As marketing evolves, so does the language we use. Two marketing acronyms frequently interchanged are SEO and SEM, but do you understand how they’re related and how they differ?

Search engines have essentially become digital libraries. They store information and deliver the information you need when you type keywords and phrases during a search. When you type a query into Google, Yahoo or another search engine, the search engine looks through all the web pages in its index to give you the most relevant results it can find. When we talk about SEO and SEM, we’re talking about two different approaches to advertising. Both methods are used to attract relevant visitors to your website who are interested in your products or services. Relevant keywords, interesting content and a good title all work together to attract unique visitors in higher quantities.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing website content to be discovered through a search engine’s organic search results. With SEO, you don’t pay for placement on the search engine results page. Instead, search engines catalog the information on your website and deliver the most relevant content during a search. For your content to be at the top of the search engine results page, you must have content on your website that answers users’ queries. Using SEO strategy, you increase the amount of website visitors by getting the site to appear higher on results returned by a search engine. Here are some SEO best practices to give yourself the best chance of receiving organic traffic.

Create Longer Content

It’s been proven that word count itself does not count as a ranking factor in search engines. In fact, short-form content has the same ranking potential as long-form content. The most important thing about creating content is to make sure that it provides the best possible information based on search queries and user intent (i.e., what people want to find). You may be able to do this in 300 words or 3,000 words, depending on if your content is rich with keywords and provides comprehensive information. Use your best judgement, but keep in mind that content with more relevant keywords may help you rank higher in the search results.

Select Primary Keywords

Keywords are words and phrases in your web content that people search for. They describe the topics you write about and are a very important SEO factor that search engines use when ranking your content in the search results. Once you have established your primary keywords, sprinkle them around your webpage. Include them in your page’s URL, in the first paragraph of copy on your page and in the page title.

Publish Fresh Content

Websites that post content on a regular basis are usually given more authority and rank higher in the search results. By publishing fresh content, you’re telling Google that your site is active and maintained.

What is SEM?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the practice of marketing a business using paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages. Advertisers bid on keywords that search engine users might enter when browsing for different products or services, which then gives the advertiser the opportunity for their ads to appear alongside results for those search queries.

SEM promotes websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages through optimization and advertising, funneling traffic by using paid search, including the use of pay-per-click listings and advertisements. When done well, SEM can get you to the top of the rankings of the search results page. Here are some SEM best practices to keep in mind.

Align Your Campaign and Business Goals

SEM can impact and help you measure your business goals, so ensuring that your strategy aligns with your campaign objectives is of the utmost importance.

Target the Right Audience

To reach as many unique searchers as possible, it’s important to understand that a “right-time, right-place” mentality is no longer enough to bring in potential customers. To take your audience targeting to the next level, focus on building richer buyer personas that consider past behaviors and buying preferences and choose keywords that align with the mindsets of your target customers.

Which is better?

So which tactic should you invest in? The answer is both. An SEO-rich website serves as a foundation for high-quality SEM. Both are extremely valuable and should be included in your B2B and B2C marketing strategies. Because SEM is an effective way to drive traffic while also building organic SEO, placing a strong focus on both methods automatically puts you in a better position than your competitors that focus only on one of these tactics.