What’s the Difference Between SEM and SEO?

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Online marketing may be one of the best ways to reach your target market, but it can also be a bit confusing. After all, the industry is full of crazy acronyms that can make anyone’s head spin. If you’ve engaged in a conversation recently about SEO, SEM, PPC, CPC, PR, RI, RSS, SERP, arch, and XML, you may be talking (or trying to talk about) online marketing. While some of these acronyms might sound a bit obscure, almost everyone has heard of SEM and SEO. What exactly do SEM and SEO stand for and how are they different? Here’s a quick breakdown!

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

SEM is the acronym for search engine marketing, and this covers a lot of ground. Someone talking about SEM in a conversation could be referring to any number of strategies that will help you gain more customers by becoming more visible on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Search engine marketing includes marketing strategies like paid search, content marketing, local search engine marketing, Maps, and, of course, SEO.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO stands for search engine optimization and is one of the most popular strategies involved in search engine marketing. When you invest in search engine optimization with a company like OrangeSoda, your strategist will employ tactics that help you rank higher in the organic listings of search engines. You may be wondering what organic listings are. Let me explain. If I were to search for “baby clothes” on Google, the search engine results would look like the picture below:

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The results to the right and top in yellow are paid search ads. The map to the side shows local listings, and the listings just under the yellow listings are the organic (or natural) listings. The goal of search engine optimization is to boost your website in organic listings to help the people who are searching for you find you more easily when they type in search terms related to your website. SEO is super important because nearly 79% of all clicks go to websites listed in organic listings, and most searchers won’t even click past the first page in order to find what they need.

It’s as simple as that! SEM includes all types of marketing strategies that will help searchers find you on the Internet, and SEO is specific to helping boost your website to the top page of organic listings.