Core Differences Between Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing

I have had a lot of people ask me about the differences between Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing. There seems to be a lot of confusion between these terms in everyday use. However, their explanations are simple, to the point and concise which makes distinguishing between one and the other very easy.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Typically, the earlier a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines. This gives a web site web presence.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website primarily involves editing its content and HTML coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

The acronym “SEO” can also refer to “search engine optimizers,” a term adopted by an industry of consultants who carry out optimization projects on behalf of clients, and by employees who perform SEO services in-house. Search engine optimizers may offer SEO as a stand-alone service or as a part of a broader marketing campaign. Because effective SEO may require changes to the HTML source code of a site, SEO tactics may be incorporated into web site development and design. The term “search engine friendly” may be used to describe web site designs, menus, content management systems and shopping carts that are easy to optimize.

Another class of techniques, known as black hat SEO or Spamdexing, use methods such as link farms and keyword stuffing that degrade both the relevance of search results and the user-experience of search engines. Search engines look for sites that employ these techniques in order to remove them from their indices.


Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion. The industry peak body Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), also includes search engine optimization (SEO) within its reporting, but SEO is a separate discipline with most sources, including the New York Times defining SEM as ‘the practice of buying paid search listings’.

The explanations above have been taken from Wikipedia and clearly show the differences between one and the other. So, Search Engine Optimization is about increasing visibility to search engines and to generate traffic from search results and to increase the positioning of a web site in search engines, whereas, Search Engine Marketing involves paid listings in Search Engines such as Google’s Adwords, to ensure that you will come across highly in search results. I believe that Search Engine Optimization is more powerful and will be much more long lasting in continuing to generate quality traffic to a web site as long as quality content is kept a constant. There is no need to use paid listings although, budget permitting, it can be rather useful.


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