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Search Engine Optimisation vs. Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Optimisation vs. Search Engine Marketing

Both SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are popular terms within the digital marketing industry. These are critical for business growth as well. 93% of all online searches begin with Google.


When online content is optimised to be discovered through organic search results is known as search engine optimisation. Web crawlers scour billions of websites to organise them in the form of massive libraries creating something called a search index. Thus, when you use keywords to express content, they get added to the index pushing your website higher. Strategic keyword placement, however, is crucial for this activity to occur.


In contrast, SEM works alongside paid strategies, commonly known as PPC or Pay Per Click, to increase search visibility. You can promote your business across social media platforms to get your message through directly to your customer.

In conclusion, Google’s (or any search engine) search results are divided into two paid and organic. SEO aims to rank your website organically, while SEM uses paid tactics.

Main Features of SEO

SEO is primarily categorised as on-page, off-page, technical SEO and user interactions. There are more than 200 ranking signals embedded into Google’s algorithm. On-Page SEO optimises your website through search terms placed by customers on the search engine. As a best practice, marketers typically place the primary keyword in the meta description, title tag and URL. Off-Page SEO is all about building backlinks to the sites. It attracts authority signals and gains trust from other websites. With technical SEO, search engines crawl and index the web pages on the website and make sure that pages load quickly. Finally, user interaction signals are sent when users browse sites, and Google tries to figure out if the page is indeed legitimate or not. The rankings drop down when Google deems a site as unfit.

SEO campaigns and search results

Generally, SEO is a gradual process and can take some time before you can fully feel your onsite and offsite presence. Especially if your site is new, it could take some time before you see some positive results. Even though the process might seem slow, you will visualise a significant increase in rankings anywhere between 3 to 6 months. Competitive search engine optimisation uses advanced tools to effect thousands of small changes and continually adapt to these modifications.

Main Features of SEM

Complex algorithms come together to evaluate search terms and return the most relevant results, including location and other available data, to the seeker. Sponsored ads are visualised on the top and sides of the search engine page for prominence and visibility over and above the organic results. SEM is predominantly self-serve, where marketers select a particular network to set up a campaign for a stipulated period.

A select set of keywords are identified through a comprehensive keyword research activity. Then a geographic location is chosen where the ad can be displayed. Finally, a bid is placed on the price the marketer is willing to pay for the text-based ad presented in the search results.

SEM is more often complemented by A/B testing to optimise traffic conversions. It keeps a watchful eye on revenue per page or average order value to maximise spending.

The main difference between SEO and SEM is the time taken to visualise search results. CLT uses both tactics to deliver the best in digital marketing. Reach out to us for more information.