SEO Or SEM? Which One Is Better


Last Updated on March 5, 2021 by Team Experts

SEO Or SEM: The internet has drastically changed how businesses approach marketing. While traditional forms of marketing are still used, companies are dedicating more and more of their advertising budget towards online marketing campaigns as they allow businesses to better target potential customers. 

In the world of online marketing, there are two big terms everyone should be familiar with, SEO and SEM. Here, we will go over what each of these terms means, compare the two, and determine which one is better.

What Is SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization and involves incorporating targeted keywords and phrases into the website’s written content in an attempt to rank higher in search engine result sets. “SEO has become one of the most important aspects of internet marketing, and without it, there is very little chance a webpage will be found,” writes Jean Harp, a business blogger at Write my X  and 1 Day 2 write.

While this may make sense, not everyone understands how inserting select keywords and phrases increase a website’s visibility. To understand how this works requires a little understanding of how search engines work.

In order to properly index the internet, search engines deploy a program they call a crawler bot. The way this piece of software operates is simple; when it encounters a website, it records specific data from the site and visits all the links included within it. The next phase in this cycle is called indexing, where all the visited sites are added to a central database. Now, as many may have guessed, the database needs a way of organizing all the stored websites. After all, if all the internet web pages were simply added to a database, it wouldn’t be of much use to anyone. This is where keywords come in. All sites added to the database are categorized by keywords that the search engine algorithm believes to be of high relevance to the website’s overall theme and content in question.

Once this process is done, all sites are ranked based on another set of criteria, and this ranking is used to determine what order websites appear in a search result set.

What Is SEM

SEM stands for search engine marketing and is a paid advertising strategy used by many businesses as part of their online marketing campaign. The most common type of SEM is pay-per-click (PPC) ads which, at the same suggests, are ads that charge the advertiser each time a link is clicked. 

The most common type of PPC ads that most people will be familiar with are the advertisements that appear at the top of a google search. If you didn’t look closely, these ads may appear like search results but aren’t. In fact, they are paid advertisements and part of an SEM campaign. “PPC ads are a good way to appear at the top of a result set for a specific set of keywords or phrases. The only downside to this strategy is that some people may be less trusting of paid advertisements than they are of an organically appearing search result,” writes Hellen Fielding, a tech writer at Origin Writings and Brit Student.

It is worth noting that not all advertisers are charged the same, and it all depends on the keywords and phrases they are targeting. If, for example, they are going after highly search terms, there is likely to be a great deal of competition, and the search engine will charge accordingly. If, on the other hand, the company has a very niche product or service, and the amount of search traffic for their targeted keywords and phrases is low, then the price is likely to below as well.

Which One Is Better? SEO or SEM?

There is no straight answer to this question, and it really depends on what the website is trying to accomplish. In highly competitive fields, SEM might have more immediate results than SEO. This being said, SEO is a long-term investment and the more time goes by, the more payoff a quality SEO website will deliver. 

Instead of thinking about it in terms of SEO vs. SEM, it’s more productive to see the issue as a case of how SEO and SEM can work together.

After all, just because a site enters into a paid advertising program, it doesn’t necessarily mean that google or bing will decide to display those ads. Search engines make money by connecting their users with high-quality search results. If a website is of inferior quality and doesn’t appear to add much value, it is unlikely that users will see it, even if it is part of a paid advertising campaign.


While SEO and SEM both have their places, common wisdom dictates that SEO will produce more results in the long run, and an SEM campaign should only be started once all the proper SEO work is complete.

Also read about: Domain Authority and SEO Reporting Tools for your SEO work

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She has over 7 years of experience writing about technology, education, digital marketing, general and business. Her experience in the tech industry (fieldengineer, wowtechub, techsprohub, techinfobeez) has taught her how to write engaging, informative content that makes complex issues accessible to a wide audience. Follow her on Linkedin

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