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SEO: The Basics – Making it work with SEM

By Alexandra Gavril - January 3, 2014

Don’t think of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) as competitors. In fact, they should go together like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say. The relationship between the two brings together both sides of Internet marketing and should complement each other, not work against each other.

So, instead of just choosing one or the other, you should come up with a strategy to mutually benefit your SEO and SEM strategies. When both teams are on the same page and there’s good communication between the two, it can help skyrocket the amount of traffic and exposure for your site.

SEO and SEM working together

First, let’s understand how Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing differ. SEM uses paid placement and advertising on search engines to boost traffic. SEO refers to creating a web page that is optimised to attract as much traffic as possible from search engines.

So, the best way to get maximum exposure and traffic online is to use them both. With SEM you can get results almost instantly and you get to fine-tune keywords for organic SEO by monitoring competition and measuring traffic stats, clicks on your ads and conversions. The downside with SEM is that when it’s not implemented correctly and monitored constantly it can cause you to burn through a large amount of money and get little to no return on your investment.

By getting SEO and SEM to work together, you can target your most powerful keywords for organic rank and supplement that with a wide variety of paid keywords. Here is an example of search results showing both paid (yellow) and organic (green) search results for the same website for the term “buy Depeche Mode tickets”:

Buy Depeche Mode tickets

Game plan your keywords

To implement a successful SEM and SEO strategy, you need to pay attention to your keywords. A SEO strategy will provide your SEM campaign with a number of effective keyword opportunities. So, you could use one to benefit the other as it’s a list that has already been tested so you know what gets results.

SEM also enables you to test and discover new keywords, as measured by the number of clicks, the average time spent on site and, of course, the number of sales. So, the keywords discovered for search engine marketing will actually reveal which keywords you should be focusing on as they’re the ones customers will convert upon. Basically, a successful SEO and SEM relationship will help build keyword strategies off of each other.

Quality optimisation drives quality marketing

The quality score determines SEM position and spend. There’s a variety of factors that affect quality score such as click-through rate, ad copy relevancy, landing page quality and load time. The quality score is a sign of Google’s trust – if it believes your ads, keywords and landing pages are relevant to users looking at your ad. So, the higher the quality score, the less you spend on SEM.

SEM and SEO need to work together in order to improve the quality score of a landing page and, as a result, lower SEM costs. In terms of SEM, a landing page’s quality refers to the relevancy and uniqueness of the content; by also optimising the page using strong keywords, you can help improve the page’s quality and relevancy to search engines. This results in more traffic as well as a higher quality score for your landing page, which also affects your ads’ cost per click.

So, while you could choose to go with only SEO or SEM, which is fine, I strongly believe that these two strategies should work as a team to achieve the ultimate goal: convert.

Are you using both SEO and SEM to drive traffic to your site and increase sales? If yes, how are you making them work together? Share your tips and advice in a comment below.