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SEO vs. SEM:
Which is the best option for your business?

| 6th May 2020

(Get ready for AO – Acronym Overload!)

There is often confusion surrounding the two terms SEO and SEM. Many business owners out there are unsure of which they would be better off focusing on. If you too are in this boat, you might find yourself asking if both SEO and SEM are equally important or whether you should be placing a greater emphasis on one over the other?

Read below as we investigate both SEO and SEM to help you decide which is the better option for your business.

What is the difference between SEO & SEM?

Firstly, let’s start by clearly differentiating the two terms. The confusion around SEO and SEM often starts because many individuals think the two terms have the same meaning and use them interchangeably. The two terms are very different but are still interconnected to each other.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the practice of optimising website content so that it’s better discovered through a search engine’s organic results. Google makes regular updates to its algorithm which means SEO is also constantly changing.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) on the other hand, is an umbrella term for internet marketing which aims to boost a website’s visibility in search engine results through a range of techniques including paid search and SEO. Meaning, SEO is simply a component of SEM.

There are various search marketing tactics involved in SEM including Pay Per Click (PPC) ads and Social Media Marketing (SMM).


So now that we better understand the differences between SEO and SEM, let’s further investigate which method you should be focusing on for your business.

Many marketers will argue that using an organic SEO approach is always the best option and believe that successful SEM is not possible without the help of SEO. There are however other arguments out there leaning towards the idea that PPC is a better option than SEO.

Your business and your goals will determine what will work best for you. Sometimes SEM will be your best bet, sometimes SEO is ideal and sometimes both could be beneficial. Both SEO and SEM come with their advantages and disadvantages. For example:

  • Cost: Techniques like PPC can become an expensive habit when regularly used over time. The price of keywords can vary depending on your particular campaign—some keywords will only set you back a few cents per click whereas others can be a few dollars!
  • Click through rate: Users are generally more likely to click on organic search results as opposed to paid aids. This is because many of us have learnt the difference between ads and organic results so we tend to trust the organic options.
  • Speed: The big benefit you’ll get with PPC is the speed in which you can get your advertising up and running. Potentially, you can appear on the first page of Google within minutes when using a PPC campaign. SEO, on the other hand, takes a lot more time and effort.

Why can’t we have both?

We suggest you try to find a healthy balance between SEO and SEM to see what works best for your particular needs. Evaluate your goals to determine where you should be focusing on SEO and where SEM would be the better tactic.

For instance, achieving highly competitive keywords is sometimes unrealistic through just SEO. This is where running paid ads comes in handy. But if you’re looking to rank when it comes to informational keywords, this is where SEO is your best bet.

As discussed earlier, both strategies come with their pros and cons. SEO takes time but is well worth the effort in the long term. SEM strategies such as PPC are easy and quick ways to get a little boost. However, tactics such as PPC can be expensive.

This is why it’s a good idea to use both techniques together so you can ultimately get the best of both worlds. If all of these acronyms are making your head vibrate, or you would like to understand this better simply get in touch and have a chat to our digital marketing experts today.

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