With the rapidly changing digital marketing landscape, everyone is doing their best to keep up with all the jargon and terminology being thrown at them. New terms are introduced almost as fast as old ones are removed.
In recent years, I’ve witnessed considerable confusion over the differentiation of SEM, SEO, and PPC. If you’re in this group, don’t feel badly. Numerous marketers misuse these acronyms on a regular basis.
Let’s define the core differences between SEO and SEM. Search engine marketing is the parent category whose subsets include both SEO and PPC and should not refer only to the latter.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
The use of various techniques to improve a web site’s natural (organic) ranking on search engines in order to attract more visitors. Today, SEO strategies must also focus on driving conversions from qualified leads. This is why website conversion optimization has become an integral partner of SEO.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
The process of marketing a website using search engines either through improving natural (organic) rankings or paying for clicks (PPC) or both. This is also widely known as search marketing.
Many say that Yahoo! is to blame for this confusion. After all, when Overture was renamed to Yahoo! Search Marketing, people thought that search marketing only referred to paid search.