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The Relationship Between SEO and SEM in Digital Marketing

June 18, 2020

Search engine marketing is the umbrella term for anything that brings visitors to a website from a search engine. This includes both free traffic through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid traffic through Search Engine Marketing (SEM). The misconception that SEO and SEM are unrelated exercises in digital marketing could be due to the difference that defines them: SEO is unpaid search marketing, while SEM typically refers to paid search engine marketing.

Truth is, even Google recognizes that SEO and SEM are co-related in ways that are too vital for a website’s visibility in search engines.

Related: Stay Ahead of the SEO Game: Why You Should Care About SEO

The Relationship Between SEO and Paid Search

There are different aspects of online advertising, which proves that SEO affects SEM and vice-versa. Here are some of the key ways they operate side by side:

Increase in Click Through Rate (CTR)

One of the major goals of digital marketing is to get more traffic to the website. A strong performance on organic search - which means search engines are ranking or showing your site on the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) - can pave the way for an increase in your CTR in the organic search results.

Similarly, paying or bidding for your ad to be shown above organic results on SERPs can improve the site’s visibility. Research shows that advertised results get 20% more clicks than the organic results.

Now, it isn’t very difficult to understand that more traffic can be obtained through search engines if the results appear both on paid as well as organic search results.

Increase in Keyword Data

Digital marketing is all about data and analytics. It is important to get an overview of online data obtained from various channels to determine the effectiveness of the marketing efforts. Digital marketing is very much data-driven. You’ll need to constantly gather and analyze your online data from various channels to determine how you’re doing in your marketing efforts.

SEO and SEM are the greatest sources of these data, especially when it comes to the use of keywords. Keyword analytics shows how the target market is using search engines to find information, products, or services. This information helps shape the content marketing campaigns and enables us to make the campaigns more targeted and aligned in the future.

Effects on Inbound Marketing

SEO techniques focus on increasing the online visibility of the websites through the use of metadata, proper formatting, quality content, link building, etc. on the web pages. Search engines then rank a page by focusing on the aspects such as the clean use of codes, usability, internal and external linking of pages and relevance of the website. The main goal of SEO is to draw users to the website without paying for each click.

Similarly, SEM is used to promote a website on search engines as well as on relevant (sponsored) websites through a variety of techniques, but through paid advertising. Websites are ranked on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and on sponsored websites depending on the keyword bids and the website’s relevance.

Now talking about inbound marketing, it is the practice of attracting customers who may be possibly interested in a brand or offered service by serving them with relevant content, including ads, when they search for relevant keywords on the search engines.

Based on the above explanations, it can be concluded that both SEO and SEM are part of inbound marketing.

In the context of inbound marketing, the data obtained from the pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and organic search analytics can help set goals and develop more effective campaigns. This is one of the tactics used in advanced SEM strategies that helps in gaining page views for certain keywords

Also, the analytics data such as user’s engagement metrics – such as average time spent on the site, bounce rates, etc. - can help in determining valuable insights on the quality of users from various sources such as organic and paid search results, social media, email, etc. This aids a great deal in the process of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) which is again a major part of SEO.

Landing Page Optimization

Landing pages are stand-alone web pages on your website or other landing page hosts that are dedicated mainly to advertise a specific product or service that is being offered to the customers. A key aspect of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) focuses on improving the quality of the landing pages. Hence, the aspect of CRO is highly relevant to both SEO and SEM.

An SEO campaign should be started with a technical audit to confirm that the codes on the website are working the way they should and the loading times are optimized. The navigation and design should be user-friendly, as it helps increase the visibility on search results. Ultimately, an SEO audit can help optimize the landing pages, drive traffic to the site, and help reach the conversion goals.

On the other hand, for SEM, improving the quality of landing pages usually results in positive user engagement or high conversion rates for the marketing campaigns. More traffic to the website and a better overall experience to the users and increase in user engagements within the website will eventually result in a better chance of driving links and social signals. This can work wonders for organic SEO visibility.

The bottom line here is that the same benefits one gets from optimizing the landing pages and paid social media and search engine ads will eventually circle back to the organic search, where it all began in the first place.

SEO and SEM and the Effects in Branding

Launching a brand, online business or a service-related website successfully involves effective SEO and SEM campaigns. A significant amount might be needed to invest in digital marketing so that the website could be found easily on search engines.

Research shows that consumers are 80% more likely to have awareness of a brand for a certain category or keyword after they’ve seen it’s ads on search engines. In a survey done by Google and Ipsos, people who were exposed to a test brand’s ads on search results were found to be more aware of the brand first when the related product category or keywords were brought to their attention. This happens because people use search engines to search for a certain keyword or a key phrase when they’re already in a highly receptive mindset. When an effectively marketed brand appears on top of the results, there is a strong chance that the user will remember that brand and they will eventually search for it organically.

Lastly, interestingly, SEO and SEM are totally different aspects of digital marketing, and yet, they also complement each other extremely well. Hence, it can safely be concluded that properly co-ordinated SEO and SEM strategies will boost a company’s success rate in the area of digital marketing.

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About the Author

Sakar Bhusal

Sakar is an IT professional with over 15 years of experience working in the field of information technology, web administration and technical customer support for e-commerce and IT companies. Sakar holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from DeVry University, Houston, and a Masters degree in Geographical Information Systems from the University of Salzburg, Austria. Sakar’s specialty is in freelance web designing and SEO/SMM support, and he has provided his services to companies and individuals around the world. Sakar has a background in offering extensive support functions, including managing web content, communicating with teams, sending newsletters, and coordinating general operations, all while maintaining a consistent level of professionalism and accuracy. Sakar prides himself on providing regular communication with clients via phone, email, and video conference, ensuring reliable ongoing contact throughout the workday. Sakar’s varied background makes him an asset to any business. He has experience in web design and maintenance, execution and monitoring of online advertising initiatives, graphic design software such as Photoshop and Indesign, and brand development. He currently resides in High Point, NC with his wife and two-year-old son.
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