Search engine Optimization Vs Search engine marketing

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SEO vs SEM[Image courtesy:]

Search engine marketing involves promoting the websites to increase visibility and traffic in the Search engine results pages (SERP).

Search Engine marketing (SEM) actually is one the type of internet marketing, it’s like an umbrella term which includes Search Engine optimization (SEO) and other components like Pay per click (PPC), Pay for consideration (PFC), Pay for inclusion (PFI) and web analytics rather than the popular notion that SEM means paid listings and SEO means natural listing in the SERP.

By natural listing I mean higher Page Rank without having to pay for anything for it, i.e. naturally getting top listed in the SERP while paid listings are sponsored links for example sponsored links that we can see on the Google search results page that are displayed on the top and sides. So

SEM= SEO + sponsored (PPC + PFC +PFI + web analytics).

Now let’s understand components of SEM briefly:

Search engine optimization (SEO) means optimizing your page content and visibility so that the website has organic or natural higher listing on a SERP. It is done through on page and off page optimization discussed later in the blog.

Pay per click (PPC) means listings in the sponsored ads on the search results page.

Pay for Conversion (PFC) means paying so that your website is considered to be put in the directories of search engines like Yahoo, if it’s found suitable the website URL is added to the index otherwise not.

Pay for Inclusion (PFI) is paying to get your website included in the search engine directory with some term and conditions.

Web analytics involves assessing and improving on the results based on the above strategies to enhance visibility.

Comparison: Paid Marketing vs SEO


Paid marketing targets a specific of people, whereas SEO can target a lot of segments of people.


Paid search is quantifiable, but SEO results can’t be quantified easily as metrics are not easy to measure and there no way to find sales increment directly.

Brand exposure:

A paid search provides better brand exposure, especially for new and small companies than SEO.


ROI is better for SEO than Paid marketing strategies as its free and only efforts are to be put for optimization of the website.

Both Paid marketing and SEO are used in building brand and enhancing customer engagement and above all promoting websites and products.

Lets understand the how SEO and paid marketing strategies are implemented in order to completely understand the similarities or dissimilarity between them.

How is SEO done?

SEO is done in two forms: On-page and off-page.

• On-page: It’s basically making your site engaging for users and hence increase its natural listing. It could be done by content marketing, improving Meta tags, keywords placement and density.

By enhancing website content and making it easy to surf with right information available helps in building credibility of the website and refer it more often. Similarly, placing the right keywords and in adequate number, which people usually type in the Google or search engine will usually get the page ranked higher.

Meta tags are tags used in the website pages which help Google or any search engine to read the important words and description about the content of the page of the website. It is hidden and can’t by the regular website surfing user. This is also crucial to put up right title and description so that search Engine is able to scan through the Meta tags and naturally list them if desired keywords are present.

• Off Page optimization is done increasing the Page rank of the website by adding internal and external backlinks. Backlinks display other webpage that link to your posts. It enables you to keep track of other pages on the web that link to your posts. They could be internal or external. The number of backlinks is an indication of the popularity or importance of the website. A search engine considers the content of the sites to determine the quality of a link.

How does Sponsored ads and Paid Search Work?

In sponsored ads, like banners if the customer clicks on the ads it acts as a digital form of display advertising. Here people can instantly get more information about the product they clicked on that they want to purchase or they feel like browsing which they might be intending to purchase.

Paid searches essentially take a very short time and come at the top and automatically comes at the top of the SERP and with the right display like ‘guaranteed lowest price or discount 20%’ usually makes users more interested and also this makes your site known.

serch_engine[Image Courtesy:]

When to use SEO or the paid searches

So after understanding both SEO and Paid digital marketing forms it is obviously that they can be used in different situations effectively. SEO should be used when the results are needed for a long period of time and consistent traffic and to increase the authority and value of the website. It involves a lot of effort when and is not easy to measure the results here as the paid search should be used for short duration and when targeted traffic is sought. It could be used in product launches, or time sensitive promotion offer or when SEO could not be much useful as the website lacks engaging content.


Search engine marketing Retrieved from wikipedia

Vangie Beal, on page optimization retrieved from webopedia

Niel Patel, Is paid search ineffective for online marketing?

Afaqs campus, The curious Digital Marketer 2.0
Richard Gay, Alan Charlesworth and Rita Esen, Onlinemarketing

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