What are SEO and SEM?

SEO is search engine optimization, and SEM is search engine marketing.

That by itself doesn’t tell you very much about the differences in the two things, or how to use them in your marketing campaigns.

Search Engine Optimization 

Search engine optimization is the use of certain techniques to attract search engine spiders to your website, web page, articles, blog posts, or other content.

These spiders index your content to the various search engines, and a higher rating usually equals higher placement on the search engine result pages.

SEO can be loosely defined as a group of techniques that are used to attract search engine crawlers to your content.  The most important SEO technique is simply well-written content, but there are other tools that you can use to make sure your web pages are as fully SEO optimized as possible.  These tools include duplicate content detection software, search engine simulators, and tags.

Duplicate content detection software can find copied content and alert you to remove it. There are both paid versions of this software (such as Copyscape) and free versions (such as Plagium). Search engine simulators display your pages in exactly the same way that the search engine spider will see them. This is important because the spider normally won’t see flash, images, or javascript.

Tags are words that relate to the content of your document. For example, the tags that could be used for this article include SEO, SEM, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, Google Adwords, Yahoo Overture, etc.  Now if I throw in an unrelated word such as duck hunting, you would probably think that I’d lost my mind. In addition, when the tags are used to index your content, I would get a lot of searchers saying “I was looking for duck hunting and got THIS?”

Search Engine Marketing

When the term search engine marketing is used, it is generally referring to the text advertisements that can appear at the top of search engine results pages; these advertisements may also appear on the right hand side of search engine results pages. These are links that are actually purchased on a PPC (pay per click) basis.  PPC means that you pay for each click on your ad, whether they purchase anything or not.

If you’ve purchased your PPC ads from Google, the price will be determined by several factors. Two of these factors are the top bid price and the click through rate.  If you have a relatively low click through rate, you’ll be paying more for your ads.  This is because Google believes that relevant ads are those with a higher click through rate, and that the higher click through rate should be rewarded with better rankings as well as lower prices.

In Yahoo’s Overture system, ad rankings are based solely on the bid prices.  In theory, this means that the person or company who bids the most wins the top search engine spot.

seo vs sem

However, the top spot or even the second spot may not be the most desirable spot to have anyway.  Results that are placed anywhere from the number three spot to the number five spot seem to be the optimal positions, mostly because the click rate costs you less.

This is also true because many surfers have already checked out the top two results which are presumably your competition.  They’ve arrived at your slightly lower-ranked ad because they are interested in your prices or comparing your products, goods, and services with those of your competition.


I’m Bharath, am 26 years old Indian based blogger. I’m addicted to Facebook and Twitter and a devotee of web designing. At the start, my enthusiasm was not blogging, but now it is my life and I blog concerning all stuff in the world like technology, Mobile, Facebook, and the amazing world of Android. You can follow me on Twitter @Bharath.

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