SEO vs. SEM: What’s The Difference & Which Is Better?

If your business wants to thrive in the 21st century, you might have heard about SEO vs. SEM. For any organization to be successful in the present day, it must have a strong digital presence, meaning your website gets found in the SERPs (search engine results pages). This may sound harsh, but it’s the reality of the Internet age, especially since a reported 68% of online activities begin using a search engine.

But not every search yields the results your business wants, especially in today’s competitive market. This is why you need specific marketing techniques to help you reach your target audience.

Enter: SEO vs. SEM.

But what’s the difference between these two acronyms, and which is best for your specific needs? This article breaks it down so you can accurately choose the right marketing techniques for your business, regardless of the market.

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves optimizing websites so they rank higher in a variety of major search engines. For example, SEO incorporates the use of organic searches using carefully-curated keywords and SEO-optimized blog entries.

These searches are unpaid, unlike their pay-per-click (PPC) counterparts. SEO is undeniably one of the most important marketing techniques businesses can incorporate. Additionally, SEO helps search engines recognize the content on your website, organizing it to rank for a specific search query.

How Does an SEO Agency Work?

An SEO agency sells SEO services, optimizing their client’s websites to reach a target audience. These agencies work to create website visibility through the use of internal and external links and content-rich blog entries optimized for SEO.

As previously mentioned, this includes using specific keywords and high-quality backlinks. An SEO agency may also create guest posts on authority sites to help direct traffic back to your website.

The quality of a website is often measured by its Domain Authority (DA). DA is then measured by the quality and quantity of inbound links, making link-building an essential part of SEO.

SEO for Service-Based Companies

Service-based companies offer a skilled service. This includes industry experience in a specific field, including personal labor.

Examples include accountants, hair stylists, doctors, plumbers, landscapers, and more. The services offered help those who lack the time or skill set to complete the job themselves.

When implementing SEO for service-based companies, it’s important to consider specific features. Let’s take a look.

Web Features

Web features include mobile-friendly websites designed to provide users with an optimal experience, regardless of the device they use. You’ll want to incorporate an attractive website that loads quickly and incorporates fresh content for prospective customers to frequently engage with. The more engaging your website is, the more traffic your site will retain. 


No amount of SEO is complete without keywords. Relevant keywords help businesses target their key demographic, driving traffic to their websites. You can use a combination of short—and long-tail keywords to cater to various needs.

When integrating keywords, work them in organically and avoid keyword stuffing.

Selecting Keywords

When selecting keywords, begin by creating a giant list. Once you have an idea of the keywords you’re interested in, you’ll want to focus on keywords that offer low competition with competitive sites.

You’ll also need to consider the search volume for each keyword. Specifically, this refers to how many people are conducting searches for the keywords you’d like to incorporate into your blogs. Aim for keyword searches that boast low competition but offer a significant amount of searches.

It’s also important to consider the intent behind your keywords. When someone conducts an internet search, they’re usually looking to buy something, learn something, or find a specific website. The intent behind a consumer’s search plays a pivotal role in the keywords you’ll select for your website or blog entries.

Select keywords that generate search results that align with the intent behind each search. For example, if someone searches for “DIY landscaping on a budget”, they’re looking to learn something. To rank for a blog post featuring this long-tail keyword, ensure your article focuses on DIY landscaping methods instead of a page that sells a product or service.

Organized Content

No matter how engaging and informative your content is, if it’s disorganized or difficult to find, you’ll run the risk of decreasing a user’s experience.

You can combat this issue by adding different pages for each service you offer. Have separate pages for your services, company history, testimonials (more on that to follow), blog entries, contact information, photos, and more.


Testimonials are an excellent addition to any SEO strategy, especially when they incorporate keywords generated by the user. In this capacity, testimonials can help increase your chances of ranking in a SERP while helping prospective clients to better trust your brand.

Call to Action

Every website needs a call to action (CTA) button. This encourages site visitors to further explore your site or take a specific action. If, for example, you’re looking for a user to schedule a free estimate, be sure to incorporate a bold, colorful CTA button.

You should also include CTAs whenever posting a new blog entry. Your CTA should encourage the reader to visit a certain page on your site, such as your “Contact” or “Services” page.

What Is SEM?

Search engine marketing (SEM) relies on paid advertisements to increase how well a website ranks on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). SEM incorporates various forms of digital marketing strategies and is often used as a catch-all to describe PPC and SEO. However, SEM is often paid, whereas SEO is organic.

Google is the most common search engine and as such, a digital marketing agency will commonly rely on Google Ads to help businesses rank higher in a SERP.

How Does an SEM Agency Work?

Similar to an SEO agency, an SEM agency focuses on search engine optimization. Unlike SEO agencies, SEM agencies also focus on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

These agencies use PPC as a marketing strategy that targets ad space on top of a SERP. This strategy works to grab the attention of prospective customers using non-organic, paid practices.

What Is PPC Advertising?

PPC advertising is a type of digital advertising that relies on paid ads. In short, an advertiser pays a fee every time someone clicks on one of their ads.

The goal is to pay for targeted website visits or to a landing page app. Although there is a fee, it’s often trivial when PPC is implemented correctly. If, for example, you pay several dollars per click but a single click leads to a sale worth hundreds of dollars, the PPC has paid for itself, and then some.

There isn’t a standard one-size-fits-all for PPC ads, however. Some PPC ads are comprised of videos, images, text, or a combination of all three. You might find PPC ads on social media, websites, and search engines, to name a few.

Marketing Ideas for Service Industries

Service marketing differs from general marketing. Instead of selling a tangible product, you’re essentially selling a specific experience. A service’s value is based on the expected result of a specific set of skills.

When marketing the service industry, you’ll need to build very high levels of trust with your target audience. This ensures they feel comfortable enough to use your services and trust you’ll deliver the intended results.

Service marketing may include (but isn’t limited to) financial services, health care services, trade services, professional services, hospitality, telecommunications services, entertainment services, and more.

Let’s consider some of the best marketing ideas for service industries.

Build Trust

Any business that markets a product needs to be grounded in trust. Trust is best created using testimonials from other clients, as previously mentioned. When you incorporate testimonials from an audience similar to the one you’re trying to attract, you’re more likely to find people who will identify with the testimonials they’re reading.

Showcase Your Awards

Have you obtained awards or badges within your industry? Has your business been featured on authority sites? If so, be sure to showcase them on your website.

As with trust, this helps prospective clients understand your credibility within the service industry, especially if you’ve earned badges from Google.

Open Lines of Communication

One of the most effective marketing techniques you can adopt is effective communication with clients. This goes hand in hand with transparency, so customers always know what they’ll receive ahead of time.

Communication may be as simple as a phone call or email update, keeping clients in the know. You can also rely on social media or email marketing techniques to provide your customers with exceptional customer service.

SEO vs. SEM: Which Is Right for You?

Remember that each marketing technique boasts specific benefits if you’re considering SEO vs. SEM. SEO is ideal for anyone looking to gain organic traffic to their website, while SEM targets pay-per-click advertising methods.

Both SEO and SEM serve a unique purpose in helping your brand stand out among the competition, which is why you need to work with a full-service marketing agency like Let’s B Media. We’ll help you create the best brand possible, incorporating various marketing techniques to help you reach your target audience. Do you know the difference between SEO vs. SEM after reading this?

Connect with us today for more information about our SEO and SEM services.

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