What is the difference between SEO and SEM? - ProProfs Discuss
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What is the difference between SEO and SEM?



This question is part of 12 questions to test your Inbound Marketing knowledge.
Asked by Wyatt Williams, Last updated: Jan 10, 2021

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3 Answers

Tara Pele

Tara Pele

I am Tara & working as a Technical Blogger.

Tara Pele
Tara Pele, Technical Blogger, MCA from New York, New York

Answered Jan 03, 2020

SEM vs. SEO: The Differences

SEM vs. SEO: The Differences



SEM search placements include an “Ad” designation. SEO

SEM search placements include an “Ad” designation. SEO does not. Search results that appear as a result of SEM or SEO look different on SERPs. Paid ads that receive placement through SEM tactics are often identified as an ad (e.g., by an icon appearing next to the placement), whereas the search results that appear as a result of organic SEO are not marked in such manner.

SEM vs. SEO: The Differences



SEM search placements include an “Ad” designation. SEO

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

SEM search results have ad extensions. SEO search results have featured snippets. When comparing SEM vs. SEO, you’ll also find differences in the appearance of the search results. SEM search results may include ad extensions, which can add on additional links, phone numbers, and callouts. On the other hand, SEO results may appear with featured snippets in search.

SEM vs. SEO: The Differences



SEM search placements include an “Ad” designation. SEO

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

You pay each time a user clicks on an SEM result. You pay nothing when a user clicks on an SEO result. SEM results are paid placements, and your brand is charged each time a user clicks on the result. Therefore, you must have a budget for continually showing SEM ads and using this form of PPC lead generation. On the flip side, you are never charged when a user clicks on an organic search result.

SEM results show to a select target audience. SEO results do not. While successful SEO and SEM strategies are driven by a plan to connect with a select audience, you can only specify that target audience through SEM. Through SEM, you can (depending on the publisher) select what audiences you want to see the search results by assigning filters based on age, location, income, habits, and more. Through SEO, you cannot specifically choose who will see your search results.

The impact of SEM is immediate. SEO takes time. Through paid SEM ads, you can start to put your results in front of audiences with just a few clicks. As soon as you launch a campaign, your ads start showing in SERPs. At any time, you can turn ads on to increase visibility or turn them off to stop showing. Conversely, SEO is something that you acquire over time and typically over a long time. It can take months of implementing an SEO strategy before a brand begins to rank on search engines.

SEM is better for testing than SEO. Because you can immediately turn SEM paid ads off and on, it’s a great strategy for testing. You can quickly revise your ad copy, target new audiences, and change landing page content to test your new tactics. This flexibility allows you to see differences in your strategies immediately. You cannot accomplish this through SEO, as it would take too much time to make changes and monitor differences in results.

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John Adney

John Adney

John Adney
John Adney

Answered May 22, 2017

SEO refers to organic search results while SEM focuses on paid search
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John Smith

John Smith

John Smith
John Smith

Answered Feb 12, 2017

SEO focuses on organic search rankings while SEM ecompasses all aspects of search marketing
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