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What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

As the digital world continues to evolve, the acronyms are starting to pile up. From the very beginning with AOL, we now have IoT, SaaS, CRM, SEM, SEO, SMO, RFID, ESN, and we'll also throw in a LOL. If you're not immersed in technology, specifically digital media technology, it's practically impossible to keep up.

Today's business owner must have an understanding of search, and the concepts associated with it. Before Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, business owners relied on sources like the white pages, billboards, and print advertising to get their business's name out there. In today's world, customers are using the internet, mobile apps, and social networks to find companies to do businesses with.

The internet is a crowded place with a bunch of noise and distractions. Think Times Square on New Years Eve. How do enable your business to standout in the over-populated crowd with all other distractions and noise? I can tell you what you don't do: keep your fingers crossed that your customers will find you because you know you have a great product/service to offer them. If you play "keep your fingers crossed and hope for customers" game, you will get run over like bulls stampeding over people in Spain.

You need to position your business on the internet using tactics that will generate more visibility and website visits. Two of the acronyms above are nonnegotiable for today's business owner: SEM and SEO.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM? The more talked about SEO is actually a component of the less popular SEM. Below, I will iron out the details of both so that you are familiar with how these two terms will (not can) make or break your business.

SEM is the acronym for search engine marketing. According to Wikipedia, “Search engine marketing is a form of Internet marketing that involved the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPS) through optimization and advertising.” SEM includes SEO tactics, as well as several other search marketing tactics.

Outside of SEO, the other primary tactic under the SEM umbrella is PPC (pay-per click). You're familiar with pay-per view and how you only pay for what you view. Pay-per click is the same thing: you only pay for the clicks that your website/ad gets.

The primary difference between SEM and SEO is simply that SEO is a component of the broader concept SEM.

SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization. According to Google’s Knowledge Graph, search engine optimization is “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”

The strategy behind SEO changes quickly as most of it is dependent on Google's algorithm. There are two types of SEO strategy: on-page and off-page.

On-page SEO strategy refers to the tactics that you employ on your own website. Thinks like setting up social sharing, clean formatting, and having a blog.

Off-page SEO strategy refers to the tactics that you employ outside of your website that connect back to your website. Things like backlinks and social bookmarking.

Including both on-page and off-page tactics in your overall SEO strategy will position your company at a higher ranking than your competitors, giving your company an opportunity to earn more site visits and hopefully more conversions.

SEO is just part of the broader SEM strategy but many would argue that it is the most important. Without a properly developed SEO strategy in place, your company will not get the visibility online that it deserves.

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