SEO Vs. SEM Vs. PPC: What’s The Difference, And Which One Is Right for You?

The industrial manufacturing sector is constantly seeing new technological innovations and advancements as businesses compete to stay ahead of the competition and at the forefront of their industry. Similarly, digital B2B advertising and marketing practices undergo the same rapid rate of change and advancement. But with so many options and platforms available today, getting started can be daunting.

Some of the most common questions we field at Thomas involve a slew of acronyms — SEO, SEM, and PPC: What’s the difference between SEO, SEM, and PPC, and what can they do for my company?


Search engine marketing (SEM) is the umbrella under which all digital marketing tactics fall, whether free or paid. The ultimate goal of SEM is to increase your company’s visibility on search engines.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) fall under the SEM umbrella.  



Search engine optimization is the implementation of a variety of techniques designed to increase your ranking on search engine listings; smart SEO strategies are what help get companies on the first page of search results. The trick — and this is where the pros come in — is to design a comprehensive marketing campaign that utilizes a variety of keywords in order to enhance your relevance. So if your company provides tooling services, you’d use a different set of keywords than a company involved in lubricants or petroleum products.

The benefit here is that you have some level of control over how you drive traffic to your site, as SEO also analyzes user behavior, allowing you to adjust, or optimize, your messaging and website to increase the relevancy of your links and keep them as high up on the list as the search engine allows. If you do your job right and manage to place high on the more widely used search engines, you’ll significantly increase your credibility. Users trust Google, and if your links are listed high in their search results, they’ll also trust your business.

SEO is a relatively low-cost SEM option, especially compared to PPC. When developing an SEO campaign and optimizing your content to best reach your targeted audience — and, therefore, increase website traffic — you can either create the content on your own or contract the work out to professionals specializing in digital marketing.

There are, of course, some challenges involved in creating an effective SEO marketing campaign. For one, it requires constant vigilance. Search engines such as Google are constantly updating and alternating their algorithms in order to maintain neutrality, eliminate scams, and so on. And there’s no guarantee that your efforts will generate actual, qualified buyers. However, if your goal is to increase visibility, then you’re on the right track.


Pay-per-click marketing is a different animal. PPC uses a formula to gauge the price of an online ad, and advertisers then pay a fee each time a user clicks on that ad, regardless of the outcome. Companies pay for the click no matter what, whether the user ends up putting in a massive order or immediately exits the site. The PPC advertiser can enter a bid on specific keywords — which plays a significant role in determining what the cost per click will be — or they can pay a fixed rate per click, which will depend on the specific network or publisher they’re working with.

PPC ads are typically the banners you see on the edges of a window when you do a search, and often the first listings you’ll see in search engine results; they’ll be marked as ads or sponsored results. Certain websites will also offer PPC opportunities. What works best for you will depend on your ultimate goals.

The primary benefit of PPC is that you’re paying for the ad space, so you can be sure you’ll be prominent in user searches. PPC is also fairly simple to set up and understand when compared with the complexities of SEO.

However, PPC fees only guarantee visibility; as mentioned earlier, you pay regardless of the outcome of the click. And, compared to SEO, you have less control over the the type of traffic you garner.

Learn More

Industrial marketing, like any other business undertaking, requires careful planning and a fair amount of trial and error, especially when just starting out. Today, many SEM professionals have received formal training and education in digital marketing and understand how to create complex campaigns tailored to your exact needs and goals. In today’s increasingly competitive landscape, it’s just unwise to launch an SEM campaign with a completely DIY mentality.

If your goal for now is to simply boost visibility and traffic, then SEM, SEO, and PPC are the way to go. If you’re more concerned with getting actual results, though, we can help bridge that gap. We know how industrial buyers think, work, and search. Contact us today to find out how we can work with your team to create customized paid and organic strategies in order to attract your target customers.

New Call-to-action

Did you find this useful?

Leveraging Omni-Channel To Get Specified Next Story »