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The main difference is that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) focuses on optimizing the website in order to get traffic from organic search results. On the other hand, the aim of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is to obtain traffic and visibility from both organic and paid searches.


Put another way:


Google’s search results are divided into two main categories: the paid search results and the organic search results.


SEO ‘s goal is to rank your website in the results of an organic search.


You can also get your website via pay – per – click (PPC) search results in the paid area.


SEO is where you rely 100% on the rating of organic results. SEM is when you use both SEO and PPC to get traffic from search engines.


Oh, indeed, SEM is a broad term that includes SEO and PPC. Which means that SEO falls “under” the SEM umbrella group.


With this clarification out of the way, let’s get into some of the major differences between SEM and SEO.



SEO is the practice of constantly optimizing the website to rank in the Natural, Unpaid Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Google uses 200 + signal rankings in its algorithm. That said, SEO can be divided into four main subcategories: SEO on-page, SEO off-page, SEO technological and User Interaction Signals.


On-Page SEO: This is where you customize your website for keywords that your target user is looking for in Google, Bing and other search engines. For example, one of the best practices on the SEO page is to use your main keyword in your title tag, meta description and webpage URL.

Off-Page SEO: Off-Page SEO is all about getting confidence and authority signals from other websites. This involves, in particular, creating high-quality backlinks to your site. Yet Google may also use other off-page signals to maximize the influence of your site, such as E-A-T and social media sharing.

Technical SEO: Here’s where you make sure that Google and other search engines can crawl and index all of the pages on your website. Technical SEO also includes things like making sure your pages load quickly. And that your site architecture is set up correctly.

User Interaction Signals: The way users interact with your site helps Google figure out if your page is a good match for someone’s search. For example, if your page has a high bounce rate, it might be an indication that your page doesn’t give someone the response to their question. And if Google finds your page to be a bad match for that keyword, they will drop your rankings down a little bit. Or absolutely out of the first tab.


SEM is a high-level term that includes SEO. So, everything that I just outlined above for SEO also applies to SEM. But in addition to SEO, SEM also includes PPC. And PPC is a field that has its own set of features, best practices and more.


Bidding: Whether you’re using Google Ads or Bing Ads, the paid search ads are all about bidding. For PPC, you ‘re asking for a specific keyword. And when someone searches for that keyword, your ad will show up.