The differences of B2B SEO vs B2B SEM

In this article, I am going to compare probably the most known and effective lead generation online marketing strategies out there.

B2B SEO vs B2B SEM, which one to choose if you starting with online marketing and want to generate leads? Which strategy will make your company the most money?

Let’s have a closer look at these two digital marketing strategies and compare them, so you know which strategy is the most effective for your organization.

What Is B2B SEO?

Business-to-business search engine optimization (B2B SEO) refers to a type of digital marketing strategy used in order to help website pages increase ranking and drive targeted organic traffic from search engines like Google or Bing. B2B SEO marketers are mainly focusing on driving more leads for a business rather than driving organic traffic unlike in B2C SEO.

This means that in B2B SEO you will not be mainly focusing on keywords that drive the most amount of traffic but rather the most amount of leads.

Therefore, B2B keyword research is extremely important in B2B SEO as you need to find the right keywords decision-makers, influencers and researchers are using to find your solutions.

And this will lead your entire B2B SEO strategy as you need to put yourself in the shoes of your B2B target audience. That is why it is also very important to understand your target audience, you must understand their challenges, pain points, and problems they are facing.

Thus, B2B SEO is not only about understanding search engines and how their algorithms work but also understand your B2B target audience and how they search for your solutions.

And this is what it means B2B SEO, both users and search engines influence your ranking that is why you must understand both search engines and target audience to successfully use B2B SEO for your organization.

If you are new to B2B SEO, then read our article about What is B2B SEO and Why B2b Organizations Need SEO.

What is B2B SEM?

Business-to-business search engine marketing (B2B SEM) refers to a type of digital marketing strategy that involves the promotion of websites mainly on search engines in order to drive targeted traffic with the intention to buy your products or services. B2B SEM is one of the most used B2B digital marketing strategies due to it is easy to start generating leads within a short period of time.

This online strategy provides a reliable and steady source of incoming leads for B2B businesses. Therefore, many organizations are heavily investing in search engine marketing.

According to Kafka & Molla 2017 research, Digital ad spending passed TV for the first time in 2017.

As brands can simply pay search engines to appear in the search results for are certain keywords or closely related to that. And because platforms like Google AdWords provide great targeting options marketers can target only those who are most likely to buy.

Often if you decide to use SEM on Google AdWords for example, you will only pay whenever somebody clicks on your ad. This is call cost-per-click (CPC) but there are also different pricing models depending on your needs like CPM (cost per mille or also know as cost per impressions) or CPA (cost per acquisition)

So know when you understand what is B2B SEO and B2B SEM lets look at the main differences:


I have mentioned the main goal of B2B SEO is to drive lead generation for business, but this is also the main goal for B2B SEM.

Also, with both online marketing strategies, your website will appear in the search results for the targeted keyword whether you use search engine optimization strategy or search engine marketing strategy.

advertising and organic search results in the Google search. Ads and organic results are differentiated for people. The B2B SEO vs B2B SEM differences.

So how is B2B SEO different from B2B SEM?

Like I said, for both strategies, the main goal is to acquire leads for business and both strategies appear in the search results for the targeted keyword.

But there are key differences between B2B SEO and B2B SEM and how to use these digital marketing strategies to appear in the search result. And not only appear in the search results but to appear in the top results of the first page.

So, while these two strategies might seem very similar, in practice B2B SEO is actually very different from B2B SEM.

Therefore, these are the 8 top differences between B2B SEO and B2B SEM:

1. The difficulty

The first and probably the most important factor for B2B marketers is how difficult is to use the strategy to generate leads for their business.

Using B2B SEM to generate leads for a business is relatively simple and almost instant as you only need to set up an advertisement on a platform like Google and start driving the paid traffic to your website.

Of course, there are some important B2B SEM strategies you need to know to effectively drive leads from search engine marketing, but in its basic, as long as your ads result will appear in the search result you can drive leads for your business.

On the other hand, using B2B SEO to generate leads is much more difficult for marketers to use as you must have a great knowledge of search engines, your target audience, and your product too to effectively drive leads by SEO.

Therefore, if you decide to use B2B SEO to generate leads for your business, prepare yourself for hard work in the next year or two.

2. Appear in the Search Result

The second difference between B2B SEO and B2B SEM is the way how they appear in the search engine and drive traffic to your website.

Search engine like Google has two sections, the first is the advertising section which is usually on top, the first four positions or depending on the demand for the keyword.

Advertising section in Google searches to advertise. Google is renting the 4 first places to marketers and advertisers.

To appear in this section, marketers must “rent” this position from Google in order to appear there and the position of your advertisement is depending on numerous things like bidding and the quality of ads and landing pages.

This means almost anybody who has the budget can appear on the first four positions that are designed for advertisers.

The second section of the search results is the organic section and to appear there is not that difficult if you do not mind it will not be the first page of Google.

The organic section in Google search results. Nobody can buy the first position in Google. The only way to appear in this organic section is via B2B SEO. B2B SEO vs B2B SEM differences in the search result.

Unfortunately, almost nobody goes to the second page or even further. According to WebFX, only 25% of users go to the second page of search results. Of course, this number is getting lower by every page.

Infographic only 25 percent of users go to the second page of search results. Why is important to appear in the first page of search results.

Therefore, I will be only talking about appearing on the first page of search results as that is the only place that’s important in the search to get some meaningful results.

So, on the other hand, to appear on the first page of Google is much harder to achieve and usually, it takes years for websites to compete for profitable keywords.

Of course, you can and should start with low competitive keywords so you can start ranking earlier.

But because there is so much competition out there, especially for the money keywords that drive leads, B2B SEO is getting harder in terms of appearing on the first page of search results for targeted keywords.

But ranking at the top of organic search results is crucial because between 70% and 80% of users completely ignore paid advertisements and go straight to the organic section. And not only that but the first five organic listings get almost 70% of all clicks.

Google CTR per ranking in the organic search result graph. The first position takes 28.5%, the second position 15.7%, and third position 11.0% on average.


In conclusion, to appear in the search results by using B2B SEM is easy as long as you pay and by using B2B SEO is extremely hard.

3. Website Traffic

Both digital marketing strategies B2B SEO and B2B SEM are used to drive targeted website traffic that later can convert as leads for a business.

But the way how you should be driving website traffic to your website is different from the strategy you use.

Driving website traffic by usi