SEO vs SEM (Pros, Cons, and When to Use Each)

General SEO
6 min read
İsmail Atasoy
Mar 10, 2023

In this article

One of the biggest dilemmas of the ecommerce world... SEO or SEM? Actually, there is no need to complicate things that much. Today we will give you information about the main features of both, their pros and cons, and when you should use them. In this way, you will be able to create the right strategies instead of getting lost in this great dilemma.

If you're ready, let's start!

SEO vs SEM: Main Features


SEO is the name given to the practices made to increase the authority and visibility of a website or a particular page on the SERP. The main motivation behind SEO is to enable a website to rank high on the SERP and bring website traffic.

Basically, we can think of SEO as a three-legged structure. These three legs are on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.

On page SEO

It is a strategy created for the main elements on your website. These elements can be listed as content, title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, images, and internal links. On page SEO is critical in order to gain authority both in the eyes of users and by Google algorithms.

Off page SEO

It is the name given to the strategies created for external elements that affect the performance of your website. These elements can be listed as backlinks, social media signals, and online directories in general. But the most important of them is backlinks. Similar to on page SEO, it is important for you to gain authority in the eyes of Google algorithms and your visitors.

Technical SEO

It is the name given to the strategies planned for the technical elements that make up your website. Elements that make up technical SEO can be listed as website structure, page speed, mobile-friendliness, and schema markup. Technical SEO is a point that you should definitely not overlook, especially in terms of increasing the user experience.

The main goal of technical SEO is to make sure that search engines can reach, crawl, and index your site. If search engines can't handle all three of them, it's highly unlikely that you will rank.

All three legs mentioned above are interconnected and inseparable parts. Therefore, approaching all of them with the same care and constantly making improvements will boost your SEO performance.

By using heybooster, you can access all the data on your SEO performance and make the necessary improvements. Join heybooster now!

Key points of SEO

Keywords are one of the most crucial elements of SEO. While seeking for information on a certain subject, individuals enter these phrases or keywords into search engines. Choosing the correct keywords for your website is essential since they will affect how effectively it performs in search engine results.

Another important component of SEO is high-quality content. High-quality content on a website increases the likelihood that it will continue to rank well in search engine results. While producing content, you should concentrate on giving your target audience value and addressing their problems. You may use this to position your company as an authority in your industry and get more organic clicks to your website.


With paid advertising and other marketing strategies, search engine marketing, or SEM, promotes a website by making it more visible on search engine results pages (SERPs). The primary goal of search engine marketing (SEM) is to drive more relevant visitors to a website and turn that visitors into customers.

There are several types of SEM, each with its unique characteristics and benefits. They are paid search, display ads, ve social media ads.

Paid Search

In order to position targeted advertising at the top of SERP, this includes bidding on certain keywords. Paid search advertising is charged on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis, which is not charging unless someone clicks on your ad. Paid search is a powerful tool for creating brand awareness and directing relevant visitors to your website.

Display Ads

In order to do this, banner adverts must be placed on websites or mobile applications that are a component of an ad platform. Display advertising is usually paid for on a cost-per-impression (CPM) basis, which means you pay for each time your ad is seen 1,000 times. Higher brand awareness and audience reach may both be achieved with display advertisements.

Social Media Ads

It is done by placing the ads in the relevant places on certain social media platforms. For example, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter are common platforms for social media advertising. Social media ads can be on a CPM or PPC basis, although it varies depending on the platform on which the ad is displayed. Considering the power of social media today, social media can be an effective tool to create advertisements for specific target audiences.

By using heybooster, you can access all the necessary data about your SEM performance. Analyze your SEM performance now!

Examine the table below to see a summary of this comparison we made.

Main differences between SEO and SEM

The goal of SEO is to improve a website's content and organization so that it appears higher in organic (free) search results. In order to do this, relevant terms and keywords must be included in the website's content, meta descriptions, and tags. At the same time, URL structure, mobile-friendliness, and internal linking are essential parts of SEO.

You may pay for your adverts to appear on search engines. These advertisements will appear above the usual (or "organic") results at the very top of the search results page. Because they will be identified as "sponsored" or "ad" listings, you will be capable of identifying that they are advertisements. 

One of the wonderful things about SEM advertisements is that you can customize them to particular demographics depending on factors like age, geography, or even the particular keywords that people are looking for.

Benefits and drawbacks of each approach

SEO benefits

  • It's a good strategy to drive traffic in the most economical way for long-term goals.
  • The vast majority of users prefer to click on ads that appear on the SERP organically instead of paid ads. This allows you to get higher conversion and click through rates.
  • It provides the best results in terms of your website not gaining authority by Google algorithms.

SEO drawbacks

  • If you want to get results in the short term, it will not meet your expectations. Because it takes several months to get the results you want from SEO.
  • SEO has an ongoing structure. In other words, you need to regularly control the process and perform performance tracking.
  • SEO has a highly competitive structure. Competing with businesses that have invested in SEO for years can be challenging at first.

SEM benefits

  • It is the right choice for short-term goals.
  • It allows proper targeting and financial management for advertising.
  • To increase conversion rates, it may be used to instantly test various ad copy and landing page designs.

SEM drawbacks

  • It can be costly when focusing on keywords with high competition.
  • It is limited in terms of sustainability compared to SEO.
  • As users find paid advertisements less reliable, there may be a decrease in traffic and conversion rates.

Examine the table below to see a summary of this comparison we made.

The table of comparison

The right time to use SEO and SEM

If you want to consolidate your presence on the SERP and grow your business with organic traffic, SEO will be very effective. At this point, the detail to consider is that you need to be at a sufficient level in terms of time and budget for a successful SEO strategy. Because you need to produce high-quality content, make technical improvements, and complete the missing pieces over time.

If your goal is to generate leads in the short term or to promote your high potential products, SEM is ideal for you. The point you need to pay attention to here is the importance of knowing your target audience correctly, creating a specific budget and creating strong name copies. You may need to make improvements to these critical details for a successful SEM strategy.


Combine SEO and SEM

Although they seem like two marketing strategies that are very far from each other, in fact, SEO and SEM can be used effectively together.

We mentioned that it can take a long time to see results from SEO. On the other hand, SEM can bring you success in the short term. At this point, instead of focusing on only one, creating different strategies and using both will bring you closer to your goals.

For example, one of these methods is to turn to SEM at special times when your website should be visible, and to practice SEO to provide organic traffic at other times.

At the same time, another detail that should be considered is the trust of users in you. If users see a brand for the first time in a paid advertisement, they may not trust the brand and click. In this case, your SEM strategy may not produce the results you want.

However, if users have seen your brand organically on the SERP before, this will also positively affect your SEM performance.

So, SEO and SEM are not marketing strategies that you should focus on only one. With the right planning at the right time, you can reach the best performance by using both.

Key metrics for SEO and SEM

For a successful marketing strategy, both SEO and SEM require regular control of the process and performance analysis for development. That's why you need to track certain metrics regularly.


  1. Organic Traffic 

Of course, if we are talking about SEO, the first metric you should track is organic traffic. This is the number of users who visit your website through organic search results. Organic traffic is a key metric for SEO as it indicates the visibility of your website in search results.

By using heybooster, you can find out about the drops in your organic traffic. Let's track organic traffic step by step now!

  1. Keywords ranking increased or decreased

The usage of keywords while developing content is one of the fundamental components of SEO, thus monitoring keyword rankings is crucial. You should consider the position of the keywords you choose when measuring the performance of your content optimization. You may monitor which keywords drive the most organic traffic to your website in this way.

By using heybooster, you can find keywords improving or decreasing in ranking. Let's do keyword tracking step by step now!

  1. Click-through rate

Another indicator we may analyze to assess SEO success is CTR, which is calculated by dividing the click rate of a link by the impression rate. Your web pages' titles may be optimized to a certain extent using this measure. If you have a high impression rate but a poor click-through rate in comparison, this suggests that the title or meta description of your website is not compelling enough to draw in visitors. Because of this, your click-through rate will decline.

But of course, these metrics alone will not be enough. You will also need other metrics to analyze your SEO performance. Let's take a look at all the metrics needed for SEO analysis now! 

For Sem

  1. Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

Each time a person clicks on your link when you employ pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you are charged a price. This value is shown as Cost Per Click (CPC). CPC rates show you how much the PPC ad cost and how frequently consumers clicked on it. It is very crucial to utilize this statistic because when you see it, if the cost is too high it means that you are not performing the proper optimizations and are not employing an effective search query strategy.

Using heybooster, you can track keywords with high CPC. So you don't waste your budget. Now, step by step, track keywords with high CPC!

  1. Conversion Rate

This is the percentage of people who complete a desired action on your website after clicking on your ad. Conversion rate is a key metric for SEM as it indicates the effectiveness of your ads in driving conversions. 

Find out all the details needed to optimize your conversion rate now!

  1. Return on ad spend 

The ROAS, which illustrates how much money you make for every dollar you spend, enables you to do a variety of performance assessments. In other words, your business marketing performance will be greater the higher your ROAS.

A high ROAS rate simply means that your advertising strategies are succeeding and generating the required revenue for you. A successful advertising period will be generated for you if you boost your investment in keywords that have a high impression share and a high ROAS.

Now learn how to detect keywords that have a high impression share and a high ROAS


As a result, both SEO and SEM can lead you to success by creating different strategies. The critical point here is to determine the needs of your business correctly and to create your strategies accordingly.

After creating the most suitable strategy for your business, all that remains is to follow the process. To do this tracking, all you need is heybooster!

With heybooster, you can analyze both your SEO and SEM performance and make the necessary improvements.

Join the heybooster family now and boost your performance!


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