When establishing the strategies of a digital marketing campaign, there are two concepts that are often confused: SEO vs SEM. The confusion usually occurs because both actions have the ultimate purpose of improving the positioning of a website, to get more quality traffic and increase conversions.

The digital age allowed anyone with an internet connection to have access to an immense amount of information to answer any question they type in the search bar, from anywhere and at any time. However, users usually keep the first options that appear, to reduce browsing time and because they consider that it is the most relevant and that it will best satisfy their questions.

Therefore, if you want to achieve the success of a website, the ideal is that it is located among the first positions of the SERPs of search engines. That is where the SEO vs SEM.

In this note we will tell you how both techniques differ, what are the tools that should be used in each case and why it is important to implement both to achieve the company's objectives.

Let them get into the ring SEO vs SEM!

What is EMS?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) encompasses all paid marketing strategies and techniques, which are carried out to improve the visibility of a website on the search engine results page.

One way is to create paid ads for specific keywords so that the page is displayed first than the competition when someone actively searches for that topic, product, or service.

In these cases, the advertiser pays each time the user clicks on the link, which is located in the search positions reserved for this type of campaign.

Paid ads can also be created through platforms such as Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising, to have a presence on sites such as Google Maps, YouTube, Google Shopping, Gmail, among others.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consists of all organic marketing strategies and techniques, which aim to optimize the website so that it is crawled by search engines, correctly indexed and sufficiently relevant. All this in order to increase visibility and improve the natural positioning on the search engine results page.

To respond to a user's search, the different engines evaluate hundreds of signals from all the websites, to determine which one best answers that question and guarantee the Internet user the best and fastest possible experience. Therefore, the key is to get to appear in the first results of the SERP.

To achieve SEO optimization without having to pay a direct advertising cost for each visit, there are different on-page and off-page tasks.

On-page SEO

He On-page SEO includes all the actions that are carried out within the site itself to optimize it to the maximum and position it better in search engines:

  • Achieve an organized and easily understandable internal structure, so that people easily navigate the page and stay longer on it. These metrics are taken into account by Google when positioning a website.
  • Optimize titles and descriptions by using keywords and a lot of creativity, to make it as attractive as possible. The title must not exceed 60 characters and the description 140, so that they can be read in full in the results.
  • Optimize headers using H1, H2, H3 tags, etc. This allows to better organize the information and make the user orient himself within the content of the site.
  • Optimize the content, which is achieved with an extension between 1500-2000 words, a Keyword Density between 1% and 4%, quality images, achieving user comments and using the keyword in both the first and last paragraph.
  • Create friendly URLs, as short as possible and not longer than three or four words. The keywords must appear and the prepositions, conjunctions and the like can be ignored.
  • Improve loading time to avoid dropout. This is achieved by reducing the size of the images, optimizing the number of codes, etc.

off-page SEO

Off-page SEO includes all the actions that are carried out outside the website and that serve to improve its visibility and popularity:

  • Generate backlinks (Linkbuilding), making other sites, preferably quality, link to the page. This demonstrates a vote of confidence and improves search engine perception. Three fundamental aspects must be taken into account: the Authority Score, which is a metric that measures the authority of the website; the number of unique domains they link to; and the relevance of topics, which must be related.
  • Build the brand through actions that improve online authority with respect to users and search engines.
  • Have a presence on social networks, which function as search engines and discovery platforms.
  • Participate in forums, which can function as a way to create links and participate in conversations that are related to the theme of the site.
  • Generate a presence in online events, such as webinars, to engage with the audience.
  • Create podcasts to interact with the public.
  • Get reviews to improve online reputation.

What are the differences between SEO vs SEM?

As we mentioned before, SEO vs SEM are two types of marketing strategies that have the same objective, but present some significant differences:

  • Payment: in SEO actions, a direct expense should not be assumed for each visit, as it does in SEM techniques. However, this does not mean that the first option is free, since it requires an investment of time, resources, effort and budget to optimize the website.
  • Placement: Ads are placed above, below, or to the side of organic search engine results, which rank in the middle of the SERP.
  • Content: for SEO positioning, quality and long content must be created, while in SEM ads are created with a limit of characters or landing pages that seek to generate maximum impact with the minimum elements.
  • Temporality: organic strategies seek to achieve results in the medium or long term, unlike paid ones that seek benefits in the short or medium time.
  • Keywords: SEO works with a limited number of keywords, since it is recommended to use only one and its variations for each page. In SEM, since it is a bidding system, you can use as many as you want, to identify which ones attract qualified traffic and generate higher conversions.
  • Flexibility: in organic positioning, for changes to take effect, sometimes days or weeks must pass, while in payment they are applied immediately.
  • CTR: various studies show that, in organic search engine results, the click rate below the fifth position is less than 5%, since only 1% of users go from the first page. While in the ads you can get very high CTRs in the first 4 places.
  • Changes in the rankings: in SEO there are no major changes in terms of the position occupied on the results page, while in SEM the dance is constant.
  • Measurement: organic positioning is increasingly difficult to measure, while payment is very easy to monitor.

In short, there is no winner in the SEO vs SEM fight, but both techniques have different characteristics and opportunities.

So: SEO or SEM?

When choosing between SEO vs SEM, time will be a key factor in the decision. There is no doubt that a SEM campaign can help you get almost immediate results and generate a boost in sales. Unlike SEO actions, which will allow you to see the fruits in the medium or long term. This is because search engines need time to get to know the site, analyze it and position it.

However, this feature does not determine who is better in SEO vs SEM, since, for example, the paid positioning disappears immediately when the investment is finished. Therefore, what is recommended is to combine both strategies, essential in digital marketing to achieve optimal results.

When the website has just been published, it is important to start SEO actions as soon as possible, to speed up the work of the search engines. While the page deserves to improve its positioning, it is key to boost it with a SEM ad.

Once the website has managed to rank in the top 5 of the SERP, paid campaigns should be used for maintenance or to optimize performance on some keywords where it is very difficult to appear among the first results.

In no case is it recommended to do without organic work, since the conditions of the ad platform can change at any moment or lower the budget available for advertising, which would considerably affect the business.

After defining these types of marketing strategies, we can say that SEO vs SEM are two complementary ways of working on web positioning, so it is recommended to use both in a joint and coordinated manner.

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