The main difference is that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is focused on optimising a website in order to obtain traffic from organic search results. Conversely, the goal of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is to get traffic and visibility from both organic as well as paid search traffic.
How does search engine optimisation work?
‘SEO’ is an acronym which stands for search engine optimisation. This is the process of optimising your website to get organic, or un-paid, traffic from the search engine results page. The process of SEO involves making certain changes to your website design – as well as content – in order make your website more appealing to a search engine. You do this in hopes that search engines such as Google will display your website as one of the top results which are displayed on the search engine results page (SERP).
How does search engine marketing work?
‘SEM’, which stands for search engine marketing, is the act of utilising paid strategies in order to increase search visibility. In the past, SEM was a term that was used to describe both SEO and paid search. However, now it almost always refers only to paid search marketing.
With SEM, brands pay for adverts to appear as search results on SERPs. Brands target select keywords so that when a user searches for those terms, they see an advert from the brand. The brand is only charged if a user physically clicks on the ad.
Paid search ads can be found on nearly all search results pages. These paid placements are usually located at the top and bottom of the page. They include an “Ad” designation in order to let users know that it is a paid placement.