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Gabby Regalbuto
M Posted 3 years ago
t 6 min read
Digital Marketing

The quality and quantity of the traffic coming to your site matters. Using SEM and SEO together will drive traffic using both organic and paid strategies.

What is SEO?

SEO (or search engine optimization) is the practice of structuring your website’s pages to make it easier for search engines to crawl your site, making your pages more easily discoverable to users and search spiders, and providing unique information or helpful resources through content planning on topics that searchers are looking for. SEO is the process of improving your website to enhance the user experience and to increase quality traffic to your site. 

SEO includes both on and off-page elements. Some on-page SEO tactics include optimizing image alt text and title tags. Some off-page SEO strategies include backlinking and guest blogging. Combining all on-page and off-page SEO strategies will increase your opportunity for ranked pages.

Creating data-driven content that is fresh, unique and informative for users, not bots, will help drive ranks. Well-developed content that provides real value to readers is one of the most crucial parts of SEO. While keyword research and implementation are still a ranking factor, search engines are ranking content more predominantly based on the information provided to a user and the user experience. Search engines are better able to understand search intent therefore your content should be absolutely written for users in order to rank well

What is SEM?

What does SEM stand for? SEM stands for search engine marketing and is a paid marketing tactic to promote a site, drive traffic to your website through pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and increase page exposure in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Using PPC drives immediate visibility to your website through ads.

SEO vs SEM: The Battleground

Simply put, SEM is a paid strategy with an immediate impact while SEO is an organic strategy that shows results over time. 

Creating a paid ad that grabs the attention of a targeted audience using a great message and call to action (CTA), is only a conversion driver for the time being and for as long as you are willing to spend. 93% of digital marketers are investing in paid ads. 

Leveraging SEM generates traffic, clicks, leads, opportunities, etc. to your website immediately but is not necessarily a sustainable strategy for traffic. Once the spend on your advertisement is up, so is your SEM strategy. 

SEO, however, takes a different approach. It is believed that SEO has a much larger impact on users than SEM does. Why? Because the first organic result receives a 28.5% CTR while a paid ad only receives a 10% CTR. Organic search drives 53% of web traffic whereas paid drives 27%. While you can see traffic growth with both SEO and SEM separately, you’ll win biggest by doing both together.

SEO typically takes longer to gain traction but has better results and much more staying power. Creating content that is well-optimized without spending ad dollars is a long-term plan for ranking high in the SERPs.

Because search engines analyze your site content for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it takes time for your pages to increase in ranks. Search engines crawl pages to find unique and high-quality content that is up to date, optimized and well-written for users. 

If your page is ranking on the first page of a search engine, this indicates search engines trust your information and your site. They are offering users your information as opposed to someone else’s. Because of this, you will see more quality traffic and leads coming to your site. 

Though your SEM campaign is targeted, sometimes you may see less quality traffic coming from your ad. This can be due to click fraud. Competitors may see your ad and click into it to inflate the number of clicks on your ad costing your company more ad spend. This is a black hat strategy to use up ad spend early on to remove your ad for the rest of the day.

Using SEO and SEM together

Can you successfully leverage SEO and SEM together? Yes! 

Is it more impactful to use SEO and SEM together? If you are doing it well and your ads complement your SEO strategy, also yes!

To successfully leverage SEO and SEM together, you need to first begin with keyword research. Performing keyword research for the pages you want to rank for is one of the most important aspects of SEO. Products like Data Cube and Instant help you perform keyword research and leverage that knowledge to create new and better-performing content.

So, what can SEO and SEM working together achieve? The most ideal result for using SEO and SEM together is that your site lands the top organic SERPs and your company is driving even more visibility with an ad, as well. Here, users have the decision to click on your ad if it is relevant to them or your organic result.

Combining insights and data for more visibility into your audience from both SEO and SEM will produce greater results. Knowing how to use SEO and SEM together is an essential strategy to the growth of your site’s traffic. SEO drives top-of-funnel leads while SEM drives bottom-funnel leads.

The Case for Developing an SEM Strategy

SEO is becoming more important and as more brands realize that more strategy is building around optimizing pages and driving ranks for the top and most competitive keywords out there. But sometimes your SEO team may find it difficult to rank for certain keywords. 

The competition for keywords that are important to you may be extremely high. If this is the case, leveraging SEM strategies can drive traffic to your site for keywords you are not able to rank for within the first few pages on the SERPs. BrightEdge Instant can help you understand and evaluate keyword competitiveness, and search intent. 

If a keyword is highly competitive, it may not be worth your team’s time to optimize pages for it. Using Instant, you can perform keyword research for keywords that are related to one another but may not have the same level of competitiveness.

Below are some additional reasons to develop an SEM strategy:

  • If you’re looking to capture more user data than organic traffic offers using PPC ads, you can link to dashboards like Google Analytics to see clicks, impressions, sessions, CTR, average cost-per-click, conversions and more.
  • If you’re looking to drive conversions. SEM is conversion-driven, and ads are created around a specific CTA. Leverage SEM to convert users.
  • If you’re looking to boost short-term campaigns or promotions that will start and end in less time than SEO will generate traffic. SEM can expedite the sales and promotions cycle. Use SEM strategy to get your message to users ASAP about an event, a sale, a new product or service, etc. You can use SEM to drive users and traffic to your site within hours of a live ad.
  • If you’re looking to drive traffic sooner while waiting for SEO to drive results. If you’re creating content based on an important keyword or topic you want to rank for, writing the post and publishing it won’t get you traffic immediately but making it the CTA of your ad will. 

Additionally, having more detailed data from ads may help you understand your audience better. You can also leverage SEM for retargeting purposes. Retargeting is when you target users that have previously clicked on your ads. If a user has taken interest in your ads before, you can drive even more brand awareness to them through retargeting.

SEM is a short-term solution to drive traffic to your site and encourage conversions instantaneously. It is most ideal to leverage SEO and SEM together to increase quality traffic to your site. But while you are working on SEO, a well-optimized SEM strategy in place will create visibility in the meantime. Once you get the hang of SEO and SEM, your combined strategies should operate well together.