Monday, September 28, 2020
Home Business SEO or SEM: Which Offers the Best Value?

SEO or SEM: Which Offers the Best Value?

Two areas of specialization you can focus on for digital marketing certification are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

To figure out which option to take, you need to understand which one offers the best value. This also requires a basic understanding of what is involved in each option and the general demand for digital marketing certification.

Through this guide, you’ll get the insights you need.

Why has Digital Marketing Gained Popularity?

SEO, SEM, Offers
Two areas of specialization you can focus on for digital marketing certification are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Pixabay

Digital marketing has increasingly gained popularity in the business world.

Hardly any organization today operates without some form of digital marketing. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Greater exposure

Due to the Internet’s global reach, digital marketing offers far greater reach and exposure than traditional options. Television and radio are typically limited to particular locations, unlike the Internet.

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  • Audience targeting

Digital marketing offers robust, automated systems that let you target exactly who you want, despite having a massive global reach. Considering that many online platforms have extensive information about online users, it’s relatively easy to identify the right target audience.

  • Cost-effective

Compared to traditional modes like TV advertising, where you wouldn’t easily gauge returns on your marketing campaigns, digital marketing offers powerful analytics that help you gauge and refine your campaigns. This way, you can refine your operations for maximum ROI.

SEO, SEM, Offers
To figure out which option to take, you need to understand which one offers the best value. Pixabay

  • Engagement with clients

The ease with which audiences can give feedback makes engagement possible in digital marketing. This is something that wasn’t possible with flyers, TV, or radio ads.

  • Innovation

The online space offers room for much more creative marketing campaigns than the limited traditional methods. This has made it possible for some companies to grow at a tremendous pace using innovative guerrilla marketing tactics.

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What is SEO and What is SEM?

SEO is a form of digital marketing for organic (unpaid) exposure.

It leverages on search engine ranking to pull in traffic from people searching online. To achieve this, instead of paying for adverts to appear on search engine results, you optimize the content on your site, so search engines like Google rank it high when people type related keywords.

SEO optimization involves both on-page and off-page factors.

SEO, SEM, Offers
This also requires a basic understanding of what is involved in each option and the general demand. Pixabay

The on-page SEO factors include meta descriptions, keywords, URLs, meta-titles, quality content, page load speed, and searcher intent. Off-page SEO factors include domain name, backlinks, trust, authority, searcher location, and searcher characteristics.

On the other hand, SEM is a form of digital marketing using paid exposure.

Here, you’ll use paid advertisement to feature in the top search engine result pages (SERPs). When you pay for an advert related to a specific keyword, Google, or any other search engine will display your content on top when people search for that keyword.

Such ads are typically pay-per-click. The adverts can be in different forms, including product listing ads and text-based ads.

SEO or SEM: Which Offers the Best Value?

To identify the best option, you need to know the specific advantages and disadvantages of each.

Here are the key pros and cons of SEO and SEM:

  • Display on search result pages: SEM content typically displays an “AD” designation, which can discourage some people from clicking through to them. SEO content appears as organic results and can even have featured snippets making them more prominent.
  • Cost: For SEM, you have to pay every time someone clicks on your ad, unlike SEO, where you don’t pay.
  • Visibility: SEM content is highly targeted and visible to the people you want, whereas SEO content can show up on a much broader audience scope.
  • Results: Due to its targeted nature, SEM delivers immediate results, but SEO takes a longer time.
  • Value over time: SEM may offer instant results but can’t deliver passive, long-term, residual value. Once you stop paying for the ad, your content no longer shows up in search results. SEO provides that long-term residual value.
  • Click through rate: SEM typically has a lower click-through rate compared to SEO.

Based on those advantages and disadvantages of SEO and SEM, you can figure out an option that will serve you best. You can identify specific situations where SEO will work better than SEM and vice versa.

Here are some sample case scenarios:

  • Testing: SEM is useful for testing to gauge the response of your target audience quickly. SEO isn’t good for testing since it takes a long time to get any results.
  • Competition: If there’s lots of competition for your target keyword, SEM is better placed to get your content on the top of the SERPs. SEO will be a better option if there are significant content gaps in your target niche.
  • Customers’ buying cycle: SEO is a good strategy to take if your target customers have a much longer buying cycle, taking weeks and months to research on products before buying. SEM works better for customers who buy as soon as they see the product.
  • Advert costs: If the average cost-per-click in your industry is low, you can take advantage of that using SEM. High cost per click would make SEO a preferred option.
  • Website age and authority: If your website has been in existence for long and has a high domain authority, SEO will work well for you. SEM can work well even for new players.

If you’re interested in a digital marketing certification not just for your business application, but to use as a digital marketer, those insights can help you too. You can figure out the specific types of people you will serve and focus on an option that aligns with them.


Considering that more than one billion sites exist online, SEO and SEM strategies are now far more complicated.

Hence, to stand out, you must become a pro in the complex aspects of SEO, SEM, and other digital marketing aspects. You can achieve that through a digital marketing certification, which equips you with the latest insights and skills within this industry.



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