Difference Between SEO and SEM

There is a common misconception among many internet marketers about the two terms: SEO and SEM. Much is revealed as soon as one observes the two acronyms.


SEO stands for search engine optimisation and SEM for search engine marketing. From this point on it should be pretty clear that the two are a bit like “Apples” and “Fruit”. While the term is used more or less correctly, SEM seems to have grown into SEO’s paid inclusion counterpart, which is not exactly right.

Search engine optimisation is only a small part of SEM which focuses on on-site and off-site adjustments in order to produce higher rankings in the search engine result pages.

SEO also works well in combination with other SEM disciplines such as traffic analytics. SEM, at the other hand, is a part of even larger entity called Internet Marketing and operates on a rather narrow but effective platform which focuses only on search engines as its marketing delivery ground.

SEM encompasses all known strategies used to market online via search engines such as Google, Live and Yahoo and has many overlapping areas with traditional marketing and its well known sub-discipline, search engine optimisation. For example press releases can be used for a variety of purposes. In some cases you may wish to distribute your press release to create brand awareness, inform the public about an important change that has affected your business, in other cases you may use press releases and articles as a clever search engine optimisation tool which will assist you to generate extra backlinks through a contextually balanced linking environment.

Another common misconception is that search engine optimisation is free and deals with the organic search engine results and “SEM” is paid and mainly concerned with PPC (Pay Per Click), banner ads, affiliate programs and paid reviews. Better way to refer to these two terms would be search engine optimisation and Online Advertising. The truth is that unless you have plenty of time to spend in research and keeping yourself up to date with the latest trends, you will have to spend a bit of money with either strategy. Even if you get an expert to handle this for you, it will still take a bit of research and trial before you can decide which way to go with your business and whether to combine the two strategies.

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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