SEO vs SEM: Which is Better for Long Term ROI?

You have established a website and now you are working to be visible on the first page of Google, everyone is on it. But have you ever realized that in this crowded area of the internet how would you be able to do this?

There are billions of websites on the internet, even this number fluctuates continuously. Just imagine for a second that all these websites have several niches, but still, there is a lot of competition within a particular niche. So, what should your strategy be to cross the competition and rank your website high for a niche or a keyword?

Let me tell you, the strategy would include SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Both are common approaches to make ranking possible but wait for a second, which one of these strategies will help you to increase your ROI more?

See the difference between SEO vs SEM and decide for yourself.


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. As the name refers, SEO includes optimization which is done organically and SEM includes marketing or advertising. Both of these have the same target and that is, to make your website visible on Google and other common search engines like Bing. When your website ranks top on the search engine you are more likely to grab an organic audience as around 39.6% of organic traffic goes to the #1 search result.

Keywords play an important part here. In SEO you need to research and select relevant keywords and after that, you include those in your website to optimize it, while in SEM you run certain ad campaigns on those keywords.

How much does it cost?

Expense is the main dissimilarity in SEO vs SEM because SEO doesn’t need any money spent, on the other hand, marketing requires it. SEO gets a lot of your time for doing research and finding the fit and ideal keywords. But if you do not have any time and want an instant outcome, you can go towards SEM, in which ads like search ads, display ads, banner ads, etc are shown either in the search results or either within the websites.

In SEO, when a user searches a keyword and your website appears it will click on the link and land on your site. In SEM when a user writes something related to the content of your website in the search console, your ad is displayed to him at the top of search results and if he clicks on that and you’ll have to pay a specific cost to Google. This process is known as PPC (pay per click), in which Google charges you for every click you get.

Long Term Result

SEO does wonders for giving long-term results. If your desired keywords are included in your site’s content and SEO is done perfectly, then your website may pop up on the 1st page. Good content and a good strategy can help you rank for a long time and you just keep getting traffic. Even when you have ranked 2 months ago there is still a chance that you are ranking now too.

During SEM, you run a campaign all over Google, but what will happen when it is over? The answer is nothing. You will get high traffic throughout the campaign and to maintain that, you’ll have to run more ads that mean more cost. Hence, you’ll have to spend a huge amount as a whole on traffic. When you compare SEO vs SEM you can say both of these give wonderful results yet the difference is between long-term and short-term.


SEO vs SEM campaign

An SEO campaign involves a strategy. During which you’ll have to do some tasks; finding keywords based on their monthly volume and cost per click, publishing content, and continuous tracking of keywords that are ranked. Tracking helps you identify which keywords to focus more. In this way, you can enjoy the juice of traffic for a long period of time.

Ad campaigns involve the setting of the ad in which date and time are selected before starting the campaign in SEM. It depends on you, whether you keep it short term or long term. Google also allows you to edit the ad accordingly, throughout the campaign. 

When to Use?

If you have started your website in one season and want results in another, SEO would be the best for you. This will save your pocket. However, you should be a patient type of person to carry this as most people want instant results.

The other type of person is impatient who desires quick traffic. If you are one of those you should go for SEM. You must have one thing in mind: pretty finances will be used to develop a good marketing campaign in which ads are displayed for a long time. 

What About Traffic?

Traffic is what everyone is looking for. As we compare both on the basis of this, we realize that SEO brings you traffic all over the day, week, month, or the whole year due to the fact that your website is ranked. Even when you are not working, your users just keep landing on your site.

There is a large increase in the analytics during the campaign of SEM, which shows your website traffic. The line goes up continuously but eventually comes down when your campaign is finished. Users will no longer be able to see your ad and in return, your traffic will decrease.

Reach the Relevant Audience

SEO sometimes doesn’t work effectively when you have to target a certain type of audience.

Here SEM plays a great role to overcome this problem. When you are making an ad campaign on Google, it gives you many options for targeting. By using this, you can target your deep-down audience. For example, if you have a restaurant in Chicago you cannot only select its location but also the interests of the users. Let’s suppose, you are serving only to non-vegetarians, just choose their interests correctly. As a result, your ad will be shown only to the people of Chicago that love non-veg cuisine.

This targeting will really assist you to improve your ranking on certain keywords through a relevant audience.

What About Click Through Rate?

Click through rate or CTR means the rate at which a user clicks on your site link. This is also an important topic to discuss because SEO has a higher CTR than SEM. Take an example of yourself, how many times have you clicked an ad that appeared on Google while searching for something? You know the answer. The ad appears in a different layout as compared to the organic one, the user comes to know that this is an ad and he doesn’t tend to click on it.

On the other hand, a link that appears on the basis of organic SEO seems natural and users are more likely to click on that link. This is another dissimilarity that is directly proportional to the ranking and aids SEO to stand strong in the competition of SEO vs SEM.

Types of SEO and SEM

SEO and SEM fall into some types. The main kinds of SEO are:

On-page SEO: On-page SEO contains the optimization of keywords that are included in the website’s content, maybe in the title, paragraph, heading, or even in the alt text of images. 

Example: Setting of H1, H2, and H3 tags is a common trick used to carry out on-page SEO.

Off-page SEO: Off-page SEO refers to the work that is done outside the website.   

Example: Backlink creation, sharing of content on social media, and review writing about one’s company on various platforms.

Technical SEO: Technical SEO is a little more difficult than the previous ones. It involves some work, done on the server and the backend of website that helps the crawler discover and index your sites, making the site easy to navigate, load faster and more.

Example: Adjustment of a file name Robot.txt to guide Google crawler, which pages of the website have to read and which do not. This file is usually set by the website owner.

Similarly, SEM is done through ads. These ads are of different types but mostly used ones are:

Search ads: Ad is displayed like other search results in a different format.

Display ads: Multiple-sized banner ads that are displayed on websites.

Video ads: Video ads can easily be seen on Youtube, at the start of videos. A number of websites also have these kinds of ads inside them but they work more efficiently on Youtube as it is a video streaming platform. 


The debate about SEO vs SEM will never end for the reason that some experts prefer SEO and some SEM. But after the above comparison, you must have known by now that SEO works better than SEM for achieving long-term goals. But you shouldn’t forget SEM. Remember that SEO and SEM run hands in hands, wait for SEO to give results, meanwhile, do some advertisement to obtain visitors. Then you will get tons of traffic throughout the strategy.

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