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SEM or SEO? Which Ones Is More Valuable?

SEM or SEO? Which Ones Is More Valuable?

Globally, more than 5.07 billion people use the internet.

In today’s world, almost any business needs to have a strong online presence to grow and succeed. This typically starts with a website, and you need to make sure enough people are visiting it. No matter how good your site is, if your target audience never sees it, it won’t be helpful.

There are various online marketing techniques you can use to get more traffic to your website. SEO and SEM are two of the most popular, but you may be wondering which is most important for your business.

In this guide, we’ll cover what each one is so that you can determine if you should focus more on SEM or SEO. Keep reading for more.

The Importance of Search Engines

When a consumer is after a product or service, there are many ways they can go about finding it. The most common method in today’s world is through search engines. This can be for all kinds of things such as supermarkets, mechanics, hotels, B2B software solutions, and more.

Whatever industry your business is in, you’ll have competitors. You’ll be targeting the same groups, so you need to do what you can to encourage people to buy from you over other companies.

Convenience is one of the most crucial factors. People can easily go online to search for whatever they’re after, and they’ll often be presented with a plethora of solutions. If yours is one of the first ones that show up, you’re likely to get a lot more business.

By building a reliable website and optimizing it for search engines, your site is likely to rank higher on SERPs (search engine results pages). As of September 2022, Google held 92.42% of the search engine market share, completely dominating the industry. As such, this is the platform you should be optimizing your site for.

Traffic from search engines converts into leads, and then into sales. Improving your search engine ranking will directly affect your revenue and how much your company can grow. It will also increase trust and credibility for your brand, which will result in other websites linking back to yours, increasing traffic further.

What Is SEO?

SEO (search engine optimization) is one of the most useful digital marketing strategies available. The overall goal is to improve the search engine ranking of your website, leading to more organic traffic.

Organic traffic is any traffic that comes to your site through unpaid methods. Google search results fall into this category, but things like paid ads, for example, do not. Google divides its search results by paid and unpaid, so for SEO, you’ll be focusing entirely on ranking higher among the unpaid results.

When using Google, 28.5% of people will click the first result that comes up. 15.7% will click the second, 11% will click the third, and it continues to decline for later results. This is why showing up higher has such a significant impact on the organic traffic a site gets, and why one of the biggest marketing tips any marketing agency will give is to improve your SEO.

One of the main benefits of SEO is that it brings in quality traffic. This means that the people who click on search results to get to your site are genuinely interested in what your brand has to offer. Quality traffic is far more likely to lead to sales.

SEO Tactics

Everything about the internet is constantly changing, and Google is no different. They regularly make alterations to their algorithm, which leads to certain changes in effective SEO.

The one element of SEO that stays the same is how it’s based on both Off-Page and On-Page activities. Search engines want to provide users with a good experience, so your page needs to give them what they need to do this.

On-Page SEO relates to the keywords that people search for, as well as other elements that people and search engines look for. This includes content, meta tags, image optimization, and more.

Off-Page SEO is all about the authority and reputation of your website. Link building, local listings, forums, and directory profiles can all help build this.

Technical SEO involves optimizing other elements of your site that don’t involve content. These are things like load speed, mobile responsiveness, user experience, security, and more.

When working on SEO, there are three things you should always focus on:

  • Relevancy
  • Authority
  • Usefulness

Improving these will help your site rank higher. The process can take a while, but establishing your brand as an authority in your industry will have a huge impact.

Why SEO Matters

SEO is ultimately about driving more traffic to your site to build up more quality leads and generate sales. Organic traffic leads to more than 40% of all online revenue, so if you don’t put focus on SEO, you could be missing out on a lot of business.

Implementing SEO into your marketing strategy is one of the most effective ways of increasing traffic. It’s also one of the most cost-effective digital marketing techniques available.

What Is SEM?

SEM (search engine marketing) covers a range of tactics, all of which involve getting more attention on search engine results pages through advertising. This typically refers to things like PPC (pay-per-click) ads or other paid ads on different platforms such as Google My Business and Google Shopping.

Successful SEM will increase visibility so that more people become aware of your brand. Unlike SEO, SEM is a paid strategy. Some marketers consider SEM to include both paid and organic strategies, and it would therefore include SEO, but in most cases, it’s used to only refer to paid tactics.

How SEM Works

Through SEM you can bid for ads to be displayed through Google Ads. Google Ads currently holds 37.2% of the digital ad market, making it the most popular advertising platform on the internet, so if you want to use paid ads, this is where they should be.

You can use keyword research to determine what people are searching for, then use this to create effective ad campaigns. This will make your ads appear more when people perform Google searches. You’ll pay the bid amount for every click on one of your ads.

Why SEM Matters

SEM ensures your brand is visible so that people will visit your website instead of your competitors. Putting your brand right in front of people will have a huge impact on the number of clicks it gets. The higher your website shows up, and the more clicks your ads get, the more sales you’ll make.

Differences Between SEO and SEM

The main difference between these two strategies is that SEO is unpaid and SEM is paid. On top of that, there are several other differences you should be aware of.

Time for Impact

SEM ads have an immediate effect, and you can put them in front of your audience very quickly. SEO can take a while (sometimes several months) before your site will start to show up higher in search results.


You can easily turn SEM ads off and back on again, which makes them ideal for testing. You can also make quick changes like the ad copy, the landing page content, or the target audience so that you can optimize your ads. Changes in SEO take longer to analyze, making it less suitable for testing.

Value Over Time

SEO takes time to become effective, but then it will continue to grow and yield better results. SEM stays active for as long as you’re paying, but if you stop, so will the ads.

SEM Results Show for a Select Audience

All the marketing you do will target a specific audience, but with SEO you don’t directly choose who sees the results – they will simply show up whenever people make relevant searches. With SEM, however, you can choose your audience, allowing you to put your ads in front of your ideal customers.

SEM or SEO – Which Is Better for Your Brand?

This is difficult to say outright, as it varies from business to business. Many brands focus more on SEM when starting out, as it can quickly start driving traffic to your site. It’s common to then switch to SEO later on, helping increase organic traffic.

Some choose to only invest in one of these strategies, but in many cases, it’s best to use both. You need to assess your business needs as well as your resources to determine what would be best.

Your Digital Marketing Strategy

It can be difficult to decide whether you should invest in SEM or SEO (or both). It depends on different variables as well as your business goals. Whichever choice you make, it’s important to develop a strong marketing strategy to get the most out of your efforts.

46Mile is a full-service integrated marketing and advertising agency. We can help you form a digital marketing strategy to start bringing more traffic to your site, leading to more sales and higher profits. To find out more about our services, click here to contact us today.

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