Digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are terms often used interchangeably, but that is wrong. Digital marketing is the combination of SEO and SEM, but the two are very different. So which one of the two is best?

Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Marketing?

Everybody who owns a website wants to have a step by step guide on how to get to the top of Google. They know that this means they need SEO, SEM, and a whole lot of luck. However, most small businesses in particular can’t afford expensive digital marketing services that focus on both SEO and SEM, and they have to choose one or the other.

Now, SEM is very important, because that is what tracks your return on investment. It is, essentially, paid advertising. This means that you pay the search engine, usually Google, for every click on one of your advertisements. SEO, by contrast, is more generic. This is the work you do on your website and on website promotion, which does cost money, but you don’t pay the search engines for that.

With SEM, you are in control of what happens. A good expert will develop something affordable with little risk. It is an effective and quick way to get new traffic to your website. It is exciting and still relatively new, which means it changes and grows constantly. Some of the strategies included in SEM are:

  • Forum marketing.
  • Website submissions.
  • Article submissions.
  • Blogging
  • Paid listings.
  • PPC (pay per click).

Some people feel that SEM goes against the grain of the internet and net neutrality because it means only does with money can get into it. This isn’t entirely true, however, because you can perform SEM on an absolute shoestring and, if done properly, provides an almost instant return on investment.

Then, there is SEO. Different search engines have different SEO algorithms. There is no guarantee that SEO leads to success either. It is about “optimizing” a website, trying to raise awareness of the fact that a site exists. It is about relevancy, research, and a lot of hard work. SEO doesn’t offer results overnight. In fact, it usually takes at least six months to a year before any benefits become obvious. It is also a fluid process, meaning that any results you gained can disappear again overnight, only to return twice as strong the next day.

So which of the two is better? You might be surprised that the answer is actually SEO. This is because, while SEM provides the best results and return on investment, it cannot exist if you haven’t engaged in SEO. You must build a website and promote it, if you want to get involved in SEM. This means you have to focus on SEO first, or SEM won’t work either. But in reality, you need both tools if you really want to be successful online.