SEO or SEM Banner for web development

What do they stand for?

Before we ask ourselves “SEO or SEM?”, we should know what either means. Let’s get what both acronyms stand for to get a better picture of what they actually are.

SEO = Search Engine Optimisation

SEM = Search Engine Marketing

Another acronym that is related and will be mentioned throughout the blog would be: SERPs = Search Engine Result Pages.

How does it work?

Before we learn the difference between SEO and SEM, let us dive into how Search Engine works in order to better understand things. The 3 main things about Search Engines are:

  • Algorithms

    Search Engines such as Google all have their own algorithms which they rarely give information about in full details. This is to avoid having people cheat the system by filling their site or pages irresponsibly to raise their ranking on the SERPs. Very often the factors for consideration in the algorithms is reviewed and refined constantly to cope with new methods used to cheat the system.

    For example, it was discovered that one of the factor was repeating keywords in a blog at one point. This caused many bloggers to spammed the keywords in white font colours in-between paragraph spacings. The keywords were detected by bots but not seen by readers’ eyes. This resulted in many useless blogs ranking high not because the contents were useful but because the keyword was repeatedly mentioned within.


Photo taken from SiteChecker. Click here to read the list of updates in-depth.

  • Crawlers

    Having an algorithm as a checklist of factors alone would be useless without bots known as “Crawlers”. Crawlers are a type of program that visits every site and pages thoroughly. For example, Google’s crawlers are known as “Google Crawlers”. It records the entire page’s contents and saves them to the search engine provider’s storage. These crawler not only records the site’s data but also scan through the contents and uses the algorithms as checklist to rate the site.

    Of course, as responds to the problem mentioned in “Algorithms” example, crawlers has been constantly upgraded. From a simple crawler that just visits and records sites, it has seen been repeatedly upgraded and evolved. It has since been implemented with features such as the ability to detect sites using white texts to raise SEO-levels.

seo crawler web development

Picture taken from Search Engine Land.

  • Index/Indexing

    With the algorithm as checklist and crawlers as bots to explore and retrieve site data, you might ask what is index or indexing. Indexing is a process which the data brought back by the crawlers are stored in the database. Index on the otherhand is the database where the recorded data are sorted into their ranking according on their SEO and other factors on the algorithms.

    In simple terms, indexing is the retrieving and recording of site data by crawlers. Index is the records of the data collected and sorted.

seo crawler web development step

Image taken from The Next Scoop. Click here to read more about how indexing works in-depth.

  • Search Engine Result Page (SERPs)

    This is where the difference between SEO and SEM is made much more obvious. As mentioned, the crawlers visits and rates sites based on their SEO-friendliness according to their engine’s algorithms. Then depending on the rating of relevance, the sites are listed on the SERPS according to their ranking. So the results listed are based on the page’s SEO-relevance.

Example of SEO & SEM results in web development

Example of a SERP with SEO & SEM results. Green = SEO-based. Red = SEM-based.

SEM-based results on the other hand, can be found mostly at the top or bottom of the SERPs. These results can often be easily identified by the tag that shows “Ads” or “Sponsored”. This is because unlike SEO which is content based, SEM-based results are paid to be exclusively displayed.

I’ll just pay my way through then!

After reading, some of you may consider just paying search engines to display your results. However, the ranking of SEO applies to SEM ranking as well. Even if your site and many other pays to be displayed, it might not be the first SEM result to show if your site’s SEO lags behind others. Doing SEM does not mean you escape the need to monitor your SEO.

How do I improve SEO then?

With the knowledge that SEO is a must regardless of whether you opt for SEM, there’s 2 parts of SEO you’ll need to know. On-site and Off-site SEO are both equally important in boosting your rankings.

  • On-Site

    For on-site SEO, there are rules or things you can implement on your site or blog to make it search engine-friendly. For example, having a clear title, well written description, well formatted URL and many more.

  • Off-Site

    And off-site SEO refers to getting votes of other sites to gain trust of search engines. To gain votes, your site should be linked on other sites. So for every site that links either a keyword or suggestion to your article or such, it gains a vote. It also includes linking your own site’s pages with each other to build a strong foundation. Of course, do note that linking alone does not prove to be effective.

on and off-site SEO factors in web development
Readability Factors in web development

A list of SEO factors to consider. Left = Key Phrases. Right = Readability.

Some factors to consider in your contents would be the ones seen above in the lists. Things such as keyphrases, image attribution or even title are considered important. How easy it is to read and absorb is also important. After all, a bulky site with tons of content that can’t be read is just as useless.

Any extra tips, advices or such?

Now you know the importance of SEO and SEM that affects your site’s ranking which affects your site’s traffic. But before you leave, here are some useful information.

Firstly, if you are interested in learning more about SEO in-depth, head over to “Yoast“. They provide free SEO educational courses as well as SEO packages that can assist your SEO improvement. They also offer SEO plugins for wordpress which helps to rate your contents.

Secondly, consider looking at our SEO solutions.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out our other blogs to learn even more information!