How to Harmonise Your SEO and SEM Strategies to Deliver an Outstanding ROI

Written on 18 April, 2017 by Julia Hammond
Categories Search Engine Optimisation
Photograph 047 by Lauren Mancke found on

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that SEO and SEM exist as independent pillars. While there are certainly concrete differences, the two remain closely related and should be considered as complementary to one another rather than individual digital marketing strategies.

Learning how to make SEO and SEM work together can be a pivotal step in boosting your online exposure and improving your website’s rankings on Google. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s kick-off with the basics.

First things first: unpacking the terminology

“SEO” and “SEM” are terms you may have heard flung around here and there, but are yet to fully gauge their meanings. To help you out, here is a nuts-and-bolts definition of each of these concepts:

SEO: Search engine optimisation – the process of altering the code and usability of a webpage to improve its visibility in organic (i.e. natural and unpaid) results generated by a search engine.

SEM: Search engine marketing – the process of increasing traffic to a webpage by purchasing ads on search engines. This can also be referred to as “PPC” (pay-per-click) advertising, and includes the likes of Google AdWords, Facebook ads, Twitter ads and more.

In a very ‘nutshell’ definition, think of SEO as earning traffic whereas SEM focuses on buying traffic.

What do the two have in common?

Evidently, the end goal of both SEO and SEM is to drive traffic to a website. To achieve this, both strategies rely heavily on keywords – those search terms and phrases users punch into a search engine to find relevant results.

And how are they different?

While the end goal is the same, the process of achieving it differs in either strategy. SEO is more of a long-term plan. It requires constant nurturing and in most cases, several months of hard work to generate significant levels of traffic.

SEM is more of a short-term aid that gets you fast results. Because you are paying Google for this service, the search engine will reward you by featuring your ad high on its results pages above all organic results.

SEM can fast-track results while you wait for your SEO to take off

Rather than anxiously waiting for your SEO efforts to reap in that healthy ROI you’re waiting for, an SEM campaign can elevate your brand’s presence in the interim. This means you can spend the necessary amount of time curating your website (i.e. writing unique, compelling and high-quality content; building links; establishing your blog, etc.) to ensure Google approves of your site and ranks it highly.

But how can SEO and SEM work together?

Now it’s crunch time: how do you make the two marketing strategies work effectively together to yield those highly-coveted results? Well, much of it comes down to which keywords you allocate to which campaign. Herein, it’s advisable to employ your most important keywords for your SEO campaign, then to use SEM for your additional keywords to therefore craft a finely-targeted advertising campaign.

The results? You have a bunch of general keywords you rank organically for, then a string of more specific keywords tailored to your target market. As such, you increase, expand and speed up your visibility.

From applying this process, you can then elicit the following results:

1. Create a sense of familiarity with consumers by appearing twice in search results

A huge amount of brand trust is based on how familiar consumers are with your business. Think about it – when you’re presented with a few different options for a business, which one do you choose: the one you’ve never heard of, or the one whose name has popped up on your peripheral multiple times?

Effective SEO and SEM means your business’s website can rank on the first page of Google twice – once as a paid ad and once as an organic search listing. According to Nielsen Research, brands that appear in organic searches alone attract 60% of total clicks, while brands that appear in both organic and paid searches receive 92% of total clicks. Hence, it’s highly worth pouring your marketing efforts into both avenues.

2. Compare analytics of both campaigns to determine exactly what your audience is searching for

Naturally, employing both SEO and SEM services means you can pinpoint which parts of your marketing need improvement. You have two different strategies both working to achieve the same end goal, and thanks to the beauty of Google Analytics tools, you can assess how each campaign is performing. A good practice to deploy is to look at the metrics from your paid advertising to determine which specific keyword clusters are attracting clicks, then adopting them into your website or meta descriptions to boost your SEO efforts.

3. Capitalise on quick-and-easy link-building opportunities to promote your content and establish credibility

Getting external websites to link to your business or share your content can be a precarious, costly and time-consuming task. By creating your own paid ads, you can spruik your content on platforms it might not otherwise be recognised on. A good idea here is to invest in Facebook advertising, where you can bid on long-tail keywords to get your ads seen. Given the fact that more than 1.2 billion users engage with this platform, you increase your chances of having your content liked and shared by Facebookers, therefore amplifying your presence and creating strong links back to your website. This of course plays a big factor in SEO: external links equate to credibility, and Google rates credibility significantly high in terms of how it ranks websites.

By harnessing an integrated approach when it comes to SEO and SEM, you can seriously catapult your business’s success in the digital landscape. Try out the above techniques to enable the two to work together and effectively ricochet off one another, and as a result, you’ll strengthen your overall marketing strategy for the better. Hello, sweet ROI.

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