Differences between SEM and SEO: which one is better for my business

Differences between SEM and SEO

SEM and SEO are two necessary marketing techniques for a business. However, there is a difference between these two terms. In this post, we want to talk to you about the mechanics of these two concepts so that you can determine which one is better to enhance your website. In addition to explaining what is hidden behind these acronyms, we explain how they work and how they differ from one another. Finally, we share some good practices to boost the positioning of your business.

Let’s start!

Shem and Seo

Table of Contents [ Hide ]

1 What is SEM or Search Engine Marketing?
1.1 How does SEM work?
2 What is SEO or Search Engine Optimization?
2.1 How does SEO work?
3 What are the main differences between SEM and SEO?
4 SEM or SEO: which one to choose for my business?
4.1 Case #1: I have a small budget, but time
4.2 Case #2: I have a big budget and want fast results
4.3 Case #3: I don’t have a lot of money but I want results in the short and medium term
5 Our tips to optimize the positioning of your website
5.1 Choose the right keywords
5.2 Optimize meta data and use a sitemap
5.3 Optimize your URLs
5.4 Take care of the content
5.5 Optimize your images
5.6 Update your website
5.7 Includes internal links and backlinks
5.8 Optimize loading time
5.9 Ensure the security of your site
5.10 Take advantage of social networks
5.11 Think mobile-first
6 In conclusion

What is SEM or Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) is a set of marketing methods that can be applied to improve the visibility of your website in search engines.


By definition, SEM includes Search Engine Optimization (or SEO), but not the other way around, as SEO is just one of the ways to improve the visibility of a website in search engines like Google. In fact, in SEM , in addition to SEO, it is used:

search engine advertising (SEA)
social media optimization (SMO)
advertising in media and social networks (SMA)

How does EMS work?

A typical SEM strategy usually includes different stages:

Keyword research and analysis
Grouping keywords into useful categories
Creating ads based on specific search terms
Definition of search terms in Google ads
Add targeting based on location, time of day, etc.
Set campaign budget limitations
Optimize your ad bids through Google Ads
Evaluation of key performance indicators (or KPIs )

What is SEO or Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) refers to all the steps that are taken to improve the natural positioning, also called organic positioning , of a website. It is a free positioning to be better positioned in the results of search engines .

Search Engine Optimization

Each search engine determines the organic ranking of each website using complex algorithms. If you want to know how the Google algorithm works, we recommend that you take a look at our post: The Google algorithm and all the relevant details you should know .

How does SEO work?

An SEO strategy includes the following steps:

Keyword research and analysis
Keyword analysis of existing web content
Optimizing web content for search terms
Optimizing the user experience (or UX) to ensure a higher quality score in Google ads

What are the main differences between SEM and SEO?

Here are the main differences between search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO):

The SEM provides results in the short, medium and long term, the SEO rather in the medium-long term.
SEO allows you to obtain results at no cost, while SEM is paid.
More specifically, SEO focuses on getting your website to appear at the top of search results when a user types keywords related to your business. SEM, on the other hand, consists of bidding on keywords and investing in those that the user is likely to type in the search bar.
The SEM does not necessarily need to touch the structure of the website, while the SEO imposes it.
SEO includes optimization techniques both inside and outside the web page ( On page and Off page), while SEM includes SEO, SMA, SEA, SMO.

SEM or SEO: which one to choose for my business?

It is better to ask the question in another way: what digital marketing techniques are the most relevant for my company, taking into account my budget and my objectives?

Discover below several possible scenarios so you can choose the best strategy for your business.

seo strategy


Case #1: I have a small budget, but time

In this case, SEO is for you. We recommend training in SEO (there are plenty of SEO guides or free tutorials both on blogs and on YouTube) to be able to get the most out of SEO. In fact, we share some tips at the end of the article so that you can apply the best techniques to optimize your website. Don’t miss them!

Case #2: I have a big budget and I want fast results

Without hesitation: SEM is for you. Unless you are an expert, we advise you to use a digital marketing agency, such as Digital Menta , to manage and monitor Adwords campaigns. In addition, being a multifunctional SEM agency , we have different departments for the payment campaigns to be implemented and with this we can develop the strategy that will lead you to success.

Case #3: I don’t have a lot of money but I want results in the short and medium term

The ideal would be to implement both an SEM strategy and an SEO strategy. Opting for a combination is the best option to boost the visibility and notoriety of your website.

It is also an approach that allows you to examine your performance in terms of keywords, conversion rates , etc. Additionally, you can use SEM to boost your SEO efforts and entice your leads to convert.

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