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SEO vs SEM: Which Service Does my Business Need?

November 12, 2021
January 2, 2024

SEO vs SEM: Which Service Does my Business Need?

Red Shark Digital

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are two essential concepts within the marketing strategy universe. However, with these two terms seeming so similar, they are often used interchangeably within, which makes it difficult to understand the differences between the two. Any digital marketing professional should have a solid grasp on the two concepts and be able to understand their importance in the marketing realm. So, what's the difference between SEO and SEM? How do the two relate and work together? Follow along as Red Shark Digital, marketing firm Greenville NC breaks down the role that SEO and SEM play in today's field of digital marketing.This blog will provide readers with a clear understanding of the definition and value of each term, and will help answer the following questions:

  • What is SEM?
  • What is SEO?
  • What is the difference between SEM and SEO?

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, consists of strategies and techniques marketers use to improve a website's discoverability on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other major search engines. Brands use SEO to help boost their organic visibility by creating content that aligns with what their customers typically search for and search engines pick up on most.Through SEO, website managers or marketing firms Greenville NC "communicate" with Google and its algorithm so that their content is recognized as a high-value answer to specific search queries a customer asks. If you can imagine what all is Googled in a single day, you can begin to grasp just how broad the umbrella of SEO is.

What components does SEO include?

A few of the core areas that businesses should focus on to make pages more friendly for search engines can be broken up into on-page SEO, off-page or "behind the page" SEO, and technical SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO focuses on the factors used to optimize an actual page created for your website. Through these techniques, the goal is to tell the search engine that your page has the best answer to a searched question. For this reason, the strategies below should always be used:

  • Comprehensive keywords
  • Headline, page titles, URLs, and meta description optimization
  • Optimized images
  • User-friendly design
  • Beneficial internal links
  • User intent

Off-page SEO

In tandem with the strategies used on the front end of your page, websites should also incorporate off-page or "behind the page" elements that help amplify your page's reputation in the digital ecosystem. Some useful strategies Red Shark Digital, marketing firm Greenville NC suggests include:

  • Variety of backlinks
  • Company and product reviews
  • Brand mentions
  • Targeted public relations campaign

Technical SEO

Finally, the last core area of SEO consists of the technical aspects of the SEO process. These parts of SEO require a bit more understanding of how a site works and what Google wants to see from a technical standpoint:

  • Core web vitals
  • Internal attributes- Hreflang
  • Crawl optimization
  • Indexation and sitemaps
  • Optimized URL

What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of using paid advertising to give your site higher rankings in search engine result pages (SERPs) and overall increased visibility. For SEM tactics to be effective, you'll need an SEO strategy first. Think of it like this: the SEO strategy will let you know which keywords you need to include in your SEM ads to ensure that you’re targeting keywords your audience is interested in or inquiring about. An SEM practice that you may already be familiar with that Red Shark Digital, marketing firm Greenville NC uses often is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.SEM is essential for online content because it ensures that your target audience sees what your business is producing in their search results. You’re not left competing for organic space on the first page, as your advertisements are shown at the top of the first SERP page. You can effectively reach your target audience, drive traffic, and boost conversions.

What components does SEM include?

As mentioned above, SEM includes SEO, as well as paid search tools like PPC. In addition, some SEM strategies can include optimizing for local search results, so your business, products, or services are shown in search queries for people browsing for solutions within the community.


The main difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO uses organic strategies to appear in SERPs, while SEM uses paid tactics. Although they often work hand-in-hand, it’s important not to use the terms interchangeably, as they don’t mean the same thing. For example, when performing a Google search for a product, when a link to a webpage shows up with an image or "ad" next to it, this is because the business used paid ads to execute their search engine marketing campaign, putting the link at the top of the page. The results immediately below the ads are ranked organically, due to being a popular source for Google searches.

Using Marketing Firm Greenville NC for SEO and SEM Tactics

When comparing SEM vs. SEO, there is no quick formula or simple answer as to which is better for performance and rank. There are a lot of factors to consider. This is why Red Shark Digital, marketing firm Greenville NC not only specializes in search strategies for SEO but also SEM for businesses. In this, we research competitors' search ranks, detect keyword opportunities, review your site’s SEO, and learn about your target audience. For any SEO, SEM or other paid services, rely on Greenville's premier full service digital agency and call us today.

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