Paid SEM and SEO: Benefits, Drawbacks & How They Work Together
Written from the perspective of Jason Moore, Compulse’s SEO analyst & specialist
As an SEO Analyst, I talk to many business owners who come from many different industries and have many different levels of digital marketing experience. Many of these owners explain that they want to be aggressive in their SEO and SEM, but as I talk to them, it often becomes clear that there is some confusion regarding search engine marketing and how the popular digital marketing medium can work for them.
I believe it’s important to cover some of the different parts of search engine marketing, including advantages, disadvantage, and how different SEM techniques work both independently and together.
What is SEM?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a term used to describe the umbrella of different search marketing methods. The goal of SEM is to increase targeted traffic to a website through a combination of different search marketing methods that can include both paid search (PPC) and unpaid search (SEO).
What is SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) is a form of search engine marketing (SEM) designed to increase target traffic from unpaid search results on search engines like Google and Bing. Traffic from an SEO strategy is often referred to as organic traffic because users typically find the website from unpaid sources.
Benefits of SEO
*High conversion rates
Because traffic from SEO is unpaid and arguably unbiased, users typically trust organic search results over most paid digital advertising mediums, including video and social advertising. For this reason, traffic received from organic search results (SEO) is usually more desired by advertisers as it often generates higher conversion rates than that of paid advertisements.
*Traffic is consistent
Another benefit to SEO is that the traffic keeps coming. If you play by Google’s rules and continue to make sure your users can quickly and easily access your original content, you will not have to worry about losing traffic due to algorithmic changes. Those who try to scam search results and offer poor user experience (too many ads, evasive interstitials, slow-loading pages, etc.) will likely see drops in search results due to algorithmic changes.
Drawbacks of SEO
*SEO is hard
SEO is hard, not because of changes in algorithms, but because of the demand for great targeted content that satisfies a user’s search and intent while offering different or unique positions over its competitors.
Many industries, including real estate, law services, insurance, and banking, will often experience trouble ranking high in organic search results because of high levels of competition and resources.
*SEO is time-consuming
Depending on the industry and designated marketing area (DMA), traffic from SEO can take months or years to achieve measurable results – and that is if the company ever generates any measurable traffic at all. Search engines like Google demand new websites to earn their trust before offering great results for competitive keywords, and this can take time.
Because SEO is considered by most a long-term digital marketing strategy, many small business owners do not have the time to wait to build long-term success with SEO. For this reason, they tend to overlook the benefits of running an effective long-term SEO strategy and place their limited resources in other paid strategies, such as pay-per-click search advertising.
What is paid search advertising (PSA)?
Paid Search Advertising is another form of SEM that includes targeting traffic by paying for ads to appear in the paid section of search engine results. Paid search advertising include pay-per-click campaigns that you see in platforms like Google AdWords.
Benefits of paid search advertising
An effective pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign can get up and running in a very short time and produce measurable results quickly rather than waiting months/years to reap the benefits of SEO traffic.
Increase brand recognition
Whether you’re a new business or you’ve been around for a while and simply want to get your name out there, paid search advertising can help you. Not every ad will get clicked in PPC advertising, but your brand message can still be seen and can lead to future sales.
If you are working on a limited budget, you are still able to get your ad in front of your target audience while not spending more than you can afford.
Drawbacks of PPC
Traffic stops when you stop paying
After your campaign ends or you stop paying for paid search advertising, the traffic stops. You may get a few bits of traffic here and there due to brand recognition or if a particular ad stood out to your intended audience, but you shouldn’t expect website traffic to continue after you stop paying for ads.
Lack of trust
Users tend to ignore paid search advertisements and focus solely on what appears in the organic search results. Organic search results are understandably more trustworthy than paid advertisements because the search results are typically genuine, hard-earned, and unbiased. The other lack of trust issue that I’ve noticed people have is that of SPAM. Many paid advertising campaigns include retargeting. A searcher must now think before they click on an ad as they worry about getting retargeted by “spammy” advertisements.
How do SEO and PPC work together?
SEO and PPC are both SEM, and using the different parts of SEM is essential to any digital marketing campaign. I love paid search advertising because I can quickly gather measurable data to determine any necessary changes that need to be made on my website. I also use this data to help guide my long-term SEO strategy, and I find that the information I receive on how people are using my website is invaluable.
It’s important to remember that SEO and paid search are different animals under SEM and need to be treated differently, but they can certainly work wonders when used together. For example, landing pages in paid search campaigns will be much different than a page you create to achieve success in SEO. SEO is about detailed content that targets users based on deep levels of detailed information. The pages that carry the SEO juice should gently nudge a user to click through the site and land on other pages to help deliver a conversion. These other pages can include lead capture forms and call-to-actions (CTAs – like click-to-call buttons), and these lead capture pages are the type of pages you’ll want to use.
Since one of the benefits to PPC is that it can get traffic to my website quickly, I can use PPC to get targeted search traffic to my site and use data to strengthen my landing pages in the short-term while I build my SEO campaigns for the long-term.
After my website gains rank in organic search results, I can still use PPC to help take over the search results page. Thus, I will then have ads appearing in the paid ads section and results showing in the organic results side. Having ads displayed in both the paid and organic sections push my competitors out of the picture and allow me to dominate search.
Using SEM can help transform your business and bring in new leads that (if done correctly) can convert to customers quickly and for the long-term. We here at Compulse understand that no two businesses are the same, and we recognize how we can best utilize both SEO and PPC as part of your SEM campaign to maximize your digital marketing efforts.