What’s the Difference and How to Get Benefit From Them?


For newbies to digital marketing, the terms SEO and SEM can be incredibly confusing.

Both have “Search” and “Engine”. Aren’t you managing the things you “tweak”? Fear not, here at Clearwater we have found a convenient way to sum up the difference between these two separate but very related elements of the digital marketing mix.

How do you ask By comparison with online dating, of course. Analogies are often the best way to explain concepts to customers, and which one is better to use than the way you can improve your online dating profile.

What is SEO in a nutshell?

In a nutshell, search engine optimization is the strategy of convincing search engines to put your website at the top of the search results pyramid for consumers to see, which in turn helps drive consumers to your website. The traffic to your website that is directed there through SEO tactics is also known as “organic traffic”. This is arguably the most valuable type of traffic as it is absolutely free and has works and updates on your website that will ultimately only make sure you are the best option for your target market.

The relationship between SEO and search engines is similar to the relationship between dating websites and your personal dating profile. It is the website’s responsibility to balance you with other potential love interests based on your profile, and it is your responsibility to create your profile with the intent of being honest, keeping it up to date and all necessary and to have interesting information about you that a potential partner would need.

On a website, a number of on-page and off-page elements such as content, meta titles, backlinks, internal links etc. are taken into account by search engine bots when determining whether a website should be assigned a keyword. When it comes to online dating, your best photos and interests are like ranking signals.

The Google bot or potential love interests picks up these signals and decides whether you will be classified in relevant search terms or, in this case, swipe straight at you. When you have a combination of the right elements, you are sure to find some suitable matches and the dating website will be able to do its job right and help everyone find love. SEO works the same way; It’s all about matching online businesses with suitable consumers.

What is SEM in a nutshell?

Search engine marketing used to be an umbrella term that encompassed both SEO and paid search engine marketing strategies. Over time, however, the acronym SEM has mostly developed into the paid side of a digital marketing campaign.

SEO-vs-Paid Search Marketing Strategies

SEM is a search optimization strategy that, unlike SEO, uses paid digital marketing activities like paid search ads and pay-per-click (PPC) to increase visibility on popular search engines. Google Ads is arguably the most famous paid marketing activity used in SEM. When using a search engine, you will often find that the word “Ad” appears next to the listing in the first few search results, indicating that this website paid to display the listing first for those particular search results.

One of the main advantages of paid search is that SEO is incredibly important to a website and can produce great results when trying to get number one on search engines. The paid search can guarantee this position. It is also necessary to consider the dramatic increase in the use of cell phones and tablets in the use of search engines, and as the screen size decreases, the main property at the top of these search results is worth the more.

To come back to the dating website analogy mentioned in our previous paragraph, dating websites (similar to SEM) also offer their customers the option of “improving” their profiles on the website and putting them above other profiles for visibility and matches increase a price.

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?

After all of this we have to ask ourselves: what is the real difference between SEO and SEM? While one term focuses on earned traffic, the other depends on paid results. Thankfully, there is more than one way to get to this number one online, and while the end goal for SEM and SEO is website search visibility, the approach and tools in their arsenal are quite unique.

It’s the difference between a great profile that instantly draws users in and one that improves visibility a little to make sure it’s seen.

Should I use both SEO and SEM together?

The great thing about SEO and SEM is that they certainly aren’t mutually exclusive and complement each other rather than working against each other. They both incorporate keywords into their processes, both work towards the same goal, and they’re both only as good as the website you published there.

It is entirely possible (and encouraged) to have a holistic view of your online presence and digital marketing campaign. The integration of both strategies for search optimization ensures your consistent visibility of the online search. We have seen time and again that the click rate for both the best-paid and the organic position is significantly higher than just one of these positions.

Back to our dating analogy, if you have a great online dating profile that has the right pictures and descriptions, but you want to give your profile a little boost through paid traffic, you will indeed be in great demand!