The Definition of SEM and SEO


For many e-commerce businesses, the question of which one they should choose (SEM and SEO) would be a crucial and challenging problem. But don’t worry too much about it: to help you make your decision, we will give a detailed explanation below.

Let’s see the definition of SEM and SEO first.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization, an Internet marketing strategy to help web pages rank higher in organic (or unpaid) search results when users search Bing, Yahoo! or Google using specific keywords related to the page content.

The higher a site ranks in these listings – i.e., closer to the top – the more visitors it will receive from relevant search traffic and the more business it is likely to generate.

What Is SEM?

SEM, also known as search engine marketing, consists of all the activities paid for to increase a website’s visibility when someone conducts a Google or Bing search.

It includes pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google and Yahoo!/Bing, sponsored listings in the area at the top of a Google results page and in sidebars called AdSense), and other paid-advertising formats the search engines have introduced, including map listings in local packs, video advertising and more.

Now let’s go back to our main topic about which one you should choose, SEM or SEO. As we mentioned before: “don’t worry too much about it” there are three reasons that can help you decide which one to use for your e-commerce business.

SEO is better for the high brand awareness while SEM is better for increasing direct sales or CTR (click-through rate)

Higher brand awareness will promote customers’ interest in your products and bring more profit to your website directly by allowing users to click on it easily. And this is where SEO comes in: It creates backlinks (for example, commenting on other blogs or guest blogging), gets traffic from different sources, etc., all of which help raise the authority of your site.

On the other hand, SEM works similarly to traditional advertising if you want people who stumble upon your shop by accident to buy something from it.

In other words, when Google customers search for a product and your store pops up at the top of the list, they will be more likely to click on you and make a purchase if they think you offer what they need (for instance, cheap and quality products).

Then SEM would do its magic: it makes people notice your website and get inside and buy something.

As we can see from this comparison between SEO and SEM, the first is better for achieving brand awareness while the latter brings direct sales or higher CTR (click-through rate).

So SEO is great for e-commerce websites that want their brands well known by more users, while SEM works well for those who wish visitors quickly converted into customers once they arrive on the site.

SEM is better for making sales right away, while SEO takes time to produce results

“SEM works well for those who want visitors quickly converted into customers.”

For many e-commerce businesses, having more sales or higher CTR (click-through rate) is their primary concern, so that’s why they tend to use SEM instead of SEO.

This usually happens when you’ve just launched your business, and the marketing budget will be tight for a while, so you only have enough money to focus on increasing ROI (return on investment).

And because the experience has proved that it works much faster than SEO if you’re willing to pay a certain amount of money to buy ads from Google or other search engines.

Of course, SEO will also help generate more sales if you’ve been in business for some time (longer than six months). However, the past data has shown that it usually takes longer than SEM to get results because of all the backlinks and other efforts needed.

Due to this fact, most shop owners tend not to optimize their store with SEO unless they’re very patient.

SEM is better for local businesses, while SEO is better for businesses with enough resources

SEM is best for local businesses like restaurants or general stores. At the same time, e-commerce websites benefit more from SEO when they have enough resources to promote themselves globally on the Internet.

As we know, search engines are very strict about spamming, so Google tends to penalize websites with an unnatural link profile generated by automated tools. That’s why it takes a lot of effort and time to build backlinks if your store is not listed within the first three pages on Google.

“SEM will help you attract local customers, while SEO can bring more traffic from different places.”

On the other hand, SEM makes it easier for e-commerce businesses with enough resources to promote themselves globally because they can purchase ads from search engines without worrying about being penalized.

Also, these powerful ads are displayed on the top of SERPs (search engine result listings), so customers are more likely to click them. Besides targeting buyers in their area, SEM also helps customers locally as it pops up on SERPs when people search for specific regions.

In short, SEM will help you attract local customers as it allows you to run ads that appear on top of SERPs within a particular region so they can easily click on them and visit your site.

On the other hand, SEO will bring more traffic from different places if you have enough resources to promote your content across the web so these visitors can find what they need later.


So, which one do you choose for eCommerce SEO or SEM? It’s evident that both SEM and SEO are good choices, but they are better for different businesses with different needs. For many e-commerce business owners, it’s not an easy decision because both SEM and SEO offer great benefits like increased sales and visibility for their stores (when used correctly).

However, it would be best if you always focused on the needs of your business to decide which one you’ll choose. For example, SEM may be the best choice if traffic is a concern, but SEO will work better for those with enough resources and time to wait for results because it takes time to get quality backlinks from reliable sources.

SEM is suitable for e-commerce businesses with enough cash flow or launching new stores, while SEO works well for websites that don’t want to run ads like Google Adwords (PPC) automatically. Of course, they all can bring more revenue if they’re appropriately done, so make sure you hire an expert B2B SEO company if possible.


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