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SEO and SEM are two terms that are commonly bandied about by webmasters. Sometimes it seems as if the two terms are used almost interchangeably. But is there a difference, and if so, what is it?
In fact, there is a difference. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It refers to anything you do to your page to make it more search engine friendly. SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. It forms a sort of umbrella term that can refer to anything you do to get your page ranked higher in search engines, from search engine optimization to requesting backlinks to submitting your URL to search engines.
It’s important to know the difference between the two when you’re shopping for SEO or SEM services. If the company doesn’t specify what services it offers as part of its “SEM Package,” then don’t hesitate to ask. And don’t hand over any money until you know! Some companies may mean nothing more than submitting your website’s URL to a few search engines, and you can do that yourself.
Whenever possible, get a list of specific things they plan to do to help surfers find your website. Will they submit your URL to search engines? Get a list of the search engines they plan to submit it to. (“Yahoo!, Google, and 100’s More!” doesn’t count.) Will they keyword optimize your site? Be sure to ask if they include META and ALT tags.
Ultimately, whether a company uses “SEO” or “SEM” doesn’t matter as much as what services they offer. Ideally, SEM would be more valuable than SEO, because it would include SEO as well as other marketing strategies. But this is not always the case. As we’ve noted before, it can be simply a code for “stick your URL is a few search engines and be done with it.” Look for reputable websites, and ask for specific services they offer. Once you’ve done your homework, you will be able to make an informed decision between SEO and SEM and march forward proudly, knowing that you truly got the best value for your money.
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