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What is the Difference Between SEM and PPC? How to Determine Whether You Need Both

What is the Difference Between SEM and PPC? How to Determine Whether You Need Both

Digital marketing offers many tactics and avenues for reaching your target audience. With so many acronyms and capabilities, it can be hard to know the difference and identify which strategy best fits your brand’s marketing goals. Our team is often asked “What is the difference between SEM and PPC?”, and “Is it right for my brand?”

Here’s a quick overview to help clear up any confusion.

What is SEM?
SEM stands for search engine marketing and encompasses a variety of both paid and unpaid digital marketing strategies. Unpaid tactics such as search engine optimization (SEO) aim to bolster and leverage a brand’s content so that they come up organically in searches. Paid tactics, such as Google Ads for industry keywords, can also fall under the umbrella of SEM.

What is PPC?
PPC stands for pay-per-click and it’s a subsection of digital marketing which often falls under the broader term SEM. PPC is paid advertising and allows brands to only pay when a prospect clicks through on the ad link. You’re probably most familiar with this advertising in relationship to search engines like Google where you see ads at the top or to the side of your search results. Those placements are part of SEM. However, it’s not only SEM that can be PPC, as this type of advertising is also offered on other platforms including through social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

SEM, PPC or Both?
It can be hard to know if you need SEM, PPC or both. It mostly boils down to your specific marketing goals. As we mentioned, SEM can encompass some aspects of PPC, so it’s important to keep that in mind. However, a general rule of thumb would be if you want to support your unpaid and organic search results, you need SEM. If you want to support paid digital marketing goals, then you need PPC. If you need to support both unpaid and paid goals, then you need both.

Examples of SEM goals:

  • Boost SEO
  • Increase organic traffic to your website
  • Raise your search engine results page (SERP) position
  • Support brand awareness

Examples of PPC goals:

  • Lead generation campaigns
  • Increase sales and support the sales funnel
  • Support a brand awareness campaign (particularly for new and emerging brands)
  • Can also be used outside of the search engine ecosystem and applied on social media platforms

Pick What You Need
Many brands need both SEM and PPC to meet their marketing objectives. However, that’s not true in every case. Working with a digital marketing team can help you analyze your goals and audience and determine the best strategy for you.

Connect with our agency’s digital marketing experts to learn how Beyond Fifteen can help your brand determine if you need SEM, PPC or both strategies to meet your marketing goals.


Connect with a Beyond Fifteen Marketing Specialist today!

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