What’s the Difference Between SEO & SEM?

July 28 / JN Design Studio
JN Design Studio Blog SEO versus SEM

SEO and SEM can be confusing when trying to distinguish between the two. Both of them involve search engine rankings, and both relate to marketing online. But what is the difference, if there is any?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is something I am sure every designer, entrepreneur, or business person has heard of. It is exactly what the name states, optimization for search engines. Mainly those practices that help get your website ranked higher on the search engine results. Mostly these practices aim to please the #1 search engine to date, Google.

SEO is a component of SEM, utilizing the free elements of web marketing. SEO has both on-page factors and off-page factors that help to provide search engine success.


On-page (within the back-end and code of the website) utilizes:

  • Keyword strategies to be placed within title tags, heading tags (H1, H2, H3, and so on), meta descriptions, image alt tags, body copy, and every other elements the visitor sees on your page.
  • Blogs with copy written to effectively use those keywords
  • URLs that are formatted clean with keywords in mind
  • Having fast (or optimized) page loading
  • The ability to share via social media within your site
  • and many other elements


Off-page (utilizing the web space) consists of:

  • Others sharing your site socially
  • Getting love from other sites. This produces back-links that will link back to your site.
  • Bookmarks on social sites like Reddit and Stumbleupon
  • and other strategies


SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
combines the free elements of SEO with the paid elements offered. These include:

  • The above SEO components
  • PPC – Pay per click ads
  • Paid Search Results
  • Social Media Ads
  • and other paid elements to increase your website’s visibility

To some it up, SEO is free and SEM has paid elements. SEO is more organic, SEM is organic and forced/deliberate. SEM would be better suited for a business that wants instant visibility. They want immediate results and fast. SEO is for businesses that don’t care about the quicker results but want to build relationships with visitors and partnerships with blogs.

There is no right or wrong here and if used collectively, you will see a greater increase in website visibility. However if you could only pick one, SEO is the way to go. Ask JN Design Studio how we can help build a strategy to effectively gain visibility for your website, blog, or business.

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