The difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) is that SEO focuses on getting traffic from organic search, whereas SEM focuses on getting traffic from organic and paid search.
SEM embodies PPC and SEO. PPC gets you in the paid search results; SEO gets you in the organic search results
Both SEO and PPC are ways to market your business in search engines. So both are types of search engine marketing (SEM).
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In this guide, you’ll learn how to create a winning SEM strategy to drive more traffic to your site.
But first, let’s make sure we understand the basics.
What is SEO?
What is PPC?
What is SEM?
How long does SEM take?
How much does SEM cost?
Which type of SEM is best?
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of trying to rank in a search engine’s organic results. It involves four main steps:
Keyword research – Find what people are searching for
On-page SEO – Craft content for searchers
Off-page SEO – Build trust and authority from other websites
Technical SEO – Ensure search engines can find, crawl and index your content
Keyword research is about understanding the words and phrases your customers type into search engines. You can do this with keyword research tools like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.
For example, there are 1.5K searches per month in the U.S. for “seo vs sem”:
Monthly U.S. search volume for "seo vs sem"
Ranking for this keyword would likely send a lot of traffic your way.
Learn more: Keyword Research: The Beginner’s Guide
On-page SEO is about crafting the kind of content that searchers want to see. How you do this depends on the keyword you’re targeting.
For example, people searching for “seo vs sem” want to learn. They want an article explaining key differences. You can tell from the organic search results.
People searching for "seo vs sem" want to learn
People searching for “baby clothes” want to shop. They want e-commerce results.