SEO and SEM are really two sides of the same coin, but they consist of very different actions and relate to different aspects of marketing. Sometimes the two terms are used together to reference a similar set of activities, which can be confusing for those less familiar with the Search world.
So, what’s the difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)? How do the two relate and work together?
SEO refers to the process by which search engines (i.e Google, Bing, etc) “crawl” content to see how effective it will be to attract traffic. Search engines will assess a number of factors on a website (such as keywords, tags, and link titles) and rank it for its capacity to attract organic traffic. Successful SEO results in increased organic traffic.
Having high quality content sends a message to search engines that your website and business is delivering a legitimate good or service. Part of the way they assess you is via link building and keywords.
Is your website designed for users to have a frictionless experience? Is it fast and easy to navigate? Can users meet their end goals (i.e making a purchase) with ease?
Link Patterns: Are you backlinking to authority sites? Where are your inbound links coming from?
SEM is a descriptor that incorporates various types of paid search advertising (i.e Google Ads). Since SEM campaigns are targeted towards users based on the keyword/phrases they search for, this tactic is great for increasing site traffic from niche audiences.
As with most forms of digital marketing, tracking results and measuring ROI is simple. In tandem with your ads, using basic site analytics can show how users found your site (i.e through ads), which pages on your site they visited, how long they stayed on a page, and which turned into a conversation based on your CTA.