difference of seo and sem

What is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

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As marketing evolved, new terms and concepts have also emerged, especially with the rise of the Internet. If you ask marketers 50 years ago about digital marketing, internet marketing, and online marketing, they would likely look at you with a bewildered face. Even today, marketers sometimes toss around jargon and acronyms that leave clients confused. One fine example of this is the terms that are often used interchangeably: SEO and SEM.

Search Engine Optimization

On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO

Google SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is essentially a component of a larger concept, search engine marketing (SEM). SEO is primarily centered around ranking higher in prominent search engines such as Google. The SEO industry is continually changing due to frequent changes made to Google’s algorithm. However, there is one aspect of SEO that is constant: the fact that SEO is composed of On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.

On-page SEO are rules you can apply on your website or blog so that it is search-engine friendly. Some of the activities of on-page SEO include incorporating keywords into title tags, meta description, and heading tags. In addition, it involves optimizing blog posts and web pages as well as cleaning and formatting page URLs. Furthermore, on-page SEO focuses on optimizing page load speed, incorporating Google authorship, and integrating social media sharing.

Off-page SEO is the process of getting votes from other websites for the purpose of increasing your website’s trust in the eyes of search engines. The activities of off-page SEO include creating a high quality and natural backlink profile by having other high-quality sites link to your site naturally. It also involves social sharing signals and social bookmarking.


The constant aspect of SEO is composed of On-Page and Off-Page SEO. Click To Tweet


Black Hat SEO vs. Gray Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO

The SEO practices adopted by marketers can be broadly classified into three categories: White Hat, Gray Hat, and Black Hat SEO. And as the colors of the types of SEO suggest, there are stark differences in the approach and long term results of these types. Let’s take a moment to differentiate these three SEO techniques.

  • White Hat SEO the most popular SEO technique. White hat SEO utilizes methods and techniques that follow the search engine guidelines to improve search engine rankings of a website. It usually takes longer and costs more to carry out as a result, but this is the best technique to use.
  • Gray Hat SEO – This kind of SEO is neither black nor white. These practices are not specifically called out in the guidelines but you should still consider this risky.
  • Black Hat SEOBlack hat SEO employs practices that do not adhere to search engine guidelines and therefore carries the risk that your website and content will be demoted or banned from search results.

website4md seo audit

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) encompasses activities to increase relevant traffic to your website through higher rankings on search engine. SEM involves two processes: free traffic (SEO) and paid traffic. Since we already spent some time focusing on SEO above, let’s now take a little bit of time to focus on paid traffic and learn the types of search engine marketing that you can use to acquire more patients:

Pay-per-click Advertising –  a method of purchasing targeted advertising space on Internet platforms that takes advantage of organic search terms. It is a way of using search engine advertising to generate clicks to your website, rather than generating traffic organically. Some of the PPC platforms you can use include:

  • Google Adwords
  • Bidvertiser
  • RevContent
  • Adroll
  • Facebook Ads
  • Bing Ads
  • BuySellAds
  • AdBlade

SEO Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing – Social media sites such as Facebook
, Twitter, and Instagram can also be used to market products and services as these platforms also have search fields. By ensuring that your content and links are placed on these social networking sites, you can increase your visibility and influence in user search engine queries.


Difference Between SEO and SEM

In a previous post, we explained what search engine optimization (SEO) is and why it is important to your medical practice. We also have shared some effective SEO tips to help your practice get started. But let’s have a quick refresher about SEO.

SEO is the process of increasing traffic to your website by making sure that a website is accessible and can easily be found through organic search engine results based on the words and phrases. It encompasses the technical and creative elements required to improve your ranking, drive traffic to a site, and increase awareness in search engines.  On the other hand, search engine marketing (SEM) is an online marketing strategy with a goal of getting more visibility in search engines either by getting more free traffic through SEO or paid traffic through pay-per-click advertising.  

Basically, the difference between SEO and SEM is that search engine optimization is part of search engine marketing. It is safe to say that SEO is a subset of SEM. SEO is about optimizing your website so that it gets better rankings in search engines while SEM goes beyond SEO. As mentioned earlier, SEM deals with both free and paid traffic. But both processes aim to increase visibility in search engines.


Both SEO and SEM aims to increase visibility in search engines. Click To Tweet


The Bottomline

Now that you understand the difference between SEO and SEM, you might be wondering which marketing tactic is better. Some would probably say that SEO is better and some would probably say SEM. However, what you choose to utilize really depends on your needs. If you want to spend less on promoting your services, then you can focus on SEO. If you want to have faster results, then you can employ SEM. But there is also a third and better option, which is to utilize both SEO and SEM. No matter what you choose, Website4MD can cater to your needs. We are a full-service digital marketing company that helps medical practices establish a prominent web presence to improve your search rankings so you can reach more patients. Schedule a meeting with us and we’ll get you started.


Marketers should know how to utilize both SEO and SEM. Click To Tweet