SEO vs SEM vs PPC: Find the Right Balance for Your Business

SEO vs SEM vs PPC: Find the Right Balance for Your Business

Written by Mansi Shah

Online marketing requires a whole different skill set to the ones employed in traditional marketing. As you get deeper into the domain of online and digital marketing, you are bound to come across several technical terms and acronyms intended to enhance your brand’s digital presence.

However, understanding these terms can be a bit daunting at the beginning. 72% of small businesses said that SEM marketing is an inactive part of their marketing plan.

Not understanding the basic concepts of online marketing, and the difference between SEO and SEM can make you lose several opportunities and a huge consumer base.

SEO vs SEM vs PPC: Find the Right Balance for Your Business by Mansi Shah

What is SEM, SEO, PPC?

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. Is SEM the same as paid search? No, as it includes various methods that combine a business’s organic and paid promotion. It refers to the methods businesses choose to ensure that their service or product is featured on the first page of search results extracted by a search engine such as Google.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) fall under the umbrella of SEM, i.e., PPC and SEO working together form SEM marketing. Through SEO, one can ensure that their website is user-friendly and meets visitors’ needs. Businesses use PPC to get a higher rank in search engine results. Such companies and websites can be recognized by the “Ad” or “Sponsored” sign added next to the search result.

Notably, SEO requires legwork to gain qualified traffic through organic methods, whereas SEM mainly includes a PPC mechanism to gain footfall. To understand the differences between SEO and SEM, we will consider that these methods are isolated.

Here are a few Pros and Cons


  • It is an organic process; thus, the results last for longer and can be trusted. However, it takes considerable time to retrieve measurable results.
  • It is based on the algorithms followed by search engines and link building which is why you do not have to pay for ads. However, measuring the progress throughout the process can prove to be challenging but not impossible with SEO tools.


  • One has to pay for ads to gain traffic; it can be expensive, but the results are instant.
  • As people prefer organic search results, it is noted that SEM decreases the credibility of your business.
  • You can track your results and payout using different types of SEM. Additionally, the ads are not dependent on the algorithm followed by the search engine.


  • You will need to pay for the results; however, they can be inconsistent.
  • You can advertise your business on different sites and PPC platforms with Google’s network. However, it can decrease your credibility.
  • You can track the growth and results using tools such as Google Analytics.

How to find the balance between SEM, SEO, and PPC?

The following tips detail the methods that help you strike the right balance for SEO vs SEM vs PPC for your online business.

Research your market

There is no secret recipe to provide you with the correct balance between SEO, SEM, and PPC. If your business does not have fierce competition in the online market, then a well-planned SEO can get better rankings in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

However, suppose you are competing against well-established businesses such as Amazon and eBay, then you will need to consider investing in a PPC campaign to get considerable ROI (Return on Investment).

PPC is faster, but SEO is long-term

Is SEO better than PPC? Based on your business’s SEO & PPC statistics, you can choose to include PPC in your marketing plan, but SEO can support you for longer. Google SEO provides organic traffic and results that ensure the longevity of your business in the market.

Invest in PPC platforms to initially gain traffic and engage in SEO to maintain and grow the traffic.

Narrow your target audience with SEM

By understanding what is SEM and the use of added analytical tools, you can pinpoint factors such as geographical location, time of the day, days of the week, and type of device. These aspects can help you understand and satisfy your audience to modify your marketing strategy and products.

SEO establishes brand authority

Consumers, these days, know the difference between sponsored and organic content that appears on SERPs; this enhances the SEO vs PPC difference. They tend to trust the organically ranked content as it showcases that the brand has made efforts and is preferred by people. Thus, effective Google SEO can provide a more engaged audience and help you cement brand recognition.

Identify your strengths

To establish a balance between SEO vs SEM vs PPC, you must first identify your business’s strong suit. What are the keywords for which your website ranks well in SERPs? What kind of content does your audience engage with the most?

If you find that your website’s organic ranking for the targeted keywords is growing continuously, you need not invest in PPC. However, if you need a boost in your rankings, you can choose to deploy suitable SEM marketing methods.

Create a consistent flow of traffic

With a correct understanding of the SEO vs PPC differences, you can ensure that your website always has a constant stream of visitors. With Google SEO, you can get organic traffic that you can boost and maintain by optimizing your content regularly as per the algorithm followed by the search engine.

If you need an immediate burst of traffic, investing in PPC will deliver on the objective. You can establish yourself on the first page of search engines and reach the largest audience pool using these marketing methods.

SEO vs SEM vs PPC: Find the Right Balance for Your Business by Mansi Shah
Photo by on Unsplash


Using SEM without SEO can harm your business’s credibility. This is because even if you get the traffic by clicking on your links displayed on the ads, they might not engage with your products and services if they do not find any relevant information on the website. If your engagement is low, people will not stay longer on your site. Then you will have to pay more for keywords and ads.

With PPC and SEO working together, the campaign will result in a higher budget. Note that you can use PPC on various platforms and social networks, while SEM does not have that outreach.

SEO vs SEM vs PPC: Find the Right Balance for Your Business by Mansi Shah

Mansi works as a Content Manager at Clientjoy, a Sales CRM & Growth Engine for freelancers & agencies.

When she’s not busy working, she keeps herself busy learning or binge-watching her latest sitcom obsession or writing about it. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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