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How Do SEO and SEM Work Together?

By: Daniel Kohl    September 5, 2023

The only tried-and-true method of being at the top of search is through leveraging SEO and SEM strategies. By combining SEO and SEM, you can reach a wider audience and generate more leads and sales. Here, we will discuss the importance of understanding how SEO and SEM work together for a successful search strategy and provide some examples along the way.

Integrating SEO and SEM Strategies

What Is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are two marketing strategies that use keywords to drive traffic to business websites and webpages.

  • SEO is a long-term strategy that focuses on optimizing websites to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords. This process is done by creating high-quality content, building backlinks, and optimizing the website’s technical structure.
  • SEM is a short-term strategy that uses paid advertising to display ads on SERPs. When someone searches for a relevant keyword, an ad may appear at the top of the search results. SEM can be a quick way to drive traffic to a website, but it can be expensive.

What Is the Importance of SEO and SEM?

Both SEO and SEM can be effective marketing strategies for businesses. The best approach for a particular business will depend on its goals, budget, and resources. Creating a mixed approach for both SEO and SEM can increase a website’s traffic, drive conversions, and ultimately grow a business.

Combining Your SEO and SEM Strategies

High-CPA SEM? Create SEO Content.

Keywords with a high cost-per-acquisition (CPA) can take up most of your budget and negatively impact your overall success metrics. Finding ways for more conversions with less overall ad spend is crucial for any successful SEM campaign, so finding new ways for your business to still compete on these keywords is a must. This step is where SEO comes into play! Using these high-CPA queries to create content on your website is a great way to compete with all the page 1 clicks, without routinely trying to outbid the competition. While Performance Max campaigns are the latest and greatest in SEM, understanding the road bumps in your campaigns can provide potential SEO content opportunities to solidify your website in organic search.

MediaUnleashed High-CPA SEM? Create SEO Content

For example, the competition around “bathroom installation” is moderately high. opted for an organic approach rather than a paid approach to rank in search with a blog about the costs of adding a bathroom using updated data from this year.

Hard to Rank Keywords? Prioritize Pay-Per-Click.

Are difficult keywords making it hard to rank in the top-10 results of organic search? It could be a perfect time to leverage SEM placements to get your website ahead of organic results. With changes happening in Google Search, such as Multisearch and the introduction of Generative AI, it’s important to stay one step ahead of organic and get users directly to your website.

MediaUnleashed Hard to Rank Keywords? Prioritize Pay-Per-Click

None of the websites displayed with sponsored ads for the search query “refinancing a car” were ranking on page 1 in organic search. While these pages aren’t at the top of SEO, they are generating traffic through SEM, staking their claim to the top results and generating more traffic to their websites.

Optimize SEO Content with High-Conversion Queries from Your Search Query Report (SQR)

The Search Query Report (SQR), or search term report, displays keywords that fall outside of your designated keyword list but for which SEM ads are still qualified to appear. These keywords are considered closely related variations of your primary keyword list and can typically contain a greater number of longer and more specific keywords, as well as those with spelling variations and unique terms. The Search Query Report assists you in finding new concepts for creative and landing page material that matches what your customers are seeking.

With a list of keywords that are shown to convert, we could then optimize our content with high-converting keywords that we may have not optimized for in the past or find new opportunities to focus on.

Utilize SEO & SEM for Competitive Conquesting Strategies

Keywords that compare products, services, or even brands are among the most competitive queries in search. These searches provide marketers with a direct way of providing potential customers with a direct A/B comparison without having to break the bank. Creating comparison content works great with SEO, and when paired with conquesting strategies to bid on your competition’s branded keywords, it can make for an effective integrated SEM/SEO campaign.

MediaUnleashed SEM for Competitive Conquesting Strategies

In this conquesting example, Shopify is bidding on comparison keywords between itself and Square’s point-of-sale systems. Shopify’s SEM tactic is promoting the webpage “Shopify POS vs. Others” that compares its own system with others to give them a leg up on the competition.

Freeing Up SEM Budget with SEO

Creating content that ranks highly in organic search is crucial to a successful SEO campaign, but it can also take the load off your search engine marketing budget. When a website ranks for the first position in organic search AND there is no competition bidding on this keyword, this situation allows you to pull back your SEM budget from this search term and focus your efforts elsewhere. This scenario does come with a caveat that checks should be done regularly to ensure the search competition for these queries is not changing – scooping up top traffic that went to your website.

Integrating SEO and SEM Strategies

When trying to decide on whether you should invest in SEO versus SEM, consider this analogy: Your website is like a building where you are trying to send people from the ground level up to the top floor to purchase your offerings. SEM is the elevator that gets consumers from point A to point B quickly, whereas SEO is the staircase that takes more time. The difference being, when the elevator stops running, you still invested in a staircase for your customers.

As you can see, a combined effort in search is going to help your website succeed in a very competitive search landscape. It’s important to invest in these marketing tactics because they are the lifeblood of your website maintaining a strong first-page presence.

Disclosure: We are not affiliated with or employed by any of the brands mentioned in this article.