SEM vs SEO – An essential Digital Marketing Strategy for you

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Growing your business online is challenging. 

You will look for strategies to sustain or even attain more of what you have set as an organisation to remain afloat amidst the changes in the digital arena. 

You may be wondering what makes SEO or Search Engine optimisation a huge deal for some digital markets, while some would stick to SEM, Search Engine Marketing. 

The blogs or online resources you download and read, including this one, can affect how you structure your digital marketing strategy. 

Is it wise to invest in SEO, or is it a smart move to go SEM? These are some of the questions that will pop up in your mind, but in this article, we will help you rather than add more questions.

What is SEM 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of increasing traffic and visibility through both organic and sponsored search.

This is the type of thing you’ll see as a Google ad, and it frequently winds up at the top of a page list. 

SEM is usually related to keyword placement and usage, which is why executing it correctly may necessitate some additional expertise and technique. 

This strategy is excellent for brand image since it places you at the top of the list every time someone searches. It’s also an excellent technique to get relevant visitors to your website. 

And because it involves paid ads, it is simple to understand your ROI presently – you will be utilising paid ads and will be able to watch the traffic on them and then design campaigns based on this information.

What is SEO 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the technique of driving targeted traffic to a website through the organic rankings of search engines. Typical SEO activities include developing high-quality content, optimising material for certain keywords, and building backlinks.

SEM VS SEO; Main Feature 


SEM is a broad word that covers SEO. So whatever things that concern SEO also applies to SEM.

In addition to SEO, SEM includes PPC. And PPC is a distinct field with its own set of characteristics, best practices, and so on.


Paid search advertisements, whether you use Google Ads or Bing Ads, are all about bidding. PPC allows you to bid on a specific term. When someone searches for that keyword, your ad will appear.

Landing Page

A landing page is a web page that serves an intended role – to convert visitors into leads. It contains lead forms that request visitors’ contact information in exchange for something of value or offer.  

There are two classifications of a landing page:

  1. Lead Generation Landing Pages: These pages use a form as their call to action. This form almost always collects lead data, such as visitors’ names and email addresses. This is why you call it a “lead gen” or “lead capture” page.
  2. Clickthrough Landing Pages: Do you know this page is used frequently by eCommerce and SaaS marketers to drive sales or subscriptions? The call to action is a simple button that sends the visitor into the checkout flow or completes a goal.

Ad Copy 

Writing appealing ad wording is a critical component of succeeding with PPC.

Excellent ad wording = excellent CTR. A high CTR indicates a high-Quality Score. That is, you spend less for the same click.

Quality Score is a critical Google Ads measure. It’s Google’s approach to determining whether your ad is a suitable match for whatever someone is searching for. Your Quality Score will suffer if your material does not entice readers to click. And your PPCs will become prohibitively pricey.

Google generates a Quality Score based on a mix of click-through rates, landing page quality, and the total Quality Score of your Google Ad account. In addition, if your ad has a high-Quality Score, you will receive a discount on each click.

Ad Group

Google Ads Help made a simple definition of an ad group. It consists of one or more ads with related objectives. 

Each of your campaigns contains one or more ad groups. It can help you organise your ads by a common theme. 

Ad Groups contain keywords, text advertisements, and landing pages. In other words, they are one of the most important tools for organising your PPC account into a meaningful hierarchy.


SEO is the activity of constantly optimising a website to rank in organic, non-paid search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google’s algorithm incorporates more than 200 ranking signals. 

Sure you know that SEO can be separated into four major subcategories: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, technical SEO, and User Interaction Signals. For this article, we will stick with the first three categories, being the most popular.

Onpage SEO 

This is the section of your website where you optimise it for keywords that your target client searches for on Google, Bing, and other search engines. 

One on-page SEO best practice is to incorporate your core keyword in your title tag, meta description, and webpage URL, for example.

Offpage SEO 

Off-page SEO seeks to gain trust and authority signals from other websites. This comprises essentially generating high-quality backlinks to your website. 

Google may use off-page indications such as E-A-T and social media sharing to determine your site’s authority.

Technical SEO

This is where you ensure that Google and other search engines can crawl and index all of the pages found on your site. 

Technical SEO also involves things like making sure your pages load swiftly. And that your site architecture is correct.

SEM VS SEO; The Cost 

The cost of SEM and SEO is determined by various factors, including aggressiveness, scale, and industry, among others. 

SEM campaigns will cost you money because it’s a pay-per-click type of campaign. SEM may not make sense if your budget is limited or your product margins are low. 

SEO, on the other hand, is a time investment rather than a cash one. You can also possibly recruit the assistance of professionals, such SEO agency, writers, IT personnel, and marketers.


SEM does not come cheap. Whether you use SEO or PPC, there are costs associated with search engine marketing.

When you use PPC, each click costs you money. More clicks equal more money spent.

Bidding Cost 

A bid is the maximum amount of cash you are, as an advertiser, willing to pay for each click on an advertisement. 

Advertisers do not bid on ads or ad space; they bid on keywords, and whether their ads appear when people search for things related to those keywords is determined by their performance in an auction.

Landing Page Creation Cost

Some businesses spend anywhere from $75 to $3000 designing a PPC landing page. This is the amount WebFx shared on the cost of creating a landing page design.

There are a variety of factors that push for the landing page’s pricing.

For F5 Studio, the cost of a landing page is determined by the task’s complexity, technology stack, and business objectives. 

This means that a high-quality landing page costs $1,000 to $1,500. A strategic landing page can cost between $1,500 and $2,000. A dynamic landing page can cost between $2,000 and $5,000. This price range is closer to the one mentioned above.

The cost of the landing page is directly related to your budget, your expectations, opportunities, and wishes in terms of development. 

If you need a landing page or multiple landing pages for long-term sales, Roots Digital landing page specialists can help you out on this one. 


When it comes to SEO, clicks are “free” once you rank. However, ranking takes time and effort.

SEO Tools Cost 

The best SEO tools make it easier to ensure that your website is performance-optimised. Managing and monitoring become handy when you have reliable SEO tools to work with. Here are some of the most commonly used tools for SEO strategists.

  1. Ahrefs

This all-in-one SEO toolset encompasses every single tool you need to investigate and expand your online presence.

You will see a centralised dashboard that displays information about your projects’ ranking, traffic, and backlinking. 

  1. SEMrush

The SEMrush SEO toolkit includes a complete set of SEO tools. You can access detailed keyword analysis reports as well as a website summary for any domains you oversee.

This toolkit lets you compare the performance of your pages to see where you stand in comparison to other websites. 

  1. Moz Pro

Moz Pro is an SEO tool platform designed to help you drive traffic, page authority, and exposure in search engine results.

Auditing your site with Moz Pro spider highlights potential issues and recommends actionable insights to help you improve your strategies.  You can also track your site rankings across hundreds or even thousands of keywords per website.

  1. Screaming Frog

SEO Spider was once called a “Screaming Frog” in 2010. The tool also allows you to check for pages with missing title tags, duplicated meta tags, incorrectly lengthened tags, and the number of links on each page.

If you were to ask us, its most appealing feature is its ability to perform a quick URL search as well as crawl your site to look for broken pages. This feature saves you from having to manually click each link to rule out ‘404 errors.’

  1. Majestic SEO tools

Old but Gold!

Majestic SEO tools is one of the oldest SEO tools we have today. Its strength lies in backlinks, which are links between websites. This has a significant impact on SEO performance. 

There are free SEO tools you can grab and use today. These are the following:

  1. Google Search Console
  2. Google Ads Keyword planner
  3. SEOquake

Content Creation Cost 

Depending on the complexity, research, employee incentives, and other factors, the cost of producing high-quality content can vary greatly because content can be created using a variety of digital mediums, such as:

  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Videos
  • Content curation
  • Case studies
  • Valuable resources
  • Blog posts and/or articles
  • Interactive publication materials

For instance, a blog post that drives results will cost between $1,500 and $6,000, according to an article written by Siegemedia because many people believe that blog posts are simply text written by a freelancer. 

Yes. It demands more than money but also strategic planning on your end. If you want to become a sought-after information provider in your industry, make content marketing one of your SEO strategies. 

SEM VS SEO; Time Needed to See the Result 

One of the primary distinctions between SEO and SEM is speed.


If you concentrate your SEM efforts on PPC, you will see results almost immediately.

You can run an ad in the morning and begin receiving traffic and conversions in the afternoon but this does not guarantee that you will see a return on investment on day one. 

In many cases, getting a positive ROI from PPC can take months of testing and tweaking.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that PPC begins to work much faster than SEO.


The truth is that SEO takes time. A significant amount of time, especially if your site is fresh and lacks a big chunk of backlinks.

According to one study, it takes an average of two years to rank on Google’s first page. First published many of the top-ranking pages three or more years ago.

This does not imply that it will take two years to rank in Google. If you target long-tail keywords and follow best practices for SEO, you should notice some returns within a few months.

SEM VS SEO; The Similarities

Help to Improve Website Traffic 

SEO and SEM both provide opportunities for brands to increase targeted website traffic. 

You’ll have a winning formula for traffic growth if you combine effective title tags and meta description text (SEO) or effective ad copy (SEM) with compelling content that targets their search intent.

Help to Improve Brand Awareness

SEO and SEM are effective at increasing brand awareness. Being more visible in organic search results and paid ad positions gives you more exposure, which can help improve brand perception, credibility, and trust.

SEM is often not a viable option at the top of the marketing funnel due to cost; instead, some use SEM in the middle and bottom of the funnel.

Require Regular Monitoring and Optimisation

SEO and SEM are not a one-and-done project. You must maintain your rankings, especially as competitors appear and attempt to steal your position in search results.

It is also critical that you expand your SEO and SEM strategies over time so that you can build on the progress you made the first time around. 

Keeping this in mind, both are processes you must measure, optimise, and monitor. You can just leave it to succeed in itself. 

It takes time, patience, and hard work, but the result is well worth it.

SEM VS SEO; Which One Suitable for Your Business?

Budget, goals, business growth stage, and what your competitors are doing are all variables that may influence which option is most suitable for your brand. 

A well-thought-out strategy that balances short-term gains with long-term growth is ideal.

Final Thoughts 

Anyone interested in a career in digital marketing should understand not only how SEO and SEM work in today’s digital environment, but also how both will change as we become more and more reliant on technology. 

Understanding how each of these is involved in digital marketing campaigns will be especially important in the coming years in the digital marketplace.

If you are still unsure whether SEO or SEM is right for you, and the answers we’ve provided on questions like “what is the difference between SEO and SEM?” and “what are the benefits of SEO and SEM?” on this page is still not enough, call us!

Our team at Roots Digital will be happy to discuss the strategies for your digital marketing campaign. Who knows, you’ll end up loving both SEM and SEO!


Is SEO better than SEM?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. A few factors, such as budget, goals, business growth stage, and what your competitors are doing, can determine which is the better option.

What is the difference between SEM and SEO?

The primary distinction between SEO and SEM is that SEM pays for organic search visibility, whereas SEO earns it. 

SEM competes on budgets, whereas SEO competes on quality and relevance.

What is the difference between SEO vs SEM vs PPC?

SEO uses non-paid methods to drive organic traffic to your website. It’s a lot slower (usually three to six months), but it can pay off in the long run.

Paid search platforms, including PPC, are used in SEM to drive targeted traffic to your website. It necessarily involves a budget but can produce results quickly.

Both should be included in your digital marketing strategy for the best results. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, but when properly combined, they can provide you with a significant competitive advantage.

About Roots Digital

Roots Digital is an award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Singapore, specialising in eCommerce Marketing and lead generation. We are a Google and Meta Business certified partner working to deliver the best-in-class digital marketing campaigns from large enterprises and SMEs to growing start-ups.

Some of our core digital marketing services include SEO, SEM, PPC, Google Analytics and more.

PSG Grant For Digital Marketing – Save up to 70% on your digital marketing today!

Looking for a trusted SEO agency in Singapore? Schedule a consultation with us today.

About Roots Digital

Roots Digital is an award-winning digital marketing agency and SEO agency headquartered in Singapore, specialising in eCommerce Marketing and lead generation. We are a Google and Meta Business certified partner working to deliver the best-in-class digital marketing campaigns from large enterprises and SMEs to growing start-ups.

Some of our core digital marketing services include SEO servicesSEM services, Google Ads management servicesGoogle Analytics services and more.

Feel free to reach out if you’re interested in working with us. Connect with us via our service enquiry form. You may schedule a call for more information and to know more about our digital marketing services.

Looking for digital marketing grants for SMEs? Check out our pre-approved digital marketing solutions under the PSG digital marketing grant.

PSG Grant For Digital Marketing – Save up to 70% on your digital marketing today!

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