How To Combine SEO & SEM For Better Results

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When it comes to search engine visibility, SEO and SEM are two sides of the same coin. Search Engine Optimisation causes a website to rank higher in the organic results, while Search Engine Marketing uses ads to gain exposure. There are pros and cons to both methods, but I’m going to show you how to combine SEO & SEM for amazing results.

Before we can discuss the specifics of how to combine SEO & SEM we need to have a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

So let’s firstly break each one down so we can understand the various attributes.

The Benefits of SEO

SEO has only a few benefits, but those benefits are so massive they’re almost impossible to ignore when it comes to a businesses digital marketing strategy.

70% of all clicks occur on the organic links

Are you one of those people who never clicks on the ads in search results?

If so then you’re in a chorus line with about 70% of the rest of the population who clicks exclusively on the organic search results.

70% organic clicks
70% of all clicks will occur on the organic search results.

This is why when you rank #1 in the organic search results you’ll receive a huge volume of traffic to your website, and why it’s such a tempting goal which every business would like to achieve.

SEO results (typically) hang around for a while

Unless you’re in a super competitive niche where all of your competitors are all actively working on their own SEO, then once you reach that top position, you’ll most likely get to enjoy it for quite some time.

Just ask one of my Gold Coast SEO clients who doesn’t spend any money on marketing at all because his business has consistently ranked number 1 for a variety of keywords since doing an SEO campaign way back in 2011.

The Disadvantages of SEO

There are several disadvantages to doing SEO which are important to consider in your overall strategy.

SEO takes time to get results

It can take a while before you start seeing rankings going upwards. You don’t just make some changes to your site and instantly get pushed up into the #1 position.

It takes time to do the work required, and search engines will take their time to change your rankings accordingly.

If you’re in a highly competitive niche then this can draw out the time require to gain rankings that will start driving more traffic to your website.

This means that if you’re a new business, or you’re in growth mode and you need more customers immediately, SEO may not be a good option for you.

Good quality SEO is expensive

Yes we all know there are plenty of people offering “guaranteed page 1 rankings for under $100 per month” but by now hopefully most people are starting to catch on that those “experts” are just taking your money and spending it down at the pub.

To be honest alarm bells should start ringing if you’re paying anything under about $800 per month for SEO. That’s simply because doing good quality SEO is very specialised and also just takes time to do all that work.

In addition to the high monthly cost, the time delay for results means that you need to be prepared to allocate a budget over a period of time in order to get the results you want.

The Benefits of SEM

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a technique where you place ads within search engine results pages (SERPs), and while it’s not as attractive as ranking #1 organically, it has many significant benefits.

Immediate page 1 position

Whereas SEO will take some time to do the work and see the rankings improve to get to page 1, an SEM campaign can see your website featured at the top of search results within a matter of hours.

This means you can drive traffic to your website and start generating leads and sales to fuel your business’ growth.

SEM vs SEO results

Total control over ad structure

Because you’re paying to display an ad, search engines give advertisers far more control over what they display in the ad.

You can showcase special offers, your location, highlight areas of interest within your website and much more. You can even tailor your ads based on the specific keywords someone used in their search to generate a better result.

SEO does not have that level of control.

Only pay when someone clicks on your ad

One of the biggest advantages with search engine ads is that you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ads. This means you won’t be wasting money showing your ad to people who aren’t potential customers.

Basically whenever you pay for the ads, you know that someone was definitely interested in what you offer!

Start and stop the campaign any time you want

Need a few extra bookings to fill up your schedule? You can run the ad campaign for a week, a day, or just an hour if you want to.

You have complete flexibility with when the ads run so you’re not having to commit to a long-term ad campaign.

The Disadvantages of SEM

There are a few drawbacks to SEM which can seem offputting, but they’re quite minimal.

You have to pay for the traffic

The most obvious disadvantage is that you have to pay for the ads, whereas SEO is often considered “free traffic”.

However if you have to pay for the SEO campaign to get to page 1, then that organic traffic isn’t really free is it.

In addition, you’re only ever paying for the ads when someone actually clicks on them which means it’s a very low waste activity.

When the budget runs out, the traffic stops

Naturally if you have no ad budget, then you won’t be displaying your ads anywhere. This is a downside compared to be ranked number 1 organically and receiving a constant stream of “free traffic”.

The majority of people don’t click on ads in search engines

As we pointed out before about 70% of people will avoid ads and only click on organic results, which means the remaining 30% of people are happy to click on the ads.

Some people don’t like this initially because they want to carve out the biggest slice of the pie possible.

“There are pros and cons to both methods, but I’m going to show you how to combine SEO & SEM for amazing results.”

But it’s important to remember that the remaining 30% of clicks most likely represents more customers than your business could ever possibly handle, so 30% of the pie is more than enough.

How To Combine SEO & SEM For A Power Combo

Ok, now that we’ve got a strong understanding of the pros and cons of both methods, how can we combine SEO & SEM to supercharge our search engine activities?

Step 1: Use SEO To Raise The Overall Volume Of Sales

Investing in SEO on a long-term basis means that ultimately, you should be able to achieve very strong organic rankings for your target keywords.

That means you should be capturing the lions share of that 70% slice of pie that I mentioned earlier.

This means you’ll see a dramatic increase in traffic every single month, however it will also amplify any seasonal effects you might encounter.

If your business has a slow season during the winter months, you’ll still experience that lull in traffic, just at a larger scale.

This is where SEM will save the day.

Step 2: Add SEM To Level Out Slow Periods

Obviously for cashflow, logistics and just general morale in our business we want to avoid big peaks and troughs of activity and instead achieve a nice steady flow throughout the year.

Setting up an SEM campaign can drive additional traffic which you may otherwise miss from your organic rankings because it allows you to target people who are searching using keywords you don’t currently rank for organically.

Take this popularity chart for whale watching on the Gold Coast.

Whale watching popularity over time
This chart represents the annual search popularity for whale watching. You can see a clear seasonal pattern which is dictated by the migration of the whales each year.

This is brilliant during the middle of the year, but December – March looks a little bit quiet.

Now lets take a look at the seasonal popularity of fishing charters on the Gold Coast.

Fishing charters popularity over time
As you can see, fishing charters have their seasonal busy periods at the perfect time. When whale watching is at a minimum.

So in order to level out the slow period, a whale watching business could run an SEM campaign to target fishing charters to top up their bookings.

Final thoughts

SEO and SEM are often considered totally separate activities, but when structured properly they can be used to create incredibly strong results, and allow businesses to grow with a high level of predictability.

About the author...
Stuart Brown
Stuart Brown
Stuart is the co-founder of Launch Experts. With 20 years of experience in the marketing industry, his primary focus is to break away from the traditional marketing agency model, ensuring clients get a positive return on investment from their marketing campaigns.