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SEO vs. SEM. No, They're Not Twins

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing -think they’re one in the same? Both work online to boost brand awareness and online traffic, but they are different. What is SEO and SEM? How are they different?

Search Engine Optimization


In terms of the whole picture, SEO is a part of SEM. Search Engine Optimization is the act of optimizing a website through key words and website development to boost natural search engine listings. Search engine optimization is one of the most cost

-effective functions of a digital marketing campaign and Search Engine Marketing program.

In a previous blog, “What is SEO?” we explained the details of how it works. Think of search engines as the librarians of the web. These sites collect information about every single page available online. Each has an algorithm, or formula, for sorting through and categorizing this information to help users find the most relevant information to what they are looking for.

The higher you are ranked on a search engine, the more people will find you. Effective SEO increases your ranking thus increasing your brand awareness and traffic.

Search Engine Marketing

Much like SEO, SEM is the process of gaining traffic from search engines. While SEO is a part of this process, Search Engine Marketing encompasses many other tools including:

  • Paid inclusion and trusted feed programs
  • Pay-for-placement management (includes pay-per-click)
  • Link popularity / reputation development

Search Engine Marketing uses paid tools like Google ADWords and Pay-Per-Click advertising. It is the paid component of the entire campaign. For companies looking to use part of their marketing budget online, it is a great opportunity to gain traffic to websites including social media or e-commerce sites.

Image: Rafal Olechowski /Shutterstock


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