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Google SEO or Google SEM? Which is better? by Certified Digital Marketing Agency, Absolute Digital

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Google SEO or Google SEM? Which is better? | Absolute Digital

What's the difference between Google SEO and Google SEM? And which of these should you use for your business? Let's find out...

Before we begin, you should read these articles on the basics of what is Google SEO and what is Google SEM so that we are on the same page!

Key differences between SEO and SEM

This comparison shows the main differences between Google SEO and Google SEM. To summarise, Google SEO ranks your website organically, taking into account factors such as your Domain Authority (DA) and Website's Backlinks to determine the relevancy and credibility of your website. This method usually takes months and a professional team of SEO experts to optimize your website for certain keywords. The ultimate goal is to increase your DA so that you will rank on page 1 of Google's SERP.

As for Google SEM, it's a PPC advertising campaign whereby your campaign has to pay Google each time someone clicks on your ad listing. You will be able to set a monthly budget and customize the time and keywords you choose to bid for. The highest bidder will appear on top whilst the lowest bidder will appear below. Google SEM campaigns are easy to set up and fast to implement provided your SEM agency knows which keywords to bid for based on Google Trends data and how to properly write the SEM ad creatives. It is important that your SEM agency knows how to strategize your budget to bring the most value to your dollar. Otherwise, you will be bleeding money through inadequate SEM campaign strategy and your marketing campaign will not bring in good ROI.

About Google SEO

Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site's user experience and performance in organic search results.

About Google SEM

Google Ads (also known as AdWords or Search Engine Marketing SEM) is an online advertising solution that businesses use to promote their products and services on Google Search, YouTube, and other sites across the web. Google Ads also allows advertisers to choose specific goals for their ads, like driving phone calls or website visits. With a Google Ads account, advertisers can customise their budgets and targeting, and start or stop their ads at any time.

Before you start your digital marketing campaign

To find out which of these platforms is more suitable for your business, you have to ask yourself these questions:

1. Can you wait for months to see ROI?

If YES > SEO, if NO > SEM

2. Are you comfortable to fight with your competitors?

If YES > SEM, if NO > SEO

3. What's your goal?

If Branding > SEO, if ROI/Conversion/Sales > SEM

4. What's your strategy?

If long-term > SEO, if short-term > SEM

5. What's your budget?

If small > SEO, if big > SEM

6. What's your knowledge?

If knowledgeable > Try running a campaign by yourself and learn how to analyze the data. Seek help from Google or YouTube if you have any doubts

If you are busy focusing on your own business > Find a suitable digital marketing professional who understands your business to help grow your online presence

Finally, the best strategy by far is starting on both your SEO and SEM campaigns simultaneously. By doing so, you can run your SEM ads aggressively at the start to penetrate the market while your SEO is slowly coming up. Once your SEO is ranked on page 1, you can lower your SEM budget to maintain your online presence while having 2 spots (SEM and SEO) on page 1 of the keyword SERP bringing you a strong presence.


Overall, here's our verdict:

Google SEO vs. Google SEM

SEO - Organic search results

- Credible

- Long-term strategy

- Cost-Effective

- Takes awhile to see results

SEM - Immediate results

- Need a good strategy to maximize value

- Data analytics knowledge required

- Competitve space

- Premium position


In conclusion, you need both campaigns to successfully penetrate the online market. While Google SEM helps directly increase online leads and increase your brand awareness, Google SEO's organic search results will shout credibility! If done right, you will be able to rank on both SEO and SEM on page 1 of the important keywords SERP for maximum online presence.

Find out more on how you can rank on Google SEO or SEM here, or visit our website at www.absolutedigital.sg for more information. You may also drop us an email at hello@absolutedigital.sg if you have any questions regarding digital marketing in Singapore.

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