What Is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

For small local businesses, there are few better ways to reach consumers than mastering the art of search. Research shows that four out of five consumers use search engines to find local businesses, and people who seek out local businesses on search engines are more likely to become customers.


But there is more than one way for local businesses to leverage search engines to get in front of prospective customers. The terms SEO and SEM are frequently used – and sometimes interchangeably – when it comes to strategies for reaching customers on search engines. But they don’t mean the same thing.


SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, refers to techniques businesses can implement to improve how their websites rank “naturally” on search engines. SEM, meanwhile, means search engine marketing – an umbrella term for SEO and other techniques that can help local businesses grow search engine referrals. In addition to SEO, SEM may also include paid methods for reaching consumers. While this article explains the basic approaches to optimizing search engine performance, Yellow Pages search experts can help you design the optimal strategy using SEO and/or other SEM techniques to drive more traffic to your website from search engines.


SEO: Search engine optimization means using a prescribed set of best practices that help search engine crawlers understand exactly what it is that your business offers. This, in turn, allows search engines to show your content to people who are seeking your products or services.


Done properly, SEO best practices can help your website naturally rank higher than other similar offerings. A key difference between SEO and other SEM techniques is that businesses can’t pay their way to better organic rankings. These rankings are ultimately determined by search engine algorithms – do everything right, and your website may show up higher in search results while SEO mistakes can result in lower search rankings or even getting delisted from Google, which is why many businesses enlist the help of experts.


Here are some things search engine crawlers look for to deliver content to users:


Descriptive page titles and URLs which incorporate relevant keywords

Regularly updated, highly relevant content such as articles and blog posts

Inbound links from other websites which show that your website is credible and authoritative

Mobile-friendly content


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