Difference between SEO and SEM

SEO and SEM both are the techniques to increase the visibility and traffic on a website, however both are quite different from each other. The most basic difference between the two is that SEO focuses on enhancing the organic traffic on a website, while SEM uses different strategies to increase traffic like SEO, paid promotion, etc.

Read this article to learn more about SEO and SEM and how they are different from each other.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a way to increase the visibility of a website by nonpaid forms of advertising. It is used to increase traffic to a website by improving the rank of website in search results of a search engine. In simple words, the method of increasing the rank of a website in a good position so that it can be easily found in the search results is called SEO. It enhances the recognition of a website by the search engine.

There are two types of SEOs namely, On-Site SEO and Off-Site SEO. On-Site SEO refers to the optimization of a website by using keywords distribution throughout the website. On the other hand, Off-Site SEO is the optimization of a website by including links from other high ranking websites to build trust.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is again a way to increase the visibility of a website by paid forms of advertising. AdSense, Social networking, pay-per-click are examples of SEM. In SEM, a business runs ads in search result by paying an amount. SEM involves a comprehensive research to get the most effective keywords. Then, these keywords are used for SEM campaigns.

In case of SEM, a marketer shows the ads in the SERPs (search engine result pages) that appear near to the organic listing to increase the visibility of the company's website. Basically, SEM involves two types of marketing strategies namely, SEO (also called organic SEM), in which traffic is generated without paid promotion; and Paid SEM, in which ads are shown up to increase the visibility of the website.

Difference between SEO and SEM

The following are the important difference between SEO and SEM −





SEO is a subset of SEM.

SEM is used to increase visitors to website or increase traffic to website.


SEO is a time taking process.

Paid advertising is the fastest mode. Search results shows on top, the paid result.

Suitable for

SEO is suitable for low budget companies and is a long term solution.

SEM is suitable for high budget companies and benefits are apparent in short term.


Nothing to pay.

Per click or as per time frame, fees to be paid to search engines or target website.

Traffic Potential

It is really unlimited being no time boundation.

Traffic potential is limited by budget.


SEO is cheaper than SEM.

SEM is way costlier than SEO.


Benefits are visible in long term.

Benefits are visible in short term.


Back linking.

Google AdSense.


The most significant difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO refers to the process of optimization of a webpage content to increase the organic higher listing on the search engine result pages, while SMO refers to the process that involves promotion of a website to gain traffic in search engine result pages.