Although they are often used interchangeably, Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing have two very different focuses. People often get confused and even though there may be some similarities between the two, they are both very much different. Search Engine Optimization could be said to be an aspect of Search Engine Marketing.
SEO vs. SEM
Search Engine Optimization is more of getting your site ranked high in Google via the use of link building and focusing on traffic and outreach. Whereas Search Engine Marketing is managing pay per click advertising, analyzing competitors data, and performing key word research in order to have a good idea of what you want to SEO for. There is a fine line between SEO and SEM and there are various parts that are intertwined as well but they are completely different beasts.
Search Engine Optimization main focuses are link building, outreach, and boosting rankings. Any person somewhat competent at SEO will know the basics of link building. You must build referring domains to your website. The more high quality websites that link into you, the higher your websites authority will be, the higher the rankings you will get in Google will be. The goal of SEO is you want to get the most people to traffic your website as you can. Usability is a huge factor in SEO as well, and probably not in the way you think. Usability in the way so that Google can understand your website and crawl through it efficiently and effectively. That also brings with it the added bonus of improving it for users as well. Directory submission is also a big part of SEO as well, that is normally not taken advantage of as much as it should. Submitting your website to directories is crucial in getting your website out there. They often can also provide a high quality link to your website. Search Engine Optimization focuses on boosting your sites rankings more than anything else.
Search Engine Marketing is a whole other animal. SEM utilizes pay per click advertisement in Google to pop up for terms that people search for in one of the sponsored boxes at the top, whether your site already ranks first or ranks dead last you will still be up at the top of the page. SEM performs keyword research in order to find out what people search for and how they can take advantage of that to get people to use their site. This is often passed along to the SEO guys so they can use those keywords to SEO the website for said keywords. Search Engine Marketing is all about appealing your website to the actual consumer through search engines. When they search a keyword related to your website, you want them to click yours and not anyone else. This will often involve figuring out the best way to word your titles and gaining competitors data to see how you can combat them.
Is There A Clear Winner?
To succeed, you must do both. They are very much intertwined with one another and a good internet marketer focuses on both SEO and SEM. Focusing on just SEO may get you good Google results but no one will stay on your website because it just appeals to search engines, there’s no personality with your website. And on the other hand you could focus solely on SEM and have a great user friendly site and pop up on Pay-Per-Click advertisements but if you don’t rank for any keywords then it’s all useless. The key is to find the balance between marketing and optimization and that’s different for every website.