SEM, PPC and SEO - Are you Paying for Website Traffic. What, Why, How?


Difference Between  PPC and SEM, may seem like a stupid question for some people. However, I guarantee 90% of people don’t know the correct answer of this question. Even further more, I bet most people think they are exactly the same.

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 ppc and sem.

SEM - Search Engine Marketing

SEM is marketing and technical work designed to increase a website’s visibility on Google and other search engines. SEM can include…

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
  • SERM (Search Engine Reputation Management – sort of like Public Relations Management for your business’s reputation on search engines).
  • PPC Advertising (Pay-Per-Click Advertising – including ads on Google AdWords, Yahoo and Bing – more below).

SEM is big business. There are thousands – soon I predict millions – of companies and consultants who specialise in this field. Companies like Google and Yahoo make almost ALL of their money from SEM, including their huge PPC text ad fees.

Pay Per Click

Pay Per Click (PPC), also called cost per click, is an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which advertisers pay the publisher (typically a website owner) when the ad is clicked. It is defined simply as “the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked.”

With search engines, advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market. Content sites commonly charge a fixed price per click rather than use a bidding system. PPC "display" advertisements, also known as "banner" ads, are shown on web sites or search engine results with related content that have agreed to show ads.

PPC includes ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing – these are the ads you see at the top and right-hand side of search pages – or even on Facebook pages.

Usually PPC ads cost nothing to display – when a viewer clicks on the ad, only then is an advertiser is charged for the ad – hence ‘pay-per-click’.

In some cases ads are charged per 1000 ‘impressions’ (1 impression = the ad appears one time on a webpage displayed on one person’s computer).

The most popular PPC program is Google’s AdWords, accounting for around 90% of PPC ad dollars. In my experience, AdWords has been the most profitable choice due to the high percentage of total web search traffic on Google. AdWords is, however, becoming more competitive and costly every day which reduces the return on every advertising dollar you invest. Other networks are working hard to offer attractive systems and traffic to advertisers – trying to get a bigger piece of Google’s pie.

The most popular PPC ads are text ads like you see on Google’s search page. Video and display ads (display ads have a photo or graphic or logo) are also common and can appear on almost any website (although they are generally ‘served’ from an advertising provider like Google).

PPC is a very easy way to promote your website when getting a 1st-page organic position is a longer-term, more difficult goal.

PPC is generally profitable when your business targets a specific segment of the market with a relatively unique product or service or offer – and when there are not a lot of competitors bidding against your ads and driving up the cost of your PPC efforts.

The basic measures of PPC accounts are:

  1. CPC (Cost Per Click – the amount you pay each time someone clicks an ad and is directed to your site). CPC can range from a few cents for specialized, noncompetitive business niches – up to $100 or more for highly competitive industries like financial services.
  2. Cost Per Conversion (the amount you spend before you get one sale, signup or other goal). If you ‘convert’ one out of ten visitors, and you pay $1.50 for each visitor from Google (ie: CPC = $1.50), then your Cost Per Conversion will be $15.00.

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.

SEM, or search engine marketing is the 'big brother' to SEO. If you've considered getting your business online, you're sure to have heard of it...but what exactly is SEM? How does it work? Most of all, is it worth paying to make sure your business generates web traffic?

Biz4Afrika decided to enlist some expert help from Elwyn Dhliwayo, CEO of SEO Specialist, and we've got answers for all of your SEM-related queries.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM? Which, in your opinion, is more effective? Can you have one without the other?

Many people find it difficult to distinguish between Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). In most cases, both terms are often used interchangeably, which makes it even more confusing.

I will sum up everything in below.

As can be seen in the diagram above, SEO is simply a component of SEM. Therefore, SEM includes elements of paid search, such as PPC and also Social Media Marketing (SMM).

SEM is more effective in the short term, especially when you begin online marketing, as it has the ability to generate instant exposure, leads and sales for your business. However, as you run your SEM campaigns, it is crucial to invest in SEO as it will generate significantly higher returns in the long run. SEO results are permanent and will last for years!

In my opinion, for a business to achieve the best results from online marketing, it is important to make use of all elements of SEM, which are, SEO, PPC, and SMM. These three work together. For example a business can use PPC to drive traffic to the website, while SMM creates brand awareness and user engagement and then SEO ensures that the business website becomes more visible for valuable keywords / phrases that actually result in a lead or sale. I personally use Google Adwords (PPC or pay per click) as a research tool to inform organic search (SEO) and it really works.

How does SEM work? What are the main pros and cons of implementing SEM? Why should small businesses use it?

With PPC, you allocate a budget for your paid search campaigns and only pay when users click on your advertisements. On the other hand, for SEO, you pay an SEO specialist to optimise your website on a monthly basis, so it can be more visible on Google for keywords or phrases that are related to your business. All these efforts are aimed at generating more website visitors, enquiries / leads and sales for you company.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

SEO is a process which improves the quality and the quantity of the traffic coming to optimised website from organic search.


  • SEO is a process, not a single action.
  • SEO is concentrated not only on quantity of the traffic but also on its quality.
  • SEO contains different seach engines: image search, local search and vertical search.
  • SEO helps Getting indexed your website quickly.
  • SEO is a long term marketing strategy