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Do SEO and SEM Accomplish the Same Thing?

The short answer is NO. But, they are complementary, and it’s important for marketers to understand how paid and organic listings work together on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Learning how to use SEO and SEM together will improve the exposure and long-term SERP results of your website. Here are the basics:


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results—often referred to as "natural,” "organic,” or "earned" results. (An easy way to remember what SEO means is to think “Search Engine-Organic”).

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in pages SERPs primarily through paid advertising. (Some other terms for various forms of SEM are PPC, Display Advertising and Retargeting.)

 So, now you know how they are different. Let’s shift focus to how they can be complementary to one another. 

There are two similar goals with SEO and SEM:

  1. Both tools use Keywords to drive traffic to a website. Keywords unify both SEO and SEM. They are the building blocks of online search functions. Identifying the keywords help determine monthly traffic volume and competitive status of queries used to drive online business. 
  2. They both have the same goal – to drive traffic to a website.

SEO can be an effective strategy for driving traffic, but it is not always easy to see quick results. It often takes several months or longer for SEO to generate significant levels of website traffic. SEM can deliver immediate results by helping you create highly-targeted online advertising campaigns. The ability to specifically target your online audience means that these campaigns are going to be more effective in helping your website visitors navigate to your site to find a solution to their specific need. 

When combined, SEO and SEM can have a VERY significant impact on your website traffic. Recent studies have revealed that when a brand name appeared in both organic and paid search results, the brand attracted 92% of total clicks. When the brand was mentioned only in organic results, the brand only received 60% of clicks. 


Using a combined SEO and SEM strategy is the Starbucks equivalent to being on every corner and is undoubtedly a best practice for online success in 2018. Contact our digital marketing experts for help with SEO and SEM. 

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