SEO or SEM: What’s Right for Me?


Many business owners want to increase their public exposure and drive traffic to their websites through search engines. This is possible through two different methods: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM). While distinguishing between the two can be confusing at first glance, the key difference is whether the exposure and traffic gained via these tactics is organic or paid. SEO is built up through a variety of practices (such as content development and search engine registration) meant to increase relevance in search queries. Alternatively, SEM is a paid advertisement on the search engines in which marketers would only pay when their advertisement has been clicked on by the viewer.

When looking at marketing solutions for your business, deciding whether to invest in building up SEO or placing ads via SEM can be tricky. However, Media Venue is here to help you explore the pros and cons of each method and determine which option best suits your company and marketing goals.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a series of techniques meant to optimize a website’s performance and ranking in search engines for related queries. There are numerous tasks to perform on your website to keep it updated with the latest SEO strategies and best practices, which is especially important due to the constantly changing and evolving algorithms (such as the BERT algorithm in 2019). Essentially, it is important to update a website’s SEO strategies to ensure good traffic flow on the site.

The Pros and Cons of SEO


    • Constant flow of exposure and targeted traffic to the site
    • Creates a good impression of the business and will grow the public following of the business
    • Creates opportunity for strong backlinks (governmental and academic entities are most common)


    • Can take some time for businesses to see substantial results
    • Can be time-consuming to create effective SEO practices
    • No guaranteed rate of success or gained traffic


Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search Engine Marketing is essentially a paid ad placement within search results; it has become a popular method for business owners to promote their business online. Although most companies cannot solely rely on this method due to the cost, this method can be beneficial for business owners who are either running a short-term campaign and need to produce quick buzz or for businesses that are offering direct products to consumers. SEM campaigns utilize the bidding of relevant keywords to display a text ad within a search engine results page (SERP) to a user that has searched for the keyword or phrase.

The Pros and Cons of SEM


  • Can reach a target audience fast and provides measurable results from the campaign
  • Able to adjust campaigns quickly and efficiently
  • Good exposure to local and global markets and consumers


  • Can be expensive if left unchecked
  • Specific restrictions can cause for pricy keywords
  • Must be carefully managed and controlled for your campaign to be the most effective


Which is better: SEO or SEM?

Both SEO and SEM are important, but which one is better is ultimately determined by your business’s goals. Do you have an upcoming sale and want to quickly bring in consumer traffic from search engines? Then SEM is what you want. Do you want a long-term solution that will consistently bring in traffic, if done correctly? Then SEO is the best solution for you.

How can I optimize my website for SEO?

There are numerous factors that search engines consider when determining your website’s ranking in relation to a person’s search query. However, there are several key steps that you can start now to begin optimizing your website for SEO, such as submitting your website to online directories, being mindful of relevant keyword placement (in headers, throughout content, etc.), and more.

You can get started with SEO with our post “4 Easy Ways to Improve Your SEO”, which offers some easy steps to begin getting your business’s website optimized for SEO. Another great post is “Why Your Business Needs an SEO Strategy”, which provides some additional information on what SEO is, how SEO works, and the importance of an SEO strategy.

Of course, Media Venue is always happy to help with our SEO Consulting and SEO performance services!

Where can I find more resources on SEO and SEM?

The Media Venue blog is full of resources to provide more explanation on the similarities and differences of SEO and SEM. Some great posts include:

Of course, this is just a small sample of our many blog posts. Be sure to check out our other great resources on the Media Venue blog!

Get Started with SEO and SEM

Just like any other marketing capability, there are pros and cons to SEO and SEM. However, both have also proven themselves to be powerful and effective forms of marketing, especially when used with the right strategies. No matter whether you prefer SEO or SEM (or both), Media Venue can help you navigate both methods of digital marketing and can put together a strategy and plan to get your SEO and/or SEM plan started. Give us a call today at 502-855-4783 or email our Director of Digital Marketing—Cassie Rogers—at for more information.

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