SEO and SEM: All You Need to Know

Your simplified guide to everything related to SEO and SEM. Keep reading to find out which one is best for your business!

seo vs sem

The main goal of search engine marketing is to appear on the top of search engine result pages and stand out from the rest of your competitors. If you don’t know already, SEM and SEO are both terms used to describe optimization methods when it comes to marketing on search engines. They are strategies that are used to create brand awareness, increase sales, and drive traffic to websites. However, there is a difference between these two: 

  • SEM uses paid methods to appear in search results.
  • SEO uses organic (non-paid) methods to appear in search results.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization and uses organic tactics to achieve placement at the top of search results

Using a range of SEO tactics, marketers try to drive organic traffic to their website and improve their search rankings. SEO methods typically involve On-Page and Off-Page components. 

what is seo

On-Page optimization includes a variety of activities aimed at improving your website and the compatibility between the search engine and the content of your site. The most important aspect of On-Page optimization is keyword research. Keyword research is essential when optimizing your search results. This is because search engines recognize keywords to match users with the most relevant websites, depending on their search intent. So, the more relevant keywords used in your website, the more likely it is for your site to appear on the first page of the search results. Some other On-Page optimization techniques include. 

  • Improving user experience (the site speed, making it easy to navigate, having a pleasant site aesthetic, and using different categories to help with user navigation).
  • Incorporating meta descriptions and title tags so that users are able to read a brief description of your website and see if its right for them. This also makes it easy for Google to understand your website and how relevant it will be to users, especially if keywords are included. 
  • Ensure that your site is mobile friendly. According to a report from Search Engine Land, nearly 60% of searches are made from mobile phones. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you could be missing out on traffic from more than half of internet users!
  • Use infographics and visually appealing messages to captivate user attention and drive them to your site. Infographics are useful when trying to convey information to users because they make it easier and faster to understand. They also ensure that users do not get bored and grasp the information quickly while scrolling. 

What is SEM?

SEM stands for search engine marketing and uses paid methods to optimize a website’s position on search engine results. 

It is often referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) marketing which you can e.g. have from SmartMoneyMatch here. It also involves bidding on keywords related to their products and website. When a user searches using these keywords, the advertiser bidding the most on the word will appear at the top of the search results page. 

what is sem

For example, you can see in the picture below that the first three search results appear as ads. This means that these companies are most likely bidding one or more of the words used to search. 

Since these are paid ads, remember that SEM is tracking your ad metrics to make sure that your ads are functioning well and are optimized to get the best return on your investment (ROI). 

The following metrics are great indicators of ad performance to pay attention to. 

  • Return on ad spend (ROAS)

 ROAS essentially addresses the query: For every dollar spent on advertising, how much revenue did we generate? Calculated by dividing the total revenue from an ad campaign by its total cost, ROAS gives a ratio or a multiplier that signifies the profitability of that campaign.

  • Total Revenue from Ad Campaign refers to all the income generated from the advertising campaign.
  • Total Cost of Ad Campaign contains all costs associated with the advertising campaign.
ROAS of 3 means that for every dollar spent, the campaign generated three dollars in revenue. This metric is important for businesses to establish not only the effectiveness of their advertising efforts but also to help adjust future campaigns for higher profitability.
  • Cost per conversion 
Cost per Conversion provides a clear perspective on the financial expenditure involved to secure each conversion, or desired action from a customer, through a specific advertising campaign. Conversions can manifest in various forms like making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or engaging with a promotional event. Calculated by dividing the total cost of the campaign by the total number of conversions, this metric is vital to comprehend the economic viability and efficiency of a marketing strategy in attaining its objectives.

  • Conversion rate
The Conversion Rate quantifies the effectiveness of a marketing strategy or a particular webpage in converting visitors into active customers or leads by taking a specific desired action. It’s calculated by taking the number of conversions, dividing that by the number of visitors, and then multiplying the result by 100 to get a percentage.

Moreover, conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes into play as a systematic process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action by utilizing analytics and user feedback to improve and optimize the website or landing page. CRO involves various strategies including A/B testing, improving website loading times, enhancing navigation, and refining call-to-action statements, all aimed to enhance the user experience and boost conversions.
  • Search impression share

Search Impression Share indicates the visibility of your ads in the search engine results pages (SERPs) as a percentage. This percentage is calculated by dividing the actual impressions your ads achieved by the total number of impressions they could have possibly received based on keywords and other campaign settings.


  • Actual Impressions refers to the number of times your ads were actually shown.
  • Total Possible Impressions refers to the total number of times your ads could have been shown, based on your keyword and campaign settings.

Essentially, it sheds light on how often your ad is displayed in search results and gives insights into potential opportunities or losses in terms of visibility and customer engagement. It’s a crucial metric for advertisers to assess and optimize their competitive presence in the search advertising landscape.

In a nutshell, while these metrics individually offer rich insights into different aspects of an advertising campaign, when analysed together, they provide a comprehensive overview of the campaign’s overall performance, delivering valuable data that can guide future advertising strategies towards improved effectiveness and ROI.

Ready to boost your online presence and drive more organic traffic? Contact our SEO Company in Bangalore today for a free consultation and take the first step towards dominating search engine rankings!

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