Difference between SEO and SEM

Definition of SEM

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) refers to the practices implemented on a website to obtain the highest possible visibility through advertising campaigns on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. In other words, we can say that SEM is the paid result on the search engines. The advertiser pays each time a user clicks on his ad.  Arcopix is a Google Ads agency in Hong Kong, we are certified by Google, we are experts on managing Ads campaigns.

Definition of SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the set of techniques applied to a website to improve its position in the organic search results. We could say that SEO is the natural positioning of a website in search engines. At our SEO agency, we are experts in knowing the Google algorithm, we help our clients get more traffic to their website.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

SEO focuses on improving organic or natural visibility in search results, SEM is based on advertising campaigns through paid ads on search results.

Cost differences between SEO and SEM

In SEM a certain amount is paid each time a user clicks on an ad. The more clicks, the higher the cost. This advertising model is called PPC or cost per click or pay per click. You will not pay for the number of times your ad is displayed, but for those who click on it.

Using SEO techniques do not require paying a cost for each visit to your website as in the Google Ads platform, but that does not mean that it is cheaper. The work and time required to optimize a website to rank naturally in search results can be much greater.

Although it is true that in the short term an SEM campaign may be more expensive because a Google Ads expert is needed, in addition to the cost of the campaign itself, in the medium and long term things can change.

SEO is not one of those tasks that is done once on your website and can be forgotten about. You have to work continuously to publish articles periodically and keep your website updated. Also, website optimization and updates are things that can never be stopped.


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Which strategy can get better results?

Time plays a decisive role in obtaining good results. In the short term, there is no doubt that an SEM campaign can help you increase your company’s sales. Your website will appear almost immediately in the first search results.

In the case of SEO, it is different. Although we work on the organic positioning of our website, we will not be able to obtain good results in less than 2 months. Even if you publish content frequently, your website has a good user experience and is technically well optimized, you still need to give Google time to read your website and start ranking it.

This does not mean that SEM is better than SEO, far from it. In fact, as soon as you stop paying for the ads, you will immediately disappear from search results. Therefore, you should not neglect any of these strategies. The best is to work on both strategies together.

How to combine your SEO and SEM strategy?

SEO and SEM are two essential strategies in online marketing, and you have to know how to combine them to obtain optimal results. When you’ve just started your own business, it’s important to get your SEO strategy up and running as soon as possible. The longer you take to do it, the longer it will take to get results.

However, if your website is not yet ranking well in search results, you can combine it with an SEM strategy. Depending on the budget you have, the results will be higher or lower.

Once your website starts to rank and gain visibility in Google SERPs, you can use SEM campaigns for maintenance. Also, for some keywords, it is very difficult to appear in the first results, so if your ads are doing well for those keywords, you can continue to stick with them.


SEO and SEM are two very different online marketing strategies, but using them together will allow you to maximize your results. It is important to remember that SEO and SEM are not substitutes, and that neither of the two strategies is expendable.

SEM will help you get good results in the short term, but if you think about the medium and long term, SEO is the only strategy that will help you survive on the Internet. 

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