Difference Between SEO & SEM

What is the difference between SEO & SEM?

There’s a lot of industry jargon in digital marketing, and if you don’t understand the big picture, terms and acronyms can often go from confusing to completely incomprehensible. Let’s take a minute and shed some light on the major difference in Search – SEO & SEM.

If you don’t have the time to read the rest of this post, just remember this: How well you rank in Organic Search is influenced by your SEO strategy. Your appearance in Paid Search is influenced by your SEM strategy.

When we talk about Search, it’s basically as you imagine – what happens when you go on a search engine (like Google.com, Bing.com, Yahoo.com, etc.), go to the search bar and type in some words for the search engine to help you find relevant results for. What the search engines deems as the most relevant results will appear at the top, and those also have the highest likelihood of being noticed by the user.

Now, all of this is done in a split second, but what you may not realize is that on the back end, at Google (let’s just use them as the example since they are by far the largest and most used search engine), they have a very complex system worked over many, many years, of what is the best search results to show you based on your search. This system consists of bots that go through billions of pages on the internet to extract content and information to let Google know what the websites are about, and are then plugged into a complex algorithm that decides which websites and webpages would be most relevant to the keywords the person is searching for.

No one knows for sure what exactly that algorithm is made of, but experts have done a lot of testing and have been able to pick out a some of the major factors. Which is where SEO comes in.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and in simple terms, it’s a strategic way to use keywords in your website to help you get higher in search rankings. There is a lot to SEO, and since this is supposed to be a super basic introduction, I won’t get into it all here. There are great resources to learn about SEO, you may want to start with Search Engine Land’s “What is SEO?”.

There is a shortcut and give your website a boost to appear at the top of a search listing – through paid search. It’s not guaranteed, and the relevance of your site will still play a part as to how easy it is for you to get up there, but if you’re willing to pay for search advertising, then you’re much more likely to get pushed to the top. This is SEM, which stands for Search Engine Marketing. The search results that you see toward the top that is in a different section and have the words “Sponsored” or “Ads” attached to them would be ones that marketers have paid to push up there. Again, in the same way as SEO, there are strategies to help you gain the best traction in your search ads, but we won’t discuss it here. Check out Search Engine Land’s “What is SEM?” article to find out more.

Are you interested in finding out more about how SEO or SEM may benefit your small business? Feel free to contact us. We’d love to chat with you.

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