SEO vs SEM: know the differences

SEO vs SEM: know the differences

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SEO vs SEM: know the differences


In this sense, two techniques appear as the contenders in the race to gain visibility and traffic to a website and, therefore, the battle between SEO vs SEM is still at the center of the discussion about which method is the best. Understand the strategic uses of SEO and SEM, and how they complement each other in a comprehensive digital marketing plan. Discover tips for leveraging both to enhance your web presence. Get a deep dive into the functionalities of both SEO and SEM, exploring how each contributes to different aspects of digital marketing and how to harness their strengths.


SEO vs SEM: know the differences

SEO vs SEM has been a battle for years to know which is the best, but what if we tell you that they are not contrary strategies? Enter here and learn how to combine these two methodologies and conquer the Internet!

Search engine positioning factors, for some years now, have become the number one objective of countless companies that want to be easily found by users on the Internet.


If we take into account that according to various estimates, Google performs 5.6 million searches per day, but more than 90% of the attached websites do not receive organic traffic, this brings us a great dilemma to the table: how to take the user to click on my site?

Well, the answer is: being first!

A recent study by Ahrefs , shows that being on the first page of Google results increases the chances of receiving clicks by 49%.

And, the best—and only—way to be on top of the SERP is through strategies that involve the use of SEO or SEM.

Now, what are these positioning strategies? Read on and learn!

SEO: What is it?

Search engine optimization or Search Engine Optimization is a set of techniques and tools designed to improve websites with the aim of adapting them to the special requirements of search providers and positioning them better on the results pages.

The actions that fall into this category are focused on executing actions on page and off page that favor obtaining volume of organic traffic and guarantee greater visibility before users on the Internet.

The same concept defines what the purpose of SEO is: organic traffic. In other words, to attract clicks from people who, browsing the Internet and without any promotion or publicity involved, decide to enter the site to answer a question, clarify a concern or satisfy a need.

And what is SEM?

On the other hand, SEM is about search engine marketing as its name indicates (Search Engine Marketing) and is based on those actions, disciplines and strategies focused on positioning ads to attract clicks and conversions.

However, contrary to what many people think, the differences between SEO vs SEM have nothing to do with one being the opposite of the other, in fact, SEM needs a lot of SEO to be successful.

You see, SEM is mainly used to rank ads on search engines based on keywords and take “shortcuts” to the top of the SERPs.

Therefore, when we search Google we will see links to websites with the word “Ad” before the link; making it clear that it is paid advertising.

These sites are typically landing pages that are designed to generate leads and sell a product or brand a brand.

Contrary to SEO, which is a medium or long-term strategy, SEM is capable of generating very fast results and attracting users —keeping in mind that SEM is not always synonymous with effectiveness—, but still leaving site optimization on our part. to offer a good user experience .

And, speaking of differences, below we will tell you which are the main ones so that you can easily separate both strategies in your head just by hearing their name.

SEO vs SEM: How are they different?

Knowing both makes it easier to appreciate the differences and similarities that they may have that enrich multiple Digital Marketing strategies .

Point by point, we are going to explain the differences:


As a manager or entrepreneur, surely one of your first concerns when carrying out various marketing initiatives is precisely how much it will cost you to execute them, right?

Well, the SEO vs SEM relationship in this regard is very clear: the first is substantially less expensive than the second.

This does not mean that SEO does not require investments to make it work, but, for SEM campaigns, the costs are present from day zero; On the other hand, for SEO, effort, time and patience come first, and then the budget.

SEO is a medium-long term strategy, so, except for some maintenance costs, it is practically free. In SEM you must pay for each click on your ads.


Ads created in Google Ads are almost automatically positioned at the top of the SERP; while organic results at the top are seen below them.


For a good SEO, quality content is a rule of Content Marketing , where more value is provided to the user.

However, in SEM, ads usually lead to landing pages designed to convert with few resources.


Finally, something that we have left implicit in our article: SEM seeks to generate results in the short term that vanish when the money runs out, and SEO bets on fruits harvested in the medium or long term but that last over time.

Despite the intense battle that exists between SEO vs SEM to be chosen in marketing actions, it is important to clarify that they are not mutually exclusive initiatives.

How to use SEO and SEM in your strategies?

At present, SEO and SEM are two essential techniques to obtain results on the Internet. Combined, they can serve as an infallible weapon to attract and convert users from the first day of your campaigns and to last over time.

Look at the SEM philosophy first, SEO later.

SEM for later SEO

Using these two methodologies can become a great ally in the generation of leads and customer conversion for your business in the following way:

Conduct a keyword study

The first step to establish a strategy that combines SEO and SEM in your campaigns is to carry out a keyword search that summarizes the trends in your business.

Tools like the Google Ads keyword planner or SEMrush will help you find those with high demand and low “supply”.

Take advantage of the insights

Once you have chosen the keywords for your Content Marketing campaigns, it is time to launch the SEM to attract the first users.

Make a plan about the type of content and the kind of ads that will give results within that segment.

Optimize your site for SEO

Whatever the objective of your marketing efforts, you will need a well-optimized site to really capture the attention and interest of users.

Both SEO and SEM are profitable when we have web pages that are well adapted to the user experience that the visitor expects to have and comply with the positioning factors that Google considers.

Create your Ads campaign

When you already have a site ready to receive visitors, it is time to take advantage of the short-term benefits of SEM!

What you will need is a solid and consistent advertising strategy through platforms like Google Ads to capture visitors and transform them into leads for your business.

This way you will have had the best of both worlds!

Which one suits you better?

It is impossible for us to say a priori which of the two is a more effective strategy. Since this determination will be made by you with your brand based on the specific needs of your company and the characteristics of your market.

For example, if your results need to arrive quickly, without a doubt, SEM is the right way to meet that demand. But, on the other hand, if what you are looking for is to reduce costs, SEO will help you reach privileged positions without spending much more.

Now, let’s settle one thing.

Why does SEO take so long?

To answer this we have to consider that Google constantly updates its indexing algorithm to improve its results.

When SEO began to gain prominence, there were already “shortcuts” to play with it and gain visibility. However, today, it is no longer fooled and to conquer it you need much more than quality content.

A site that is on top of all has to have:

  • reliability;
  • content quality;
  • page speed;
  • secure browsing;
  • interactive elements;
  • good pics.

Therefore, SEO takes between 4 and 12 months to give positive results. For example, leveraging low competition keywords can go down to 6 months.

Whatever your choice, you should know that the SEO vs SEM contest is not a war, but a determination as to when one is better than the other.

Your marketing team has to understand that both strategies can be carried out together, as long as the context and business needs are well identified.

You’ve reached the end!

If you want to learn more about SEO and how to become an expert in the field, take the first step by downloading and reading our complete guide on the subject. It has no waste!


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