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The difference between SEO and SEM is simply that Search Engine Optimization is part of Search engine marketing or Search marketing as it is widely known. Both processes aim in increasing visibility in search engines. SEO is about optimizing your website to get better rankings in the search results while SEM goes beyond SEO.
SEO is about optimizing your website to get higher rankings in the organic search results while SEM goes beyond SEO . It involves other methods that can get you search engine traffic like PPC advertising.
The main similarity between SEO and SEM is the fact that they both help websites appear and rank high on search results pages. On the other hand, the fundamental element that differs one from the other is that SEM uses paid strategies to appear in searches while SEO utilises organic methods to do this.
SEM and PPC refer to paid initiatives through search and other advertising platforms on the internet. While SEO is the organic effort that goes into marketing through search engines.