Search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are terms that are thrown around digital circles a lot these days. While there is much overlap between the two fields, they are not one and the same.


Both will be important for businesses and brands that need to improve their visibility and an understanding of their role is vital in scoring a leg up over the competition. Yet to achieve those lofty goals and targets, it is worthwhile examining what each practice consists of, understanding their similarities, differences and relationship to one and other.

Social Media


Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are often tied into SEO campaigns and exist under that banner. However, in the purist sense of the word, social media marketing really is the domain of SEM specialists when we factor in the paid element of the promotional push. From an organic standpoint where content is published and links are produced, social media is a boost to SEO efforts, but when posts are artificially promoted and broadcast on people’s timelines, they become part of a wider SEM strategy.

PPC Element


The inclusion of pay-per click advertising is something that is totally foreign to organic search engine optimisation techniques, both logistically and philosophically. Here is where SEM becomes a broader church that incorporates all elements that can be considered online marketing endeavours. It is seen as a major player in online performance as it allows users to target their demographics much more surgically than simple SEO efforts. While that will score traffic in the long-term, it is that injection of targeted advertising through Google Adwords and Facebook advertisement spots that really begins to generate momentum for a brand.



If we were to conduct a construct of what SEO and SEM would be, then SEO would be a category under the field of SEM. That is how vast search engine marketing is when we factor in all of the elements discussed. Needless to say these are terms that should not be bandied about together haphazardly because they are two distinct disciplines all unto themselves.


Companies that begin a process of building their online portfolio should see their work through the prism of SEM rather than SEO as it incorporates the PPC world, mobile, social media and anything else that helps this cause. Yet the greatest asset any SEM professional can have is a working knowledge of an SEO campaign and how to execute that, paying off more than any other technique in the long-term.