SEO Vs SEM: What Is The Difference and What Works Better

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Updated July 13th, 2022

SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference and Why Should You Care?

Google and other search engines have 2 types of search replies: paid (PPC) and regular (SEO). Paid results appear when companies pay search engines for clicks. Organic results are those that search robots consider being the most relevant to a given query. Obviously, business owners can increase website traffic by compiling SEO and PPC.

If your budget is strictly limited, a difficult choice occurs — SEO vs SEM. This is where the trick is hidden since many people replace PPC with SEM by mistake. In this article, we will answer the question of how and when to use SEO or PPC, and how to combine them for a more comprehensive search engine marketing strategy (SEM).


What Is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing content that can be found through regular search results. Google and other search engines check hundreds of factors to decide which pages to rank for queries. Nobody knows what all these factors are, but the most important ones are divided into two groups:

1 – Technical optimization of the whole website

Includes technical changes to help search robots evaluate and index content more efficiently, which means using canonical and hreflang tags, optimizing robots.txt, and using the “Noindex” function. In turn, all these features help improve page loading speed.

2 – Optimization of the individual pages

Examples of SEO tactics on individual pages include: matching the text with the search intent, use of short and descriptive URLs, writing tempting headlines and meta tags, using descriptive alt tags for images, writing simple and easy-to-read content, etc. In general, it covers On-Page, Off-Page tasks, and their combinations.

So, SEO is an appropriate tool for you if you have no deadlines and intend to use long-term strategies to promote your business. In this case, the advantages of SEO are the following:

  • Trust: people do not believe advertising. But if your site is in SERPs, users have a chance to see you twice. Organic search replies are more clickable than paid ads.
  • Traffic: SEO increases website traffic and improves behavioral factors.
  • Low cost: organic traffic is free, but you can’t do without SEO to get to the TOP. It takes effort, time, and money.
  • Sustainability: unlike other marketing strategies, organic search traffic won’t stop even if your SEO budget is limited.
  • Strategic advantage: achieving visibility in organic search results is a long process. Having taken a position in the TOP, competitors will not be able to react quickly and “buy” a place on the first page. You will have the advantage for a while.


  • Traffic: due to the high competition, organic traffic is hard to get.
  • Time: effective SEO requires high-quality internal resource optimization, effective link building, and relevant content. They are time-consuming and costly.

Now, let’s pay our attention to PPC and how this tool affects website promotion.

What Is PPC?

PPC (Pay Per Click) is a form of promotion in which companies pay for clicks to search engines. The main advantage of contextual promotion is the speed of the result. PPC tools make it possible to quickly test new designs, audiences, market segments, and identify new keywords. Here are some other advantages of this tool:

  • Positioning: paid advertising is placed on the 1st page of the SERP regardless of the choice of the search engine.
  • Control: the content of the advertisements is controlled by you. Based on the primary results, the USP can be quickly changed.
  • Visual help: visualizing the request improves click-through rates. Google Ads provides the ability to place a product image in a paid ad.
  • Targeting: it allows you to show ads to a target audience by any criteria (gender, age, hobbies, etc.).
  • Speed: achieving top positions in organics takes time. After displaying ads, the visitors will immediately come to the site.


  • Cost: every click received through the PPC channel is paid. Context promotion requires regular funding.
  • Time: to optimize all ad parameters and get the result, you need constant control and instant response to changes.
  • Competition: PPC tools are the same for everyone. The advertisement will be seen by all users, including competitors. They can use both the idea and the text and attract your clients.

What Is Search Engine Marketing?

The simultaneous use of contextual advertising and SEO increases the effectiveness of the promotion strategy. These tools in combination with social marketing may give you constant results and attract new customers. High-quality internal optimization provides quick indexing of site pages by search robots. This contributes to a better ranking of the resource and the growth of its positions in the search outcomes.

Contextual promotion attracts visitors in a short time. If the site is convenient for users, they are more likely to stay on it. It will improve the behavioral factors and help the resource with ranking by search robots. Moreover, the projects from the first search page always get more traffic than others.

Below are four ways you can use SEO, PPC, or both to maximize search engine visibility and traffic:

  1. Use ads for competitive keywords;
  2. Use PPC and SEO for advertising keywords;
  3. Use SEO for medium and low-frequency keywords;
  4. Use SEO and PPC to monopolize your search results.


In 2022, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is no longer an endless battle between SEO and PPC. Knowing where, when, and how to use each tool to achieve the desired results is the foundation of successful website promotion. A competent distribution of costs between PPC and SEO will provide an increase in conversions. You cannot separate organic traffic and paid promotion: at the moment it is a single organism that requires efforts to achieve the marketing goals. This is our key advice for your website promotion in 2021.

What tools do you consider to be more effective for online promotion? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.



Viren is having 6+ years of experience in Digital Marketing across different industries & verticles. He is in expert Paid Advertising & SEO.


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