Do you know your SEM from your SEO?

3 min read

Do you know your SEM from your SEO?

Two acronyms you’ll frequently encounter in digital marketing are search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).



SEO involves writing content for your website in a specific way. If done right, your website should show up in the search results when people search for the service you offer. People will then visit your website – without you paying a cent.

At first, search engines used to read the list of keywords typed in by web developers but they soon realised people were abusing the system by including long lists of irrelevant keywords to generate more traffic. So if you’re still doing that, it’s time to change.

Today, search engines have evolved and now “read” your actual content looking for those keywords or phrases.

That means you need to be more careful with your content, or have more of it.

For example, if a real estate agent wrote, “Are you tired of your home? Is it time for a change?” their website would probably rank poorly in the search results. 

That’s because people looking for properties will type phrases like:

  • ‘Houses for sale in Camperdown’
  • ‘Units for sale in Camperdown’
  • ‘Real estate agents in Camperdown’

Instead, the real estate agent should include the words and phrases people use when searching for properties. For example, “Are you tired of your home? Is it time for a change? We’re a real estate agent in Camperdown, Sydney. We can help you buy the perfect house or unit in Camperdown.”

But because there may be several real estate agents selling properties in Camperdown Sydney, all using those keywords, the search engines must find another way to rank the websites.

That’s where quantity can play a role. In theory, if you’re using the keywords multiple times on multiple pages, you’ll rank higher than a website using the keywords only once.

In practice, there are other factors at play, for example:

  • The sites users generally click on when they search for a phrase will strengthen that website’s ranking
  • Search engines reward sites that prioritise user experience (such as fast page-loading speeds and easy-to-navigate design) 
  • Search engines also favour websites that authoritative sites link to
  • A website’s overall popularity can affect its ranking



SEM, unlike SEO, is paid marketing. You select and pay for certain keywords or phrases. When people search for those words or phrases, your ad gets displayed. If people click on your ad and visit your website, you get charged for the click (which is why SEM is also known as pay-per-click marketing, or PPC). You might also have to pay for the ad to be displayed, regardless of whether it’s clicked on.

For SEM to be effective, you must choose the right keywords and phrases, and have a great ad to entice users to click on it.

Paying for clicks can be expensive, especially if you’re using popular keywords, because most search engines use a bidding system. 

For example, if you’re an accountant and you buy the keyword “Complete tax return” close to tax season, you’ll probably have to pay a high rate. That’s because it’s likely to be a popular phrase, with many accountants bidding for it. And as with any auction, the more bidders there are, the more you’ll pay. 

SEM is an effective way to increase your website’s popularity, if you can afford it. But at some point, you would want to attract traffic without paying for it.


Blogs to the rescue

Regularly publishing educational or newsworthy information about your industry can benefit your website.

If someone clicks on your SEM ad, reaches your website and finds a lot of helpful advice, they may linger on your website for several minutes. This may help your ad, because it will be considered high-quality and could be prioritised. This may also help your website’s popularity. 

The more blogs you have, the more likely it is you’ll have the keywords people are searching for in multiple places on your website. And as people click through organically (unpaid), it should make your site more popular, which can increase your search engine ranking.

So valuable content can have both SEO and SEM benefits.

If you don’t have time to write blogs, or don’t know what to write, you can outsource it to Hunter & Scribe. 

For example, if you’re a mortgage broker, we could write blogs for you about the property market, government grants and interest rates.

If you’re an accountant, we could write blogs about Australian Taxation Office news, tax tips and business tips.

Contact us to find out how we can help you improve your SEO

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