SEM vs SEO: What’s The Difference, What’s Search Engine Marketing, & How Can Both Expand the Reach of my Business?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is often confused with search engine optimization (SEO). Although both aim to increase your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs), the methods they use to reach that goal are different. 

Also known as organic search, SEO involves methods of increasing your rank only through outreach, resulting in sustained, natural traffic growth. SEM, on the other hand, involves methods of increasing your rank through paid advertising. Pay-per-click marketing (PPC) is a tactic of SEM often used by businesses to quickly jump to the top of user searches, as seen with Google ads.


Believe it or not, you don’t have to pick between SEO and SEM when it comes to marketing your business. The best marketing strategies use a combination of both methods to boost long-term visibility, traffic, and conversions. 

SEO requires keyword research- you need to find out what people are searching for. If nobody is searching for what you are posting, nobody will see it. Keywords related to your business, location, or product are a good starting point. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer- what would they be searching for? Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help you find the right keywords for your business, which can help you get your business in front of the right people.

Once you have your keywords, you’ll want to implement them. For example, strategically placing your keywords in titles and throughout your content on your website can increase your sites visibility in searches related to your keywords. Off-page SEO and technical SEO are important, too. Trustworthy sites that Google can find, crawl, and index will rank higher, especially in combination with great on-page SEO and continued keyword research.

SEM requires an investment. Paying for ads on social media platforms or search engines can place your business at the top of search results for your keywords, above organic search results, building brand recognition over time with the right strategy, execution, and budget. Over time, brands with great SEM and SEO can hold both the top spot for paid and organic search results. This further solidifies their position at the top, and increases the likelihood of lead conversions.

Both SEO and SEM will help you understand your audience, and drive visibility and traffic, but their outcomes are different. SEO can take time to see results, but with SEM, you can see results almost instantly. Conversely, a solid SEO strategy will add value to your business over time, while the results seen from SEM will not last once the investment is taken away.

Utilizing social media tools for business marketing

Social media has developed into a crucial component of any effectively executed digital marketing strategy. In this digital age, it’s important to know which platforms are beneficial for your business, as not all of them are equally effective for marketing.

Since the very first social media platform, SixDegrees, launched in 1997 to today, where a myriad of options are available, there’s no doubt that the way people (and businesses) are using these platforms has evolved. With so many apps and websites to choose from, it can seem daunting to have to figure out which platforms to use and the best strategies for each, especially since every platform has its own algorithms, rules, tools, and purposes. Some platforms may not always be around or may die out after a surge of popularity, while others have longevity that will carry them well into the future. 

The social media ‘giants’ of today include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest, to name a few. With hundreds of millions of users (and more) on each platform, you need a marketing strategy that works for you and your business. Merely existing on these sites is not enough.

Facebook and Instagram ads are another form of PPC marketing that falls under the umbrella of SEM. You can use these social media ads to target a more refined audience. The channels you use to promote your business should be selected carefully with your target audience in mind.

Analyzing your efforts

You can use data to determine the efficacy of your marketing strategies. Tools like Google Analytics can help you track the performance of your website over time, and show how much traffic has been generated organically and via PPC. Best of all, Google Analytics is free to use and easy to implement.

For social media, once you set up your profiles and begin publishing content, you’ll know where your efforts are paying off and which social media platforms are best for your business and target demographic based on the analytics reporting unique to each platform. Social analytics can answer questions like:

  • What kind of content do my followers prefer?
  • Is it beneficial to continue posting on platform XYZ?
  • Which platforms are driving the most engagement?
  • How does the audience feel about my brand?
  • Is what I’m doing working?

When you look at your social media reporting, the words “reach” and “impressions” will likely be present. Both are terms used to describe your brands’ engagement on social media, and may be measured differently on each platform. Another measurement you may see might be “interactions” or “engagements,” depending on the platform. In general, reach tells you how many users saw your content, impressions tells you how many times your content was seen, and interactions tell you how many times users clicked, liked, commented, or shared your content. It’s important to know your reach and how often your content is seen, but tracking business conversions is just as important, and can provide more insight into how successful your marketing efforts have been overall.

Implementing SEO and SEM for your business

Looking at your SEM can seem like an overwhelming task with ever-evolving best practices. At The Janice Christopher Marketing Agency, we’re here to keep your digital marketing optimized so you can focus on running your business. We are experts at utilizing social media to its fullest potential to boost web traffic and sales.

Give our team of digital marketing masters a call at (203) 903-1070, or explore our website to learn more about our marketing solutions or to set up a complimentary consultation.

Written by

Janice Christopher is no stranger to marketing, with 30 years of sales and brand management experience. Formerly a Certified Financial Planner, Janice decided to spread her wings and become a marketing consultant for small- to medium-sized businesses. As a business owner herself, she knows how to listen to clients, identify their needs – and then develop a strategy to help them WIN. But you catch more flies with honey, right? She has three different service models to get brands buzzing — based on just how much attention they need from our resident beekeepers. Janice is competitive, relationship-oriented and smart – out to sting the competition and get customers swarming to your door. Known as the Queen Bee of Marketing, Janice’s sweet-spot is taking the mystery out of marketing and bringing buzz to her client’s brands.

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