How SEM, SEA and SEO are distributed in Google search results

SEO, SEA, and SEM Meanings

In many industries, acronyms are popular, to the extent that it can sometimes be very confusing to distinguish and keep track of all these concepts. We who work with the web and above all digital marketing seem to be particularly interested in complicating things by putting acronyms on pretty much everything.

One of the more well-known acronyms is SEO and it is involved in a common misconception. This misconception is that they mix up the terms SEO, SEA and SEM. This also applies to us in the industry. Have personally been to several lectures and presentations where the lecturer has had difficulty keeping these terms apart.

How SEM, SEA and SEO are distributed in Google search results

What does SEM, SEA and SEO stand for? I guess most people already know what SEO is, but let’s go through all of it anyway.

  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Marketing
  • SEA – Search Engine Advertising, Search Engine Advertising
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Optimization

What is the difference and how do they come together?

What is SEA

SEA or Search Engine Advertising defined by abbreviationfinder includes all the ways you can pay to advertise in a search engine. Most popular is advertising through Google Adwords to appear on important keywords. With Adwords, you can decide for yourself what the ad should say and then you choose a bid that you are willing to pay for a click. There are also other types of advertising in search engines where you can pay per thousand impressions (CPM – Cost Per Thousand, where M in CPM is the Roman numeral for a thousand).

So SEA is all paid marketing in search engines.

What is SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is what you do to make your site appear higher in search engines. You usually want to be seen on the front page and preferably among the top 5. How to achieve this, books have been written about so we will not go into this now.

But when you work with SEO, your goal is usually to appear as far as possible in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page, or the Search Engine Results Page in Swedish). They usually talk about improving their organic search results. You cannot pay for this, but it is only about how the respective search engine algorithms choose to evaluate your page in comparison with other pages and thus decide which place you should end up on based on specific search terms.

What is SEM

SEM or Search Engine Marketing is about marketing with the help of search engines (such as Google, Bing, Yahoo). Whether you pay for it or work on your own website to get high in the organic search results.

SEM is the overall term for everything that is about marketing in search engines. So both SEO and SEA are below SEM (SEM = SEA & SEO).

Many people mix up SEM and describe SEM as the paid part of search engine marketing. I may be seen as a aspiring purist, but using SEM errors only makes it even more confusing and difficult to keep track of all these acronyms. So tell me now; SEM is not SEA, SEA is part of SEM .

So the next time you sit for a lecture or presentation about digital marketing and the lecturer says that SEM is just paid marketing, you raise your hand and correct the lecturer’s ignorant mistakes.