SEO concerns the process of gaining backlinks to your content from other highly ranked and trusted websites. This includes researching the interests of your backlink prospects and creating content targeted to their interests, as well as outreach to these prospects and relationship building.

On-Site SEO includes the various practices and tactics used within the content itself to organically achieve a higher ranking in the SERPs. This is not a matter of simply following a checklist of best practices and earning the number one spot on Google. After all, Google does not want it’s ranking system to be able to be manipulated – hence, the 500-600 changes they make to their search algorithm each year.

But nevertheless there are certainly best practices to follow to guarantee that Google’s crawl robots have an easier time of reading and indexing your content.

Some of the basic tricks include:

  • Selectively choosing low-competition keywords within your niche in which to frame your content. (Note – Do not simply stuff your content with keywords. Google is capable of spotting this and will penalize you.)
  • Write interesting, high utility content that keeps your users on the page. Google views a high time on page favorably.
  • Have an intelligent related posts plugin to make your site more sticky and cut down your bounce rate.
  • Use multimedia, such as photos and videos to increase user’s time on page.
  • Copywriting tricks such as captivating sub-headers, formatting that creates a lot of white space on page (short paragraphs, bullet lists, etc.), and bucket brigades will all help increase time on page.
  • Use your keyword in your H1 title tag, one of your H2 tags, 2-3 more times in the body, a few synonyms of keyword in the body as well, and in your image alt tag.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of SEO tactics by any means. What I hope for you to glean from the list above is the common trait that all of these SEO tricks possess – they are free!

Importance of SEO in Contrast to SEM

While SEM and SEO are both fundamental aspects of any digital marketing campaign, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both.

SEM is great if you have the budget. After all, let’s not forget the paid in paid search. If you are a first year magazine or content company in a competitive niche, you may not be able to successfully compete for your desired keywords.

SEM is great for driving people to your site quickly, which makes it great for e-commerce sites that need a lot of traffic right away, e.g., for a blowout sale or the holiday season. But unless your site is sticky and gives the user a reason to return, you will experience nothing but short-term growth that will dip back to pre-ad levels as soon as you stop paying.

SEO on the other hand typically results in much slower growth – unless your cat video happens to go viral and brings you ten million viewers in a week (which is unfortunately not very likely). But nevertheless, successful SEO strategy can result in a solid backlink portfolio and sustainable organic presence. If you create a wide spread of evergreen content that ranks well for a plethora of keywords, you can sleep soundly at night knowing that your digital presence will not falter any time soon. And aside from the time-costs of creating the content, SEO practices are free.

Also, according to Moz, the organic traffic has a higher click through rate than paid search. “For every 1 click on a paid search result, the organic results generate 8.5 clicks.”

So if you’re a startup, trying to get your company of the ground but can’t afford to compete in the bidding war for high-value keywords, SEO is the way to go. Create an array of high-utility evergreen content, rise to the top, and get your voice heard!

What is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

The difference between SEO and SEM is simply that Search Engine Optimization is part of Search Engine Marketing or Search Marketing as it is widely known. Both processes aim in increasing visibility in search engines.

SEO is about optimizing your website to get higher rankings in the organic search results while SEM goes beyond SEO. It involves other methods that can get you search engine traffic like PPC advertising.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For the purpose of doing a comparison between SEO and SEM, it is important to start with the definition of SEO, so that it is clear for everyone what the difference between the two is.

What is SEO?

SEO is the process of optimizing your website for the purpose of getting free traffic from search engines.

SEO is important because an optimized web site is easily understood by search engine crawlers and this increases the chances of ranking higher in SERPS (search engine results pages).

What are the main components of SEO?

There are 3 main pillars of SEO: technical SEO, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO.

Technical SEO refers to the process of optimizing your website for the crawling and indexing phase. With technical SEO you ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website without any problems.

On-Site SEO are rules you can apply on individual pages and content so that they optimized for specific keywords.

For example, you need to have optimized titles, good descriptions, well-formatted URLs, optimized headings (H1, H2), alt text for images and many more.

You can read the comprehensive SEO Tutorial for beginners, to get a good idea of how you can optimize your website for search engines.

Off-site SEO refers to the process of getting references (backlinks) from other websites for the purpose of increasing your web site’s trust in the eyes of search engines.

For beginners, this may be confusing but try to think about it like a ranking system where the website that has the most references, ranks higher.

References, in this case, are links coming from other web sites to your site. That is also the reason why off-site SEO is referred to as link building.

To avoid any misunderstandings, it’s not only a matter of how many links you have pointed to your website but also from where these links are coming (and a number of other factors).

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing is over and above SEO but it’s only a subset of your overall Digital Marketing Strategy.

The diagram below shows the relationship between Digital Marketing, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and SEO.

SEM in Digital Marketing

As you can see above, there are many more ways to increase your web site’s traffic besides SEM and SEO.

What is SEM?

SEM is a digital marketing process with the goal of increasing visibility in search engines either by getting organic traffic through SEO or paid traffic through PPC advertising.

Through paid search advertising you essentially buy advertising space in the search engine results. So, instead of trying to rank in one of the top positions organically through SEO and get free traffic, you pay to appear in front of the search results.

The most well-known advertising agency for PSA is Google Ads (formally Google Adwords). Through Google Ads, you can get your ads to appear in the Google search results and you pay only for the clicks on your ads.

This is also the reason why the whole process is called Pay-per-click or PPC. Bing and Yahoo have a similar system but it not so successful and widely known as Google Ads.

Which is better, SEO or SEM?

Despite the fact that SEO is one of the two components of search engine marketing, many marketers when they refer to SEM they mean PPC advertising.

Basically they consider Paid Search Advertising as being the only component of SEM. In this case, you can do a comparison between the two.


Organic SEO is generally the best marketing tactic for long-lasting results. Websites that rank high in the organic results for their target keywords, can get free traffic 24/7, industry recognition and enjoy all the benefits of SEO.

Websites that use PPC can still get targeted traffic from search engines but they have to pay for it. Once they stop the paid campaigns, the traffic disappears.

Another major difference between SEO and SEM is that it takes a lot of time for SEO to work and generate results while PPC is almost instant.

So, which is better depends on your overall digital marketing goals. If you want to get traffic fast then you can start with SEM (paid search advertising) and in parallel work on your SEO. If you want to create a long-lasting online business without relying on paid traffic, then SEO is your answer.

Does SEM help SEO?

Despite what many people think, SEM does not help SEO. If you use PPC to target specific keywords and get search engine traffic, that does not positively or negatively affect your SEO efforts.

SEO rankings are decided after taking into account hundreds of factors and SEM or PPC campaigns are NOT one of them.

Importance of SEM Traffic

Search Engine Marketing traffic (either through organic SEO or Paid Search Advertising) is considered the most important source of Internet traffic because it is targeted. It is widely accepted that people use search engines to find a solution to a problem, an answer to a question or to learn how to do something.

So, when searchers click on a website from the search results or click on an ad, they are more likely to convert. The relevancy of the displayed web sites and ads makes SEM traffic more valuable than any other source of traffic.

Facebook and Twitter are trying to optimize their advertising platforms to utilize targeted traffic but still, traffic coming directly from search engines has a better ROI.


What is SEO?

SEO is the process of optimizing your website for the purpose of getting free traffic from search engines.

What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of increasing visibility in search engines and getting traffic either through SEO or paid search ads.

Does SEM help SEO?

SEM does not help SEO. If you use paid ads to target specific keywords and get search engine traffic, that does not positively or negatively affect your SEO efforts.

Why is SEM traffic important?

SEM traffic, either through SEO or Paid Search Ads is considered the most important source of Internet traffic because it is targeted.

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