What is SEO Marketing?

Technically, SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization, and SEM is the acronym for search engine marketing. However, SEO and SEM are often used synonymously. In this article we will take a look at SEO vs. SEM and what SEO marketing means when it comes to your website and the marketing techniques used to promote your site.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Defined

Search engine optimization is the process of creating web pages and websites in a way in which they will be recognized by search engines, in hopes the search engine spiders will quickly and easily index them and include them in the top results of Internet user searches.

A few of the steps taken in the process of creating SEO friendly pages and websites include:

  • Pages should be organized, easy to find, and included in a sitemap. This not only helps the end-user but will also help the site get indexed.
  • Every page should be content driven. Creating pages stuffed with keywords but that are not well written, informative, or user-friendly will not be received well from the search engines or your visitors.
  • Your meta tags and meta descriptions should be indicated clearly and using precise keywords or phrases.
  • Linking within the pages lead your visitors to useful information and are not misused.

The goal in using these SEO practices is to create good page rank, and increase the likelihood that when people search for your chosen keywords that you will be placed on the first page of their search results.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Defined

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a form of Internet marketing that may include things such as paid placement, contextual advertising, paid inclusion, and more. Some of the techniques used in SEM include:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, such as Google AdWords. Using PPC advertising requires knowledge and skill in order to choose the right keywords, analyze bids, decide on ad placement, and more.
  • Submitting the site to search engines and directories
  • Contextual advertising, such as Google AdSense. This type of advertising uses automated systems to scan a site for keywords then display ads related to the targeted keywords.
  • Paid inclusion, sometimes called sponsored listings. You may pay to have your website included in ads on SERPs. Keep in mind most Internet users are aware these are paid ads and will not click on them.
  • Return on investment (ROI) is an important part of SEM. You must monitor your ROI on a regular basis and adjust according to what may/may not be working for you.

The goal when using SEM practices to increase your visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) in the form of advertisements, excluding your website ranking and where your site is placed within the search results.


Although the goals of both SEO and SEM are very similar in the sense that they both focus on helping potential visitors find your website, they do indeed have different functions. The difference between SEO and SEM quite simply is:

SEO – Optimizing all aspects of your website so your site will be placed within the first page or two of specific search results.

SEM – Paying for the marketing of your website so your site will show up by way of advertisements at the top and sides of SERPs. As well as paid ads on other related websites.

In reality you will want to use both SEO and SEM strategies together so you can attract customers searching for your specific keywords and content, as well as having ads for your website posted on other websites and as paid ads within search results.