SEO vs SEM: what are they and what is the difference?

Now is the time to solve one of the most sought after questions by marketers, what is the difference between SEO and SEM?

If you are not very familiar with the subject, it will surely seem somewhat complicated but, do not worry, it is much simpler than it seems.

SEO and SEM definition

First we tell you the definition of each discipline:

1 # SEO (Search Engine Optimization) . It is the discipline that is in charge of search engine positioning , it works with the quality of the website to make it relevant for both users and search engines through various actions that allow it to improve and compete with other web pages.

2 # SEM (Search Engine Marketing) . It is the discipline that works with search engine marketing.

That is, it takes care of online campaigns in search engines and makes them visible in the sponsored results of these search engines, such as Adwords.

Within the SEM strategies are part the management of keywords or the management of bids.


The technical explanation of SEO could be a bit complicated if you are a beginner. Therefore, the best way to publicize what an SEO professional does , also known as search engine optimization , is through an example.

Imagine that an individual is responsible for all the information published in the world and, furthermore, in charge of supplying it when requested and in the best possible way.

In this case, it could be compared to the most used online search engines (Google and Bing), whose systems collect information from each web page and order them according to the characteristics that each SEO contributes to the site.

Each search engine has its own method to collect and classify this information; the algorithms that make the information readable by the user.

The information appears in the rankings thanks to the SEO figure, which ensures that the web page appears in the first positions organically, that is, the results that are not paid and that correspond to the searches carried out by users

SEO is necessary as it helps clients and search engines understand the information that a website contains.

On the one hand, it allows search engines to understand what each page is about and decides whether or not it is useful for users.

On the other hand, the user who is the final issuer, will have that content managed by SEO and classified in the search engines ordered after the information has been indexed.

What does it take into account?

1 # Keywords . SEO works with the keywords or keywords that will be used as a guide for the search engine to understand the content of a website or category.

These keywords will have to be related to the theme of the page, otherwise the search engine will not understand the information.

2 # Reputation . A good reputation is generated when all the requirements that a web search engine asks for to position correctly begin to be fulfilled: quality and original content, differentiated, that responds to the demands of users and

Titles. <title> official title <title>

Links between web pages matter. When one web page contains links to another, it is usually a recommendation that the web page contains good information. Sometimes, there are false links and SEO is what detects them

3 # Words in the links

Content matters. Therefore, SEO is responsible for seeing if there is quality content and if it attracts, well considered to climb positions in the results ranking.

4 # authority

Search engines take into account the popularity of a website and therefore all the information it contains.

The more popular a website is, it is considered that it has the most relevant information since the virality of the content provided by users is also taken into account. That is, the user experience that shares the content of that site.

5 # The importance of the web within the search engine.

This depends on several factors that make it more or less important in the rankings.

This depends on several elements that make up the on-site SEO and that determine the position of the links on the web.

And many more factors that you can know in Google patents .

Types of SEO

Now that we mention one of the variants of the SEO discipline, it is important to mention that there are two types: SEO on-site and SEO off-site.


Seo on site is based on the SEO functions within the website . It is the optimization of the content of the page with which it works.

This type of SEO works with the relevance of the content, which the search engine considers this way depending on various elements and how they are treated.

The seo on site works with:

  • keywords.
  • Loading time.
  • User experience.
  • Code optimization.
  • URL format.
  • The meta tags.
  • <alt> in the images.
  • Internal links.
  • Web structure.

Surely you have heard about the importance of keywords (which they are), but SEO on site is much more than that. It is not only about repeating or placing the keywords correctly but about knowing the user experience, finding out what they are looking for and what content can be generated from their searches and needs.

To do this, you have to take into account the following:

  • Do not fall for thin content (content that Google considers poor quality). If the content is not relevant enough and of poor quality, it will not appear favorably in the SERPs.
  • Think of the user. In order for the reader to stay on the website for a long time, you need to have readable, well-structured and good-looking content.
  • Original content. Duplicate content is sanctioned by Google and will only lower the visibility of the website.
  • The content that is offered has to be related to the searches of the users.


The Seo Off site works on the optimization of content outside the website in which it works as links on other pages, social networks , the CTR (number of clicks on a link), mentions in the media or comments on other blogs.

The technique of generating links that point to the web page with which the SEO works is called LINK BUILDING , something like “link building”.

The Seo Off site works with

  • Quality content.
  • Backlinks in suitable comments on blogs, forums or news.
  • Sign up for quality directories.
  • Collaborate with other pages in exchange for putting follow links.
  • Contact experts to share content.

What are SERPs?

The SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) are nothing but the results offered by a search engine and the elements that can be found in the results are:

  • Web pages . They correspond to the web pages indexed by Google.
  • Local businesses that are located thanks to the results of Google My Business.
  • Images. Google doesn’t just index websites, it also works with the images they contain.
  • News . Google filters the pages of any news source on the web.
  • Maps. Known by all, it offers geolocated information.
  • Videos. Google also indexes the videos that appear on the web and filters the results with its YouTube platform.
  • Books . Google Books is Google’s service.
  • Applications Known as ASO positioning
  • shopping
  • Sponsored links that come from Google Adwords

Black SEO and White SEO

Before you can see the difference between SEO and SEM , there are still a few things you should know within the SEO discipline, such as what is black hat SEO and white hat SEO.


The black hat is used in cowboy movies to represent the mean and ruthless cowboy. Well, black hat SEO also tries to challenge the rules of search engines through techniques that allow it to obtain better results.

Black hat SEO tries to improve your positioning but through a risky way providing short-term benefits but not advisable to obtain results in a long period of time. How does Black Hat SEO work? Here are some techniques:

  • Cloaking . It is a technique of over-optimization of the content that works to teach a type of content to the search engine different from the one shown to the user
  • Spinning or Spinear items . It is a technique that modifies web articles through automatic software that changes words for synonyms and that turns out to be low quality content.
  • Hidden text . As its name implies, hidden text is about making invisible words that are repeated more than necessary with the same background color of the page. In this way, they go unnoticed and the user cannot recognize them.
  • Comments on blogs. Writing worthless comments is also a black hat technique. Most of the time it consists of distributing comments indiscriminately and that really do not contribute anything.
  • Buy expired domains. Buying domains that have expired but retain their authority or creation of a PBN .
  • Keyword stuffing . It is the excessive use of keywords that usually appear in meta descriptions, paragraphs, lists of numbers or words and in anchor text.
  • Page hijacking. It is about the hijacking of a web page. Their actions consist of creating a page equal to another and making the search engine believe that the copy of the website is the original one.
  • Buy and sell links. Buy and sell links from high ranking pages to rank better.
  • Link spam. This technique consists of creating many blogs and doing the link building technique.

All these Black Hat techniques are pursued by different Google algorithms such as Panda , Penguin , Pigeon … etc


Just like there is a “bad guy” in the movie, there is a character who follows the rules and does everything correctly. That’s what happens with SEO white hat or white hat SEO : meets all the rules of search engines and work as ethically possible to position your pages in SERP.

Unlike the black hat, the white hat seeks to add value to the user through various techniques and not to deceive the search engine. How does White SEO work?

Link baiting technique . This technique is based on offering good content to make the user fall in love. If something makes the Internet user spend time on a website, it is an attractive and differentiated content from the rest, how?

There are different ways to generate traffic on your website and to make said users decide to include those contents on their own website:

Distribute creativity. It can be difficult but it is a matter of knowing what makes the difference. Creativity is one of the qualities of a website that generates more engagement

Post information before anyone else . The SEO professional is there for that too; detect which are the current topics, trends and predict which topics will be the most prominent. In addition, it finds topics that users have searched on the Internet and for which little information is published.

Generate debate. Making some noise brings traffic to the website. Many users enjoy discussing and sharing their opinions on different topics of interest that have previously been through the SEO filter.

Accompany with multimedia content. The web is not only text and visual content is becoming more and more successful. For example, a post accompanied by images has much more power than a text alone.

Content curation . It is very important that, to generate quality content, the content is filtered, grouped and selected to be shared with the audience.

Facilitates search engines tracking. There is no magic bullet to help you be first in the list of results, but there are techniques that improve visibility, such as improving the HTML structure of meta descriptions and microformats. (Ask Manu for more)

Content adapted to mobiles . Online browsing through mobile phones has exploded and with it the need to apply responsive designs to web pages to satisfy user demands.

Advantages and why is SEO important for companies?

The search engine optimization is a discipline that has evolved since its first appearance to equal the need for incorporation into companies: today an online business could not survive without the SEO professional.

The concept of SEO has evolved to the point that some have already dubbed it Search Experience Optimization to qualify a type of user-oriented search engine optimization and the need to improve their experience.

In this section we will tell you point by point why companies need this figure:

1 # It has no expiration date. Search engine optimization has no predictions that it will disappear but on the contrary, it is updated. Any type of online search (what we mentioned in the SERP section) depends on the keywords

2 # It is profitable. Compared to other methods like paid Adwords advertising, long-term SEO is profitable for highly search queries. There are no requirements regarding the time in which a link is in the search engines nor in terms of cost, although it is true that the CPC (cost per click) in the first phase is higher but once applied, the cost is maintained.

3 # Search engines have more market share. About 80% of customers review the products and services on the website.

4 # Some advances such as KPIs of social networks that did not exist years ago, today are very important to determine the importance and impact of a website in the rankings. Therefore, not preparing good content can damage the image of the business since it is one of the factors that Google takes into account

5 # Generate qualified traffic . This is achieved by attending to the demands of the users. If a website contains information related to all the queries generated around a sector, it is very easy for the audience to increase and generate more customers or subscribers. For example, if we have a blog about digital marketing and we cover all the topics that exist under that same umbrella, users will take us as a reference site.

The SEO figure is responsible for detecting what those issues are and responding to user demands as soon as possible.

SEO is the best way for your users to find you through searches in which your website is relevant, these users look for what you offer them and the best way to reach them is through a search engine.

SEO tools

Do you want to enlarge more? Learn it with our eBook for beginners:


SEM refers to the advertising campaigns that can be carried out in any search engine. It is the paid part of the articles, advertising or content of the site.

It is important to know how to differentiate between various types of results when conducting a search and that they help to differentiate the types of results:

  • Paid Results : Ads that are featured with the tag “ad”.
  • Organic results: the results that are not paid and that are classified by strategies carried out by the SEO of each web page.
  • Links related to Google Shopping : results that appear in a different and more visual way that are accompanied by images and the price of products or services related to search

How does the SEM work?

In terms of SEM strategies , the search engine places the advertising worked with SEM strategies on top of the SEO results. When conducting SEM campaigns, this type of strategy takes into account several things:

  • Target audience searches
  • Sponsored Links Available
  • Segmentation. Once the target audience is clear, some parameters must be specified that will determine how, where and to whom the content worked under SEM strategies reaches.

For example, the geographic area, the devices through which the searches are carried out or when the target audience connects

Under the SEM, several key definitions are encompassed:

CPC (Cost per Click)

The CPC is the Cost Per Click, which is generally used in SEM campaigns such as Adwords, Display, Facebook Ads … 

CPM (Cos per thousand impressions). It translates as “payment for every thousand impressions.” The advertiser will pay each time their ad is shown 1000 times on the platform. The amount to be paid will have been agreed previously. 

Advantages and why is SEM important?

  • It is a quick method to publicize a product
  • Being a strategy that allows segmenting audiences, it allows to reach a specific audience directly
  • It favors the return on investment.
  • You can create specific campaigns and redirect the audience to a specific landing page.
  • It allows positioning an unlimited number of keywords, although a minimum of consistency of the keywords with what is offered is always required and that the visits are profitable.
  • It generates short-term profits. Unlike with SEO, where the results are generated rather long-term, with SEM strategies you can see results almost from the first moment.
  • Specific campaigns can be generated that lead the audience to a certain page or category.
  • Allows you to check which campaign works best after trying different creative strategies
  • Unlike with SEO, the contents of the web do not influence
  • Depending on the investment and the CPC of the keywords, it allows a more or less accurate forecast of short-term profits
  • If campaigns work with creativity, SEM works in part thanks to the possibility of segmenting audiences and allows targeting a target audience

SEO and SEM differences

SEO corresponds to the organic part of search engines . That is, they are strategies that are not paid for and that have to do with the searches that users make to satisfy their demands and find the quality content they are looking for.

  • The SEM corresponds to the paid part of the results.
  • Keywords in SEO are more difficult to position than in SEM.
  • The results that a website can have with SEO strategies can be short and long-term while with SEM, they are immediate
  • The duration of the results through SEO can be permanent while the SEM performance lasts depending on the type of investment that is made.
  • With SEO, the results are subject to unexpected changes.
  • With SEM you can have greater control
  • With SEO, the results depend on the Google algorithm.
  • With SEM, the results depend on the CPC or the quality of the ads, the investment made, or the quality of the ads, which is the Quality Socre that Adwords assigns you

SEM tools

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