SEO vs. SEM vs. PPC – What’s the difference and what’s best for my business?

SEO vs. SEM vs. PPC – How do I figure the right balance for my business? This question is more complicated than it seems, but the Bold x Collective team is here to help you fully understand the three categories, their abilities and how to optimize them.

Let’s start by discussing the differences between SEO versus SEM versus PPC.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the implementation of various techniques to optimize your website in order to achieve a higher ranking in organic search engine results.

Professional companies such as Bold x Collective are developing a strategic marketing campaign that will use a variety of keywords to improve your online relevance. The benefit of focusing on these keywords is that you will have control over how you drive traffic to your website. This can help increase the relevancy of your links and keep them high in search engines.

The great thing about SEO is that you don’t pay for immediate results, but rather you pay for time and energy to build your brand through content. This is an organic approach and the benefits of SEO take more time, but it is definitely worth the time and effort. When developing an SEO campaign and optimizing your content to reach your target audience effectively, we always recommend using a professional agency such as Bold x Collective to make sure the job is done correctly.

What is SEM?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a paid search marketing strategy. Included costs are in the form of paid advertising and campaigns. Brands bid on popular keywords, and based on their rankings and how much they pay, their website will appear as an advertisement on the search engine results page. These results are not visible to everyone; however, they are shown to your target audience, which is the most important part.

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SEM is a key component of your marketing strategy, as most potential customers will find a company when searching on Google. This is a huge opportunity for your business as there are potential buyers who research your products or services online, hoping to find what they need.

Some platforms will include the word ‘Ad’ next to their search results, which can sometimes prevent you from clicking on your potential prospect, which is why people sometimes prefer SEO because it’s organic. However, you will see that SEM leads to immediate results as long as you pay for advertising.

What is PPC?

Pay-per-click marketing is similar to SEM, as both are paid advertising. When deciding between the two, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether SEO or PPC is the better option for your business. With PPC, advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked. This is a way to buy visits to your website instead of getting them organically there, like SEO.

Businesses are bidding for the ability to show ads next to search results, and these ads are available in a variety of formats, such as text ads, video ads, or image ads. They appear on platforms like search engines like Google and social networks like Facebook.

Google ads are a form of PPC marketing and allow ads to be displayed outside the search engine using the Google Display Network. Here you can select specific websites on their network, such as Amazon, where you can advertise to even more potential customers.

The advantage of PPC is that you buy advertising space so that you can make sure that your target audience will see you in search engines.

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Let’s talk about the pros and cons

All three options have advantages as well as disadvantages. Let’s look at them more.

pros and cons-seo-sem-ppc

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

  • You don’t have to pay for ads
  • The results take longer
  • This is organic = the greatest trust
  • Relies on algorithms and link building
  • Challenging to measure your process

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

  • It can become expensive; pay more for ads = more traffic
  • The results are immediate
  • Sometimes this can reduce your trust, as sometimes people tend to click on organic search results.
  • These ads will not be affected by algorithms
  • You can track all your results

PPC – Pay Per Click

  • You pay for results because companies will bid for the position
  • Traffic is erratic
  • Like SEM, they can reduce your trust, as some people tend to click on organic search results.
  • With the Google Network, you can show your ad on many different sites
  • You can track all your results using tools like Google Analytics

Should I use them together or separately?

First, we always recommend using SEO, no matter what, because it will help you rank organically in search engines and it is very useful in the long run.

We never recommend using SEM without SEO. Why? Because with SEM, when brands pay for keywords, potential customers click on their ad and go to their website. Now, if the website does not have the relevant information it is looking for, that user will return to their Google search to find another website. This is a problem because search engines will monitor this and give the website a quality ranking, which will ultimately rank your website lower, which will require you to pay more for keywords.

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Now, moving on to PPC and SEM, you can use both, but you’ll need to have a high budget to use both. What distinguishes PPC from SEM is that it can be used on social networks or platforms, which SEM does not have the ability to do.


What you decide to do is ultimately your decision, but we always strongly recommend that you go with an agency that can help you with those decisions. Our Bold x Collective team can help you by completing a digital audit of your website, followed by an understanding of what can be improved. From there, we can help you create a strong digital strategy to help you achieve results. Contact Bold x Collective to get started.

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