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What’s The Difference Between SEO And SEM?

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What’s The Difference Between SEO And SEM?

Put simply, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – SEM is the ‘parent’ and SEO is one of the ‘children’.

What is SEO? Well it’s an ongoing process which helps you rank as high as possible in the organic search engine results, such as Google, for the keywords and terms your target audience searches for. The key here is organic results i.e. the natural, non-paid results.

SEM includes SEO, plus the following:

- Paid inclusion, which is when you pay a search engine or directory for your site to be instantly added to their listings rather than relying on the search engine spiders to rank you over time.

- Pay per click ads, such as Google adwords, shown in the image above. These are display ads which appear in the search results based on the keywords entered and you pay each time your ad is clicked.

The additional practices in SEM offer the advantage of speed, as the results are instant, but you will pay for this. Many websites will use paid adverts whilst they work their way up the organic listings. However, paid listings are also often used to supplement organic results as a number of users will click on the paid links before the organic ones; this is usually because they are placed physically higher up the page which draws people’s eye first.

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About the Author

I've worked in business and Marketing for the past 8 years and have a real passion for it - sadly, the creativity and constant evolution excites me! I founded Simply Digital Marketing in early 2011 after starting my CIM qualification. I wanted something to support my study and a place to pass on my experience to other academics and professionals, helping them succeed with thier marketing ambitions. SDM has since grown bigger than I imagined and I love sharing my findings with you all - I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting. Alex Ashley-Roberts


  1. Kevin  June 10, 2011

    I have been confused about this for a while, thanks for clearing it up!

  2. Alex Ashley-Roberts  June 10, 2011

    Happy to help :)

  3. johnluis  October 18, 2011

    i really confuse seo & sem serp.but your screenshot is clearly explain..
    thanks for sharing this screenshot..

  4. Abel Pardo  December 3, 2011

    Clear, simple and informative. Congratulations, very good post.


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