SEM vs. SEO: What's the Ideal Option for Growing Your Blog?

By Ashutosh Jha → Last Updated on Thursday, February 28, 2019
Every year, businesses spend billions of dollars on search engine optimization (SEO). In fact, they're expected to spend $79.72 billion by the year 2020!

Are you spending a lot of money on SEO in an effort to grow your blog? Are you seeing the kind of results you hoped to see?

sem vs seo
If you're not seeing good results, you might need to switch gears and focus on search engine marketing (SEM) instead.

Never heard of SEM? Not sure whether SEO or SEM matters more for growing your blog?

Read on to learn more about the SEM vs. SEO debate. Keep this information in mind so you can figure out which option is better for growing your blog.

What Is SEO?

Most bloggers are somewhat familiar with SEO and SEO techniques. Just in case you're not, though, let's go over some basics:

  • SEO is a marketing strategy
  • SEO focuses on using organic techniques to increase your website's visibility online
  • With SEO, you do not pay for top placement on search engine rankings
  • Instead, you use a variety of other tactics to make your website visible in people's search engine results

There are hundreds of different tactics bloggers can utilize to increase search engine rankings. Most of these tactics can be sorted into the following categories:

  • On-page SEO: This includes keyword research, keyword optimization, and content creation.
  • Technical SEO: This includes things like site speed, indexing, and mobile friendliness.
  • Off-page SEO: This includes link building and managing online directory profiles and local listings.

A strong SEO strategy must involve all of these different kinds of tactics in order to be successful.

What Is SEM?

SEM involves a lot of the same tactics used in SEO. The difference, though, is that SEM uses paid tactics as opposed to organic tactics.

Paid SEM tactics include paying for social media ads to market your brand and gain visibility in search engine results.

SEM isn't just about paying to have some ads placed, though. You also have to optimize those ads using keyword research to ensure that they appeal to your blog's target audience.

SEM vs. SEO: Similarities and Differences

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between SEO and SEM. Both of these strategies are used to help brands appear in search engine result and help drive traffic to your website.

In order to be successful with either of these strategies, you must know your audience, do keyword research to identify popular search terms, and regular test and optimize your approach to reach your ideal customers. Neither strategy works if you follow a "set it and forget it" model.

At the same time, though, there are also some important differences between these two strategies, including the following:

  • SEM search placements are identified as "Ads" -- this can be a turn-off to some people.
  • SEM results feature ad extensions with additional links and phone numbers; SEO results appear with a featured snippet or description instead.
  • SEM results are shown to a select target audience; SEO doesn't allow you to choose who sees your site in search results.

Basically, SEM and SEO require a lot of the same research and planning tactics, but they yield different results.

SEM vs. SEO: Pros and Cons

Both SEM and SEO have their pros and cons.

Each strategy has its place in your marketing plan, but it's important to consider these pros and cons before you decide which one you want to focus on more closely:


SEM Pros and Cons

When you first begin to read more about SEM, one of the first things you'll learn is that it helps you reach the top spot in search engine rankings more quickly. This, in turn, allows your blog to reach more people.

SEM gives you more control over your search engine placement and budget, too. SEM is also great for helping you reach a highly targeted audience.

You can use it to measure your results more carefully as well.

SEM is more expensive than SEO, and the results might not be as long-lasting. It also allows your competitors to get a look at your advertising strategy.


SEO Pros and Cons

SEO helps to build brand awareness and allows for stronger branding since you can connect with your target audience by giving them exactly what they're trying to find.

SEO tactics are less costly than SEM tactics, too. You also get to see a better return on your investment in many cases.

SEO also tends to yield long-term results. You get to enjoy a certain amount of peace of mind with SEO, whereas SEM is a little more fickle.

On the other hand, SEO takes more time compared to SEM. It takes a lot of research and trial and error. SEO is highly competitive, too, and you need to have a solid content strategy in place if you want to your blog to continue to grow.

Which Should You Choose?

The good news is that you don't necessarily have to stick with just SEM or SEO. There are pros and cons to both, and both should be a part of your blog's marketing strategy.

If you're just getting started and you need to do a lot of optimization work, it can be worth it to spend a bit more on SEM to learn your market better. If your website is fairly well-optimized already, though, you might be better of sticking with SEO.

SEO is also good if you know your market segment well. If you want to test a particular market and do targeted research, though, SEM is the way to go.

Looking for More Marketing Tips?

Now that you are more informed about the SEM vs. SEO debate, you can see that there are benefits to both.

However, depending on your blog and end goals, you might want to prioritize one over the other.

Keep this information in mind so you can figure out where to focus more of your energy and work smarter rather than harder.

Are you looking for more marketing tips and tricks?

If so, contact me today to learn more about my consulting services. I'll help you create the perfect marketing strategy to grow your blog and your business and finally see results! Here is an interesting infographics about SEM vs SEO.

seo vs sem infographics

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Ashutosh Jha

Ashutosh Jha is a professional blogger, Blog and IT Consultant. He writes about Blogging, SEO, Making Money, Internet Marketing and Web Design.
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