The basics of SEO and SEM
Before diving in the details, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of both SEM and SEO.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is all about optimizing your website and content to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) organically. It involves various techniques like keyword research, on-page and off-page optimization, and link building. By focusing on user behaviour and search engine algorithms, SEO aims for long-term results and driving organic traffic.
On the other hand, SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, involves paid advertising to gain immediate visibility on search engines. Unlike SEO, which focuses on organic growth, SEM provides instant reach and can be particularly useful for time-sensitive campaigns or new product launches.
The interplay between SEO and SEM
While SEM and SEO are distinct strategies and each has its own merits, the real magic happens when they are used in tandem.
SEO lays the foundation for long-term growth and credibility, while SEM delivers immediate visibility and targeted traffic. Leveraging the strengths of both helps you maximize your online presence and achieve optimal results.
Ways to use SEM and SEO together
Let’s look at the strategic synergy between SEM and SEO, going beyond their individual capabilities, and explore how they can complement each other for maximum impact.
From sharing valuable keyword insights and enhancing visibility to optimizing landing pages and retargeting opportunities, we’ll break down how to create an integrated approach that brings the best of both worlds.
Keyword research and strategy
One of the best ways to use SEO and SEM together is by sharing keyword insights to craft a strategy that improves the performance of both.
From SEM to SEO: When launching an ad campaign, you can quickly learn which keywords are driving not just clicks but conversions, offering invaluable insights into customer intent and behaviour.
This data becomes a secret weapon in optimizing your organic SEO strategy. You can fine-tune your organic content to target high-converting keywords, thus increasing the chances of ranking higher organically.
In other words, SEM can provide a fast-track research platform for your longer-term, organic SEO tactics.
From SEO to SEM: Conversely, the organic search data you gather through SEO tools can uncover long-tail keywords or emerging search trends that are not yet saturated with competition.
These are golden opportunities, especially because long-tail keywords often indicate a higher intent to purchase or convert. You can then create SEM campaigns centred around these keywords before your competitors even recognize the opportunity.
Essentially, you’re leveraging the slow-burn data from your SEO efforts to identify early-stage opportunities for your SEM campaigns, thereby preempting the market and gaining a competitive edge.
Visibility in search results
One of the key strengths of SEM is the immediacy it offers. The moment they go live, your ads have the potential to appear on the first page of search engine results, offering immediate visibility and instant traffic. This is particularly advantageous when you’re looking to promote time-sensitive offers, new product launches, or simply establish a quick online presence.
SEO, on the other hand, is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires an ongoing commitment to content creation, backlink building, and on-page optimization. The results, although highly beneficial in the long run, take time to manifest. You’re investing in long-term visibility and credibility, but it’s a slow burn that may take months to show tangible results.
By employing both SEM and SEO strategies simultaneously, you’re essentially covering all your bases. While your SEO efforts are steadily building your site’s authority, SEM can fill in the visibility gap by putting your business in front of potential customers right away.
SEM reinforces your brand’s visibility during the time it takes for your organic efforts to gain traction. It ensures you’re not missing out on potential traffic and conversions while working on breaking into the organic rankings for competitive keywords. This combined approach avoids you putting all your eggs in one basket and maximizes your chances of appearing in search engine results.
Also, when your SEO strategy does pay off with results, keeping your ad campaigns active can still be beneficial. Even if you rank high for a given term, a paid ad occupies space above the organic results. This dual presence increases the likelihood of a user clicking on your content.
Meta and ad copy testing
SEO and SEM can work like besties when it comes to testing what words or phrases get people to click on your website.
From SEO to SEM: For example, in SEO, you often play around with the title and description that show up on Google to see which ones make people want to click. Once you find out what works, you can use that same wording in your SEM ads. Because SEM shows results quickly, you can easily see if the wording really does make people interested.
From SEM to SEO: On the other hand, SEM allows you to test different versions of an ad to see which one people click on more. This is known as A/B testing. If you find that a certain ad gets lots of clicks, you can use the wording from that ad to update your SEO title and description.
In short, SEM lets you quickly test what people like, while SEO gives you long-term tracking of your content’s performance. By using the quick results from SEM to guide your SEO, and vice versa, you make both your paid and free search results better. It’s like a two-for-one deal that helps you understand what your audience wants more quickly and effectively.
Landing page optimization and improved UX
A landing page is the first page you land on after clicking a search result or ad. Both SEM and SEO need good landing pages to make people take action, like buying a product or signing up for a newsletter.
From SEM to SEO: Imagine you have a landing page that you use for SEM ads, and it’s doing a great job – lots of people are clicking and taking action. You can take this well-performing page and adjust it as needed to make it show up in free Google searches. Since you already know the page converts well from your SEM campaign, it’s likely to do well organically, too.
From SEO to SEM: On the flip side, let’s say you have a page that gets a lot of free traffic from Google and people spend a lot of time on it. This is a sign that the page is engaging. You can use what you learn from this successful page to make your SEM landing pages better.
In a nutshell, by focusing on making your landing pages as good as possible, you’re creating a win-win situation. Your paid ads (SEM) and your free search results (SEO) both benefit, and most importantly, you make your visitors happy.
Sometimes people visit your website by clicking on it from Google’s free search results but leave without buying anything or signing up. But what if you could remind them about your website when they’re browsing other sites? That’s where SEM comes in handy.
By using SEM ads, you can “follow” these window-shoppers around the Internet and show them ads that remind them of your site and what they were interested in. This is called retargeting or remarketing. The idea is to jog their memory and encourage them to come back to your website to complete the action they initially skipped.
The cool thing is, you can use what you know about how these users behaved on your website to make these reminder ads even more appealing. For example, if they spent a lot of time looking at a specific product or blog post, you can show them ads that feature that exact item or topic.
In simple terms, retargeting helps bring back the “almost customers” by reminding them about your website and what they liked about it. This increases the chances of turning a visitor into a customer.
Shared budgetary insights
Think of your digital marketing budget like a pie. You want to cut it in the best way to get the most out of it.
From SEM to SEO: Sometimes, bidding on certain words in paid ads can be really expensive because everyone wants them. If you find that’s the case, you might decide to use that money to improve your SEO for those same words instead. It takes longer but could be cheaper in the long run.
From SEO to SEM: On the other hand, let’s say you’ve been trying to show up in free search results for certain keywords, but it’s taking forever to see any results. If those keywords are really important for your business, like they bring in a lot of sales, you can decide to spend more money on paid ads for those specific words. This way, you can show up in Google searches instantly.
Understanding what works in both SEM and SEO helps you make smarter decisions about where to put your money.
Shared analytics learning
From SEM to SEO: When you run paid ads, Google Ads tells you what people were looking for when they clicked on your ad. You can use this data to make your website better at providing what people are actually searching for.
From SEO to SEM: On the other hand, Google Search Console helps you understand how your website is doing in the free search results. It tells you how many people see your website (impressions), how many click on it (clicks), and what percentage of people click after seeing it (click-through rate or CTR). You can use this information to spot weaknesses in your paid ads. For example, if a lot of people are clicking on a certain free search result, maybe you should also be running paid ads for that topic.
When it comes to online visibility and effectively reaching your target audience, using SEM and SEO together offers a potent blend of long-term sustainability and immediate reach.
Far from being two disparate branches of digital marketing, SEO and SEM are more like two sides of the same coin – each having unique advantages, but most effective when used together.
When aligned effectively, they deliver a robust, adaptable, and comprehensive strategy that can skyrocket your online presence and set you well ahead of the competition.