SEM or SEO, Which One Should You Do?

This post was guest blogged by Matthew Berman of Internet Business Daily.


Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are two great ways to increase traffic to your site. Search engine marketing is the sponsored results you see in Google, and many of the other search engines. Someone will buy keywords for a certain CPC (cost per click), so they always rank on the first page of search results. Sometimes it is just plain impossible to go after a keyword that has enormous competition. This is where SEM comes in handy.

On the other end of the spectrum is SEO (search engine optimization). This is the practice of optimizing your site’s layout, content, and linking to make it easier for search engines to find and classify the site. This is called organic ranking. You do not have to pay anything for the traffic Google sends you with regards to SEO.


Many people think they should focus the majority of their energy on either SEM or SEO, but rarely both. This is a serious mistake for webmasters. SEO and SEM need to go hand in hand. There are a few reasons for this.

For keywords you cannot rank highly for, either because the competition is too tough or you need instant results, SEM should be used. There’s only a few ways to get customers/users to a brand new site, and SEM is one of the best. You can buy targeted traffic that will either become loyal users (for content sites) or purchase products (for sites that sell products).

There’s one thing that SEM can be used for that most average webmasters do not know of: competitive research. Before deciding the keywords to target with SEO, you can use SEM to determine which keywords work best and which you should not waste your time with. Spend a little money before making your SEO strategy, and compete for better keywords.

This works the other way around as well. If you are just starting a SEM campaign and are unsure of the keywords you should spend money on, the incoming keywords to your site can be a huge indicator. Use your analytics software to determine the highest converting keywords on your site and save money on testing keywords that may not work.

These are two great ways to use data you already have to your advantage. Remember, SEO and SEM can be used together and should always be compared for keyword perfection.