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5 differences between SEO and SEM you need to know about in 2019

If you’re not clued up with the current trends, successful strategies and emerging technologies, you’re playing a waiting game for your digital marketing dream to very quickly become a nightmare. Whether you’re a part of a B2B or a B2C company, one of the first questions to ask when looking at the marketing techniques is SEO or SEM – which is better and which one should we choose?

Off the bat, there’s a problem and it’s not one with the decision, but rather the question. It shouldn’t be a case of ‘which one should we go for’ but rather ‘how can we optimise both’. It’s not a war, but an alliance.

SEO and SEM can’t be compared and turned against each other because they have completely different functions, it’s like comparing a vacuum cleaner with a pineapple. Okay, maybe not to quite that extent, but you get the idea.

Any marketing company that’s worth their money will tell you that you should consider the pros and cons of each technique and then plan and apply them to the company strategies to reach goals. You should never prioritise one or the other but use them together to maximise results.

A little in the dark about where to begin, what does what and who goes where? Don’t worry, here are 5 differences between SEO and SEM you need to know about in 2019.

1. SEM is paid search, while SEO is organic search

The biggest difference between SEO and SEM stands in their most basic definition’s and how the strategies function.

The definition of SEO

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is defined by Digital Authority Partners a set of tactics used by digital marketers, webmasters and bloggers to increase both the quality and the quantity of traffic through organic search. Or in other words, using unpaid techniques to get to the top of search engines.

This can include a variety of factors including site accessibility, domain authority, mobile readiness, user experience, keyword use and shareability among a whole host of other bits and pieces.

The key piece of information for this difference is that it’s not boosted promotion.

The definition of SEM

SEM, or search engine marketing, is simply paying to be shown within the search results, often denoted with an ‘Ad’ tag at the top of Google. This may be seen as the easy way to reach the top, but used carefully, it can boost businesses into a whole other tax bracket.

The key piece of information for this difference is that it is boosted promotion.

2. SEO lets you rank for more

When you’re looking for keywords to rank for with your SEM strategy, you’re only really looking to rank for that chosen word or short phrase, but with SEO, you can rank for (potentially) hundreds of different search terms.

So instead of just ranking for ‘Yoga Mats Chicago’, you can be ranking for all kinds of different related search terms as dictated by your post. Maybe you’ll reach the first page for ‘Different Yoga Mat Comparison’, ‘How to transport my yoga mat’ or ‘Where to buy the best yoga mats’ all from the same page.

To really add the cherry on top, you won’t have to pay every time someone clicks on your ad, which is always nice.

3. SEO has a better long term ROI than SEM

SEO is the undisputed king in the digital marketing world when it comes to the long term ROI. Depending on the scale of operation, your SEO strategy might cost you more to get it kick-started, but once you’re up and running, you’re almost guaranteed to make it all back (and then some).

It’s the ongoing costs that soon start to add up when using SEM. When these are compared to the ongoing costs of SEO, the initial lump sum soon starts to feel like a bargain. Of course, that isn’t to say that SEM doesn’t have it’s uses. But for the long term, SEO is your very best friend.

4. SEM is much faster than SEO

One of the biggest pains of any SEO strategy is the time that it takes to get going and to start seeing any sort of results.

With the average campaign seeing three to six months before any sort of results show, it’s no wonder that it’s common to put the two strategies up against each other when looking for a quick around. But as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day and for consistent high-quality work, it’s wise to stick out the SEO.

If you’re in need of results fast and are willing to do anything to get them, it’s time to turn to SEM for your go-to tool. With almost instantaneous results, you’ll be bang on trend and won’t be missing the boat in a hurry. Perfect for any fast-paced crazes.

5. SEM is one and done but SEO is constantly ongoing

If you’re working with a good agency, you’ll notice that SEO isn’t just a one-time thing that you can leave alone for the foreseeable future. In fact, it’ll take up a good chunk of time and effort to make sure your rankings stay where you want them.

Whether that’s on-site or off-site optimisation, the adjustment of the overall strategy or the upkeep of technical SEO, it’s always an ongoing battle. Compare this to any SEM and you’ll see a stark contrast, yes you’ll maybe have to do some tweaks in the early stages but once it’s up and running, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

With Google huge fans of change and the ranking constantly switching, it counts to have all your eggs in different baskets. You don’t want to be stuck with anything but outdated SEO and third-page results, it helps to invest in ads in uncertain times.

It’s all about hard work, but it’s all work that’ll pay off in the long run, SEO or SEM.

About the author



Sukhdev Singh is a Business management graduate, with superb managerial skills and leadership abilities. He always has an approach of “leading from the front” which keeps us all motivated and inspires us to work more efficiently. He has an incredible amount of experience in the blockchain field as he has worked with a Crypto start-up based on blockchain. His cheerful personality always lifts our spirits and always makes sure that the work at VerifiedTasks is top-notch.
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