Talk to sales

Digital Lab

by 2Point

What’s inside

Share: Facebook LinkedIn X

Digital Lab Saturdays

Join 1000+ business owners and marketing managers getting digital marketing tips.

Featured content

Trending this Week
The Importance of Brand Consistency in Digital Marketing
Artificial Intelligence
The Shift to Lo-Fi Content: Authenticity Over Production Value
Search Engine Optimization
Tips for Successful Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Artificial Intelligence
AI in Marketing Requires Human Creativity for Distinctive Results

SEO vs SEM – What do you need?

Last update: May 25, 2024

Reading time:

4 Minutes


SEO vs SEM: What’s the difference?

There’s a lot of confusion about SEO and SEM…

What’s the difference?
What do I even need?
Should I do both?

Hopefully, this email will answer these questions for you so you can get back to bringing on more customers.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your website to be organically ranked in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Key success metrics are:

  • Organic Traffic
  • Keyword Rankings
  • Organic Attributed Revenue

SEO is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing and many businesses are built completely off the back of their organic traffic.

Earning an organic ranking in search engines isn’t easy, but once you do you can often hold the rankings for a very long time.

This means month-over-month you receive the traffic, leads, and revenue from the organic ranking without having to spend a dollar.

This makes SEO ideal for long-term growth as every gain in ranking supports your growth for this month and every month after.

To improve your SEO you should focus on:

  • High-quality website content
  • Technical website optimization (speed)
  • Off-page optimization (backlinking)
  • Internal website structure (internal linking)

The main downside to SEO is that it can take longer to see an ROI, however, once you do, it’s one of the highest ROI forms of marketing you can use.

What is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) generally refers to search engine advertising.

The most popular form is Google Advertising.

SEM is easy to scale but can ultimately be much more expensive than SEO.

Key success metrics are:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost
  • Ad Attributed Leads/Sales
  • Cost Per Click

Search Engine Marketing is one of the most common ways businesses start investing in marketing.

It’s easy to measure, easy to start with smaller budgets, and easy to target.

Everything is set up to make it easy to get into but hard to master.

Most of the difference between your average ad campaign & the best in the world is simply data.

You have to run experiments often, measure the impact of them, and regularly test/tweak/optimize your campaigns.

Measuring and understanding the data you have can create a significant month-over-month improvement across your entire campaign.

Due to how easy it is to add more spend to increase total sales/leads every minor % improvement makes a massive difference to how quickly you can scale.

To improve your SEM you should focus on:

  • High-converting landing pages
  • Specific market segments (local, service-based, etc.)
  • Cost arbitrage (lower cost-per-click)
  • Lead quality optimization (filter out the bad leads)

The main downside to SEM is that growth is linear.

It’s tied directly to how much money you’re willing to put in.

Put in $1000 to generate $4000. Put in $2000 to generate $8000.

The reliability is nice, but the profit margins are often tight.

Which Do I Need?

The best approach is to do both SEM and SEO.

SEM provides short-term returns, a good campaign will generate revenue (and ideally ROI) on month one.

Where an SEO campaign may take a quarter or more to start showing ROI.

While this distinction often leads companies to purely focus on SEM, that’s a mistake.

SEO (once producing a return) has much lower investment costs.

The SEO performance compounds over time…

This means that after 1 year you have the compounding benefits of all the previous twelve months of work generating your results every month.

With SEM your results don’t compound, you may find 5-10% improvements some months without spending more.

But you won’t see performance double or triple like you can with SEO.

So the goal should ultimately be to replace all of your advertising spend with organic rankings (much higher ROI).

However, in the short term, advertising is a great way to get consistent results quickly while your SEO ‘catches up’.

Need help with SEO / SEM?

We’ve been helping businesses scale with search engines since 2006, created multiple exitable businesses, and generated hundreds of millions in search engine attributed revenue. With the goal to help as many businesses reach $100M+, we want to help you too!

Click the button below to chat with our team.

More videos you may like

More content you may like

SEO vs SEM – What do you need?

SEO vs SEM: What's the difference? There's a lot of…

Google’s AI (SGE) is finally here

Google's SGE is Rolling Out to All U.S. Users Google…

What I Learned From Scaling Mass Cold Emailing

What I Learned From Scaling Mass Cold Emailing 24 months…

Email sequences to 10X your revenue

Email Sequences to 10X Your Revenue Automated email sequences generate…

Which Keywords (Actually) Matter?

Which Keywords (Actually) Matter? Not all keywords are created equal... in…

Need help with digital marketing?

Book a consultation


+ 100 projects developed in 2023

view our work