September 27, 2022

Alina Hasnaș

SEM and SEO: Differences and Similarities

SEM (also called PPC) and SEO are powerful branches of digital marketing that bring significant traffic to websites from search results on search engines like Google and can exponentially increase your online sales.

Combined, these ways of communicating the marketing message can:

  • bring visitors and conversions - 87.7% of searchers do not go beyond the first page of search results, so sites here receive the most attention;
  • increase brand awareness - displaying the product at the top of the search results will affect the degree of brand recognition;
  • increase trust in your brand - first-page results in search engines are generally perceived by users as reflecting high-quality and trusted brands.

SEM and SEO: Differences and Similarities 2023

So how does SEM differ from SEO?

SEO (search engine optimization) is a branch of online marketing that aims to improve a website's visibility in unpaid search engine results, that is, in organic results. SEO activity aims to optimize and promote websites to generate more qualified traffic from search engines. So SEO:

  • it generates an increase in website visibility over time, but the results are durable (they are preserved long after the end of the campaign);
  • can be done with zero/relatively small budget compared to PPC advertising;
  • 80% of Google users click on organic results;
  • SEO promotion is used when you have relatively permanent offers and services and not when liquidating stocks.

PPC (pay-per-click) is also a branch of online marketing, but it aims to improve the visibility of a website through the presence of the website in the paid search engine results for the keywords chosen by the website owner. The most popular PPC system is the one used by Google and is called Google Ads. So the PPC:

  • allows almost immediate visibility, but only as long as there is a budget;
  • allows time, geographical targeting, etc.;
  • PPC promotion uses limited-time offers or stock clearances;
  • Google Ads is one of the most effective marketing services offered by Google, with immediate results;
  • Using exact targeting, an Ads campaign will help you get in the eyes of your potential customers, exactly when they are searching on Google for products or services similar to the ones you offer;
  • Campaigns implemented in Google Ads are dynamic and can be monitored in real-time;
  • Both the keywords, the targeting, and the ads used must be continuously optimized to maximize the performance of the results obtained.

An efficient and effective Google Ads means a high-quality score of the ads:

- high click rate (CTR) - the probability that the ad will register clicks when it is displayed;

- good relevance of the ad - how well the ad matches the user's search intent, i.e. keywords in the text and the connection between the ad and the content on the page;

- the experience related to the landing page - the relevance and usefulness of the landing page for people who click on the ad, i.e. good loading speed, good content (the page continues the offer or the call to action from the ad), the site is optimized for mobile devices.

All these factors also influence the SEO part because they define the quality of a site.

SEM and SEO: Differences and Similarities

Google Ads' impact on SEO:

  • While advertising doesn't directly help or hurt your site's search engine rankings, Google Ads can (and should) influence your SEO strategy.
  • In fact, in uncertain niches, it makes sense to launch Google Ads search campaigns before investing 6-9-12 months in SEO.
    Even with the best keyword analysis, there's still some risk that your chosen keywords won't convert well for you. That's where a Google Ads search campaign can help.
  • You can launch a G. Ads campaign and within days or weeks, you can determine which keywords are worth targeting for SEO. Sure, it will cost something to advertise, but it's better to know right away.
  • Good headlines from Google Ads ads can be used in SEO title tags: Which headline formula drives more clicks through your PPC campaigns? Are your headlines that say "free shipping" performing better or worse than those that say "free returns"? Once you discover such patterns, you replicate them in your site's meta title tags to increase your CTR.
  • Other metrics that could be affected by running Google Ads would be things like overall site bounce rate, time on pages, pages per session, and other UX metrics. If serving ads improves these overall site user metrics, then there's a good chance you'll also see improvements in SEO rankings, which are based on providing a pleasant experience for site users.

Why is the influence of Google Ads on SEO positioning not direct?

If a company runs ads, then it is likely to increase brand awareness by targeting competitors' brand names and associated important keywords. Running these ads continuously for several months can significantly increase the number of direct visitors to a website. If a business stops running ads, then over time they could slowly see a decrease in direct visitors, which in turn could negatively affect their rankings.

SEO and Google Ads results can be improved with remarketing

Remarketing (aka retargeting) is the process of showing targeted ads to people who have previously visited your site or otherwise engaged with your brand. It's an incredibly powerful tool for tracking the 96-98% of people who come to your site but don't make a purchase. Because these visitors already know your brand, they are more likely to convert than a random stranger on the internet. Through remarketing, you learn more about your potential customers and recapture visitors who did not convert.


People will discover your business through multiple channels, so you need to take a multi-channel approach. This way you create new opportunities for people to visit your site. And once people discover your business, you want to keep them interested: you have email and social media marketing in addition to SEM and SEO.

SEM and SEO - Differences 2023

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