The Difference between SEO and SEM: Which is Better for Your Business?

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The Difference between SEO and SEM: Which is Better for Your Business?

Many times the terms SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are used interchangeably without any proper understanding of their meaning and what they are. The result is a slew of confusion and misunderstanding even amongst professionals. So how is SEO and SEM related and what are their fundamental differences? Moreover, most importantly, is one better than the other? 

Search Engine Marketing is nowadays, understood to refer to paid search. It is a process where companies pay for ads on search engines to drive traffic to their websites. Search Engine Optimisation is achieving the increase in traffic naturally through the optimisation of the website’s content and settings without paying for any ads.

Here are some key differentiators of SEO and SEM:


  • Incorporate keywords into website metadata.
  • Optimise website speed.
  • Create and maintain quality blog posts at regular intervals.
  • Provide social media sharing integration with the content.
  • Cross post content with own social media platforms.
  • Ad budgeting not required.


  • Use of paid search, such as pay per click (PPC) listings and advertisements.
  • Targeted ad campaigns with a specific audience in mind.
  • Setting a budget for ads is required.
  • The copy is targeted using specific keywords.

So which is better? Well, many will argue for one or the other, but most will agree that you need to first establish a relatively firm foundation with SEO for your SEM activities to be more effective. Without exciting and relevant content available on the website, visitors will leave, and your engagement levels will be disastrous. With proper SEO, a business can achieve high retention level of SEM driven traffic.

Understanding the differences between SEO and SEM will help you maximise their effectiveness for extended periods.

Visuer interactive specialised in web design & development, digital marketing and social media management.
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