SEO And SEM: What’s The Difference?

Monday, June 1, 2009

If you haven’t been around Internet marketers very long then you might get a little confused about how terminology is used. Even the veterans sometimes disagree on the labels and get confused between the blurring lies. But I thought I’d take a little time to explain the difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). They’re not the same thing.
Essentially, SEM is a broader term and includes SEO. Here’s the distinction:

SEO is the process of using content, links, keywords, and meta tags to improve a web page’s search engine rankings. Search engine optimizers tend to get a little tunnel vision where rankings are concerned and make that the No. 1 priority.
SEM involves any task of marketing a web page through a search engine and may not necessarily be concerned with organic rankings. Typically, SEM refers to organic SEO as well as paid search models like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Some marketers also include display advertising because Yahoo! and MSN both offer display advertising on their search pages. I think you could also include some aspects of social media since many social media marketing campaigns can have search implications attached to them, intentional or not.