SEO or SEM: Which Is Better for My Brand?

In 2020, the digital marketing landscape seems to be more compelling, disruptive and even (for some) chaotic. 

Business leaders and managers like you sometimes have trouble dealing with uncertainty, high competition and moody customer expectations.

Digital marketing channels, as 7/24 sales and customer relations representatives of your brand, are ideal places for coping with the kind of obstacles mentioned here.

This year, it’s a great time to start your digital marketing investments and even greater for doubling your existing budgets. 

Why is it worth investing more this year? 

a. According to social media management & analytics tool, Hootsuite’s recent Digital 2019 Report internet users are growing by an average of more than one million new users every day.

b. The same report further indicates that consumers are online an average of 6 hours and 42 minutes each day.

Digital marketing in 2020’s is an indispensable practice of marketing communication, and it’s likely to grow steadily in the upcoming years.

Digital Marketing Channels

There are many digital marketing channels you can strategically benefit from brand awareness, lead generation, sales, ROI, lifetime customer value etc. Here are the top digital marketing channels nowadays:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO),

Search Engine Marketing (SEM),

Content Marketing,

Social Media Marketing,

Affiliate Marketing,

Email marketing,

Online PR,

Native advertising,

Inbound marketing.

However, when we talk about digital marketing channels, two of them come to the front regarding the referral traffic: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Both SEO and SEM are crucial for any digital marketing strategies. They are applicable for any type of business model. Small or enterprise, local or international, for profit or non-profit, new or old, innovative or traditional… 

Regardless of the industry, competition, products or services, you certainly have a good reason for going digital more.

Besides, in order to implement a comprehensive marketing plan and reach your business goals, you’ll need both SEO and SEM.

Naturally, SEO and SEM are different channels despite the fact that they both use search queries. 



But first of all, let’s start with the definitions of these two key terms and channels. 

Search Engine Optimization is a strategic process of enhancing a website’s performance internally and externally in order to get more search result page visibility, and website traffic.  It mainly focuses on improving the rankings of a given website organically (unpaid) on the search engines such as Google, Bing or Yandex. 

Search Engine Marketing, on the other hand, is another strategic process of planning, creating and optimizing search ads campaigns for PPC (pay per click). The main difference from SEO is that for a PPC campaign, you must spend an ads budget.

When you type a search query on a search engine site, you get in less than a second a search engine result pages (SERP) with hundreds of results. 

Search engine result pages include both organic and paid results that will redirect you to another relevant page when you click on. However, generally, paid results are differentiated from organic results in most of the search engines.



Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing are together called Search Marketing. We can easily formulize like that:

Search Marketing = Search Engine Optimization + Search Engine Marketing

As you can also see, search engine optimization and search engine marketing shares similar business goals. These are:

Increasing search visibility,

Improving search rankings,

Driving more website traffic via search channel.


SEO and SEM: Similarities

Search marketing is a great way of getting brand awareness at the right moment, exactly when your potential customers look for businesses like yours.

Search marketing is a powerful traffic generator. Depending on your target market, by investing in search marketing, you will be able to get valuable website traffic exponentially.

Search marketing requires a deep level of understanding of your target audience. Search intent, customer journey, CTR, bounce rate, conversion rate are just some of the key elements of user behaviour.

Search marketing is a dynamic platform. Search trends might change depending on the new trends, seasons, expectations etc. It’s essential to monitor your target audience’s search level and habits.

Search marketing needs constant optimisation. You have to match your products/services with the target audience’s search intent via strategically designed landing pages. And update your brand messages, offers, page designs, timings and medium accordingly.


SEO vs. SEM: Differences

There are also some other points that differentiate SEO from SEM or vice versa. We have already discussed the paid/unpaid difference. SEO refers to organic search performance while SEM is also called as paid search or PPC. 

However, there are some more aspects we should focus on.

Paid results indicate users that the result itself is an advertisement. As you might have already noticed, the organic and paid results have not meddled with each other in the search results. 

Paid results have plenty of types of ad extensions that enrich the results. Such as site links, call extensions, callouts, ratings, lead generation form. Rich snippets give an important advantage for users, especially from the point of conversions.

Paid results can be targeted to a specific audience (demographics, income, segments, affinities, age, gender, language, even technology profile) while SEO doesn’t let you make an advanced targeting and heavily dependent on keywords.

A paid strategy is short term while organic strategy takes longer times. The main problem with paid results, as soon as you cut your budget, you lose your traffic also. However, organic results are more reliable from the point of inbound traffic. 

Paid results have a smaller CTR performance compared to organic results. This means, for having similar click amounts, you must have higher paid impressions. This can be interpreted as people prefer to click organic results more. 


A powerful digital marketing strategy is the one which implements strategically both search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

Both SEO and SEM are very effective channels. However, they can also be used in different contexts with other marketing goals. 

In 2020’s digital marketing ecosystem, SEO and SEM will certainly remain as indispensable channels as happened so far. 

Do you need a digital marketing agency that will boost your search performances?

Can’t you get the expected results from the search channel despite your big efforts?

B4Mind is a London based digital marketing agency specialized in SEO & SEM. 

We give extra attention to our customers’ marketing communication requirements and prepare them for the challenges of 2020’s with a holistic approach.

Search marketing is our passion and we can’t wait to hear about your dream!

Do you have any questions? Inquire now about our services. 

[email protected] / 020 3695 2872

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