SEO vs. SEM: Which is Better for Ecommerce?

In e-commerce, the debate between SEO and SEM never ends. To make matters worse, SEO and SEM can mean different things to different people. For this reason, this article will first explain what is meant by the terms. Of course, the definitions are not comprehensive, but only serve as an initial orientation. The final question is: is SEM actually better than SEO for e-commerce companies? Or the other way around? Find out!

SEO in e-commerce

The search engine optimization for online shops includes areas such as maintaining a certain keyword density or the collection of external links. The goal of SEO is to rank higher on search engine results pages. SEO or search engine optimization are used synonymously.

SEM for online shops

Paying search engines to send qualified traffic directly to your website is Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This primarily includes so-called pay-per-click mechanisms. It can now be argued that SEM encompasses many more areas and in practice including search engine optimization. So that the topic “SEO vs. SEM in E-Commerce ”can come to really actionable conclusions, SEO is now isolated from other SEM activities.


SEO is better because …

  • You consume resources once and benefit for a longer period of time.
  • Once you have success in SEO it is a huge competitive advantage that cannot be easily replicated in a short period of time.
  • Ecommerce websites tend to have poor SEO by nature. As a result, even a small effort can be successful.
  • Most users find organic, i.e. natural, search results more credible.
  • The cost per visitor is only a small fraction of what you would pay for SEM campaigns in the long run.
  • SEM spending has become very expensive in some industries.

SEM, on the other hand, is better because …

  • SEM campaigns produce results immediately, while SEO can take months.
  • You know exactly what you’re paying for and can measure your return on investment (ROI) .
  • Your SEM expenses are not suddenly wasted when search engines like Google optimize their algorithm.
  • Once you have achieved the formula for success, you can effortlessly grow your SEM strategy further.
  • SEM measures are completely under your control.
  • Most ecommerce companies find that PPC traffic converts better per visitor than organic search traffic.
  • You can control how brand names and other values are treated.

SEO vs. SEM in the end result

The pros and cons of the above lists speak for themselves: Ecommerce businesses shouldn’t leave SEO or SEM out of the equation. Here are some conclusions you can draw:

  1. If your e-commerce website is new, you can use SEM to accelerate your SEO success a little. You could initially spend the majority of your budget on SEM measures and invest a much smaller part in SEO.
  2. As time goes on and some ranking achievements, you can gradually increase the resource allocation for SEO. Of course, there will always be something that you want and need to promote right away. Here you can rely on the paid traffic. In the long term, the expenditure for SEO and SEM activities should stabilize at the same proportions.

SEO vs. SEM – what should be considered?

SEM measures show quick success. Therefore, the decision is quickly made in favor of SEM. However, caution is advised here: The price per click can rise to a level that your marketing budget cannot handle. So it makes sense to always have an alternative ready. SEO then proves to be a reliable mainstay. Consider using content marketing as your own SEO approach. Because one thing is certain: content marketing has a lot to offer in the future too.

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