Difference Between Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Michael KeatingPaid Advertising, Search Engine Optimization3 Comments

pay per click advertising

The title of this article, Difference Between Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), may seem like a stupid question for some people.  However, I guarantee 90% of people don’t know the correct answer.  Even further more, I bet most people think they are exactly the same.  I have a hint which may take you back to your SAT days in high school, PPC is to SEM as Scotch is to Whiskey.  WTF?!

So let me take the time to explain this concept a bit further so you don’t think I went off the internet marketing deep end here.  We will begin with the definitions of both pay per click and search engine marketing.

Pay Per Click

Is an online advertising formula that prices advertisements across both search engines and other websites where ads are granted permission to be displayed (aka sponsored advertisements).  An example would be if you are running/operating a website about dog health (you are a publisher) and allowing companies like Purina dog food to display advertisements on your site (they are the advertiser).  In this situation, any time a website visitor clicks on the Purina ad, Purina will have to pay the set price per click.  You will get your cut and the ad network will receive theirs.  Below you will see a visual example of what I am referencing:

pay per click example ad

Search Engine Marketing

Is multifaceted and can be divided into the following two categories; paid (sponsored) listings and natural/organic listings.  The paid listings that are displayed on search engines are highlighted in red below:

Search Engine Marketing Examples

These sponsored listings actually follow a pay per click model exactly as was discussed previously.  All advertisers must be in the Google Display Network to be displayed on the Google search engine.  Organic/natural listings are the result of search engine optimization (SEO) which is the science behind getting your site to list closer to the top off results list.  You see the where the organic listings are displayed with the green highlight in the below image:

organic search results example

Rather then go into all of the details about search engine optimization, check out my post Getting Your Website Found on Google.

The Difference Between Pay Per Click and Search Engine Marketing

So by now I am sure you have figured out my proposed analogy.  If you didn’t, either my description is lame or you don’t drink Whiskey. 

If you have other analogies be sure to leave them in the comments below.

About the Author

Michael Keating

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Mike is a prolific digital marketing strategist, entrepreneur and SEO specialist who understands how to drive results using integrated digital strategies. He is one of the founders of Octatools and is excited about the opportunity to help DIY SEOs and business owners get results online.

3 Comments on “Difference Between Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)”

  1. Hi Michael,

    Really nice article. upto now I am not too clear about ppc and Social media marketing but by reading this article My doubts are cleared. Thank you for sharing great information. keep sharing.

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