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What are the Differences Between SEO and SEM?

In digital marketing, two essential concepts must remain kept in mind: SEO and SEM positioning. If you can’t tell one from the other, keep reading to find out the differences between SEO and SEM.

Before getting into the subject, let’s see what each of these terms consist of and their function within the online strategy.



The SEO positioning ( Search Engine Optimization ) is to apply a set of techniques to improve a website’s position in organic search results. It can remain said that it is the natural way to position a web page in search engines.


The term SEM ( Search Engine Marketing ) refers to the techniques used in a web page that seek greater online visibility through advertising campaigns in search engines. In other words, the SEM is the paid results that appear in search engines and whose advertisers assume a cost per click (CPC) in exchange for appearing in the first positions.

Difference between SEO and SEM

To explain the main differences between SEO and SEO, we will focus on the following nuances: cost, time, flexibility, visibility, and measurement.


Perhaps the main difference between SEO and SEM lies in the cost. While in the SEM positioning, it is seen that there is a direct cost for the company, in SEO, we do not see it, although this does not mean that it does not have it.

As we have mentioned before, when carrying out an SEM strategy, the company must pay for each click that a user makes on the ad, which implies a direct cost for each visit. The more clicks the ad has, the higher its price.

On the other hand, SEO positioning does not have this cost per visit associated with it, but this does not mean that it will be cheaper. Having a well-optimized page and positioning it naturally requires a lot of time and effort, a cost that is much higher for people who are not familiar with this strategy.


The most common thing in the SEO strategy results is that they take a long time to appear and can even be months of waiting. This is where the importance of the work I continue to develop the website comes into play, as it will be the engine that makes it take off. This is because the search engines make sure that the project is serious and long-term; for this reason, the more activity there is on your website, the more chances you will have of obtaining better results.

When we talk about SEM positioning results, these are usually immediate, since carrying out a strategy of this type can mean appearing in the first search results in a matter of minutes. However, any good SEM tactic requires a lot of analysis and experimentation.


SEO changes usually take days or weeks to appear, as robots take their time to re-crawl the web page with the modifications made. Instead, any rectification made in the SEM strategy will remain applied immediately.


The SEO positioning assures you will not appear in the first or certain search positions, even making a sublime work. Think that the competition is gigantic in some sectors, and many companies have remain positioned for a long time. The important thing is not to give up and keep fighting. Sooner or later, the results will come.

If you optimize the campaigns well in SEM, you appear immediately in the first page results. In this way, while you invest in advertising, you will have online visibility.


Different tools allow measuring the results of SEO positioning. However, internet searches’ privacy policies cause this information to be incomplete, making it challenging to obtain the final results. On the other hand, the tools of the advertising campaign platforms, such as Google AdWords, allow collecting all the data of the SEM strategy.

Which is better: SEO or SEM?

If what you want are immediate results, the best option is SEM positioning, since this way you will be able to appear in the first search results, thus obtaining greater visibility. Of course, we must not forget about the SEO strategy. Since if at any time you decide to stop doing advertising campaigns, your website may disappear from the results, causing your positioning to plummet.

As you can see, there are differences between SEO and SEM that you should keep in mind when launching your digital marketing strategy. These differences do not mean that one is better than the other or that you should opt for just one, since, without a doubt. The best option to optimize your online positioning is to mix SEO and SEM.

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