SEM Vs. SEO

Digital Marketing Consultant Singapore
  • Author: Bryan Ng
  • Published: 13 Nov 2019
  • Updated: 13 Nov 2019
  • Reading Time: 3 minutes
SEM Vs. SEO

SEM and SEO are very popular on the internet. If you know little to nothing about digital marketing, you may be confused asking is SEM and SEO the same?

SEM and SEO are not the same. While both of these digital marketing channels are used to rank on search engines, they rely on a very different mechanism.

Let’s look into details on what are some SEM and SEO difference.

What Does SEM And SEO Stand For?

What Does SEM And SEO Stand For

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. It is the process of gaining traffic by paying for advertisement running on search engines. Popular SEM platforms are Google Ads, the most widely used SEM platform, as well as Bing Ads.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the process of gaining organic traffic by optimising your website for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

So, one of the SEM and SEO difference is SEM uses Pay-Per-Click (PPC), a form of paid advertising, and SEO is free.

SEM And SEO Strategy

SEM And SEO Strategy


If both SEM and SEO are used to gain website traffic from search engines, isn’t it better to use SEO since it’s free? Not necessary but every website should adopt SEO.

Both SEM and SEO have their distinctive advantages, let’s look at the difference in SEM and SEO strategy.

SEO Strategy

SEO Strategy

SEO is free which enables you to gain unlimited organic traffic without budget restricting, however, it takes months to rank the first page of search engine result pages (SERPs).

The time to rank the first page of SERPs varies on:
how experienced you are
how competitive is the keyword
how much your competitors are optimising

Since it takes months to rank the first page of SERPs, which means SEO is a long-term online strategy.

SEM Strategy

SEM Strategy

On the other hand, SEM could be used for short or long-term:

Short-Term Scenarios
-Selling a temporary product that requires an immediate reach out, this usually applies to festive goods.
-A new product launch that needs intensive marketing which will later rely on SEO and stop on paid advertising.

Long-Term Scenarios
-Unable to maximise SEO due to certain reasons. Hence, going with long-term SEM. You often see this in luxury brands website or e-commerce, where they have little content on their product page, making SEO difficult.
– You want higher Click Through Rate (CTR) for your website. By paying for top placements, your link will appear before SEO organic results and it will naturally give you higher CTR when you above all.

SEM can do these jobs anytime since paying for the placement can instantly outrank your competitors in SERPs.

SEM Vs. SEO: Which Is Better?

SEO Vs. SEM Which Is Better

So after knowing what is SEM and SEO strategies, it drills down to this question, SEM vs. SEO, which is better?

As mentioned, each has its benefits. The one that suits your business situation will be the most ideal choice.

Every website should adopt SEO. But if your marketing budget allows, you should use SEM too.

If optimised and utilised effectively, SEM and SEO working together is an ultimate combination for digital marketing strategy.

Here are two examples where SEM and SEO working together is a great match:

Your SEO effort is only able to rank well for certain pages of your website, where the rest of the pages can use SEM.


By using SEM and SEO you can appear twice in SERPs, one paid placement and one organic result, this can increase your CTR in SERPs.

SEM Vs. SEO: Conclusion

SEM and SEO strategy is very different yet both working together is one of the best digital marketing strategies.

There are no good or bad, which is better and which is not. But if you have to choose between SEM and SEO, go for the one that suits your business most.

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