SEO vs SEM: How to Choose a Better One for Your Business

With the fast advancement of technology, having a digital presence is a big deal for business players in the digital era. For those who are just recently acquainted with digital marketing, getting started might be confusing, especially with unfamiliar terms such as SEO and SEM which sound too similar to each other.

Simply put, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is part of SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Just like their names, both are heavily related with using search engine as a medium for the marketing process because, honestly, today everyone uses search engine to search everything.

Now, the question is which one is the one more suitable for your business?


SEO or Search Engine Optimization is how you optimize your website to get organic traffic from the search engine. When you do SEO, it means you hope that people will notice and visit you when they search for their interest without you spending money for advertisement. If your website’s SEO is good, there is a good chance that your website will appear on the first pages of search result; thus, bigger chance for people to click your site instead of those who appear on later pages.

The way you do SEO can be On-page or Off-page.

On-page SEO is every optimization you do inside your website. Some of the practices as mentioned on the Google SEO Starter Guide involve putting a good title, using metadata, improving URL structure, creating content with good quality, using heading tags correctly, and image optimization.

Because SEO aims to get organic traffic, choosing the right keywords is crucial, and it should be implemented on the on-page SEO.

On the other hand, Off-page SEO is the optimization you can do outside your own page. For example is by doing backlinking.


Do you know when you search something on Google and there are some of highlighted results pinned on the top of the list? That’s the example of SEM.

Example of SEM practice:

Result that is pinned on top of search result with label Ad in front of the address

Search Engine Marketing is when you make use of paid search to get traffic to your website. The most popular practice is by using Google Adwords with which you can perform PPC (pay per click) campaigns.

By using SEM, the way you promote your website can be more targeted and for sure, it appears on the first page of search result. Because it is still highly related to the relevance of the keywords used for search, the practices of SEO are still implemented here to make sure your ads are targeted to the right audience.


After knowing the difference between the two, now comes the moment where you need to choose which one should be implemented on your business. The best way is to use both SEO and SEM and gain maximum result. However, as you may have noticed, SEO requires time and SEM requires money, and not all companies have the luxury to do both.

Using SEO is like being engaged in a long-time commitment. You cannot just do the practices in one day and wish that your website will be going up by itself. You have to continuously research for the best keywords and how the competitive the keywords are. You also need to keep creating relevant contents which will be sent into the battlefield. After you have done all that, the result is also not coming instantly. It can be days, weeks, or even months depending on the chosen keywords and the level of the competitiveness.

You may think that SEO is a lot of hassle, but if you win the competition, your website will appear on the first pages of search results. In other words, your business will be getting a lot more exposure compared to your competitors. It will also lead to a more sustainable digital presence, and most of all, you do not have to spend any money for that.

On the other hand, SEM may seem expensive if done for a long time, but if you have the budget and you invest correctly, using SEM may help your business to get more ROI. The most important benefit is granted visibility because your website will be on top of SERPs, and if you are an e-commerce player, you can also show your products on the SERP along with the price, so possible buyers can immediately visit the order page. You can also control your budget because the report of SEM is real time, so you can evaluate the ads performance and control the spending.

Need help with either SEO or SEM, or decided to use both? AlpharusMedia is at your service.

We can help you with your SEO so you don’t have to worry about not having enough time to maintain your website. We can also help you with SEM by implementing the effective strategy to get maximum result. Just leave a comment below, or contact us here as a first step to your website optimization.

Source: Alpharus Media

Originally published at on September 22, 2018.



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