Search Engine Marketing v/s Search Engine Optimization

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What is SEO?

Have you ever imagined how you get your desired result you searched for from the first few links? Is it just a co-incidence? Or is there a rationale behind it?
Well, there is actually a logic behind this. Creators of a website use strategy and tactics to make sure the pages are built in a manner such that their page gets a higher rank in the search results. This process is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The goal of an SEO is to get its page ranked as high as possible in the search results of various search engines. Why?
How many times do you go to the second result page? Not many, isn’t it!
How many times do you even check all the links on the first page itself?
I think that answers your question automatically!

SEO is the process by which you affect the visibility of a website in the organic search results of a search engine.

What do you mean by organic search results?

Organic search results are the un-paid, natural and relevant results that match your search query. The other type is called paid results, where the website owner has paid the search engine to display their website for some search queries. This can be said to be a type of advertisement.


Why is SEO important?

Imagine you have an excellent website – robust design, lots of pictures and videos. But, a search engine cannot read them! Where does your site go when internet users try to find it? All your hard work goes in vain if you can’t get visitors to your site.

What is SEM?


Search Engine Marketing generally refers to the short advertisements which you can see inside the red circle in the picture above. Often, they are tagged as sponsored links. The highest placed advertisements are decided in an auction where the advertisers place their bids. SEM is effectively paid advertising where the advertiser pays only when his link gets clicked. It is also referred to as PPC (Pay Per Click).

SEM, unlike SEO, includes using paid search results as well as organic search results.

To sum it, SEO is a subset of SEM.

Why use SEM?

  1. Drive traffic to your website – SEO might not be able to give you traffic 24/7 single handedly. Also, consider that in SEM, you can advertise your website to a specific group of users who search for specific queries. This means that the probability of attracting more potential customers increases.
  2. Cost Effective – This way of marketing is definitely more cost effective than traditional advertising media. The traffic one gets on search engines is more targeted. Hence, it is easier to convert a prospect into a customer. Also, it has the lowest cost per customer acquisition among other popular tools like yellow pages, online display ads, email, etc.
  3. Brand Building – Since your visibility increases, potential customers start thinking that your business is an authority in its respective industry. Searchers will remember your brand when they see it on the search page more often. You might ask, what if they do not need your product now? Well, even if they do not, they will remember your brand when they require it in the near future.

When should we go for Pay Per Click (SEM)?

Now, this is an interesting question. So, when shall we use Pay Per Click marketing rather than relying on SEO.

  1. When we need immediate results – Yes, you pay for it. But, it will deliver results faster. The moment your ads are displayed, millions of searchers will click on it. This works amazingly with squeeze pages, product launches, seasonal promotions, event focused marketing and analogous online business campaigns. This is an easy and fast way of spreading your word to the world!
  2. When are you hunting for a highly targeted traffic – This allows you to narrow down your prospects, unlike that in SEO. You can target people based on demographics, income range, education, race, gender. Social networking sites like Facebook even allow you to target its users based on their hobbies. Hence, you can clearly see how PPC can be used to reach out to a very narrow band of users according to your needs and direct them to your webpage.
  3. While promoting time-constrained offer – While marketing products, events or service, which have an expiration date, it becomes imperative to use PPC to reach out to as many people as possible and as fast as possible too!
  4. When your website is not designed for SEO – Remember, search engines like Google are always changing and updating their search algorithms. Hence, you need to optimize your website accordingly if you want to get visibility. Also, the search algorithms read texts and not graphics or media contents. So, if your website is not loaded with text content, SEO might not be your best bait. In such cases, traffic can be generated using PPC.
  5. Dominate the search results for specific keywords – As you have already seen before that PPC results are placed higher than organic results, you are likely to get more traffic by engaging in PPC.


We have seen the advantages that SEM provides over SEO. However, the best way to do business would be when SEM and SEO work together along with the quality of the website. SEM and SEO complement each other. SEO provides SEM with target keywords and market information which enhance the creation of more effective targeted advertisements. When you buy sponsored posts for SEM (PPC), it increases the backlinks – a backlink is an incoming link that originates from another website – which, in turn, boost your website in the eyes of most search engines, thus, benefitting SEO.

SEM & SEO work in synergy to provide the best results for your business.

– Rudranath Dey
FMS, Delhi

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