SEO? SEM? Why Not Both?!

SEO? SEM? Why Not Both?!


In today's rapidly changing, hyper-competitive world of online marketing, it's easy to get caught up in chasing the last “miracle cure”, “shiny object” or “magic bullet” we think will solve all our marketing problems and bring a flood of new customers to our virtual doorstep.  We often become so obsessed in seeking a single “one size fits all” solution that we forget we need to focus on developing a marketing strategy first and then work on plugging in the tools and tactics to make that strategy succeed.

The Bottom Line

In order for our online marketing efforts to succeed, we need traffic, but in the mad rush to get traffic, many marketers focus on trying to find and implement one and only one tool when what they need is not a single magic bullet, but a well-stocked “marketing toolkit”. That's right, we almost always need to use more than one tool to reach our objectives.

We are constantly hearing about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Because of their obsession in finding one “magic bullet” solution, many marketers think of these as being mutually exclusive – like they should be focusing on only one or the other. This approach is very short-sighted.

SEO And SEM – Complementary. Not Competitors

Don't think of SEO and SEM as competitors; instead, think of them as complementing each other. Instead of focusing on using one or the other, most marketers would be wise to implement a strategy that used both SEO and SEM together. Done right, this can create a synergy that skyrockets the amount of exposure for and traffic to your website. More on this in a moment, but first, let's define these terms.

According to,

“SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or unpaid ("organic") search results”.

According to,

“SEM is the process of gaining traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. It is also called paid search and sometimes referred to as CPC (cost-per-click) or PPC (pay-per-click) marketing, because most search ads are sold on a CPC / PPC basis.”

Both SEO and SEM use keywords to drive traffic to a webpage. Like we discussed a moment ago, SEO and SEM should not be viewed as competing tactics, but rather as complimentary. They can be used together in a strongly synergistic fashion that can help online marketers reach their traffic goals, short-term and long-term.

This is important. In our quest to drive traffic to our websites in order generate leads and ultimately sales, we need traffic now (in the short term) and on an ongoing regular basis long-term. This is how SEO and SEM can be beautifully used together. SEO can be very effective for driving traffic, but results don't happen overnight. SEO takes an ongoing commitment in order to be successful. It often takes several months or longer for SEO to generate significant levels of traffic.

On the other hand, SEM can produce results almost immediately. It's not free ( it's often very expensive), but it can help you drive large amounts of traffic to your site while you're waiting for the results of your SEO campaign to kick in.

Think of SEO as your long-term “bedrock” traffic tool, and think of SEM as a short-term, supplemental traffic tool with a potential immediate return.

Both SEO and SEM use keywords to drive traffic to a webpage

Quick Tip: 

 To get the maximum degree of traffic and exposure possible, use SEO to gain traffic for your most important keywords and SEM for your additional keywords, rather than using each for the exact same search terms.

Once your SEO campaign is showing results, using SEO and SEM in tandem can sometimes lead to a powerful result, one where you can benefit from the very happy situation of having searchers for your keywords see search engine results pages (SERPs) with multiple links (both paid and free or “organic”) to your website. This results in a much higher likelihood that the searcher will visit your website!

Since visitors to Google and other search engines use keywords to help them find the types of pages they are looking for, it's important that you regularly do keyword research to find out what keywords they are searching with and how you rank for those terms.

Again, SEO and SEM can work together beautifully here. SEM is more advantageous than SEO for driving traffic from highly competitive keywords, and you don't have to use the exact same keyword choices in each one. By strategically using SEO and SEM together and doing smart keyword research through a solution like Google's AdWords Keyword tool, you can maximize traffic to your site.

Drawbacks to SEO and SEM and how to overcome them

Drawbacks to SEO and SEM and how to overcome them

Let's face it. SEO, like we mentioned earlier, isn't a website traffic “quick fix”. It takes time, dedicated effort and a systematic approach to get results. For small companies without a dedicated SEO staff, giving SEO the attention it needs to be successful can be very difficult. It can take precious time away from other critical business activities.

SEO may seem simple, and it is less complex than SEM, but such companies may want to consider investing in the services of a professional firm to help design and implement an SEO strategy.

SEM has drawbacks and disadvantages that must be considered as well. SEM/PPC campaigns are expensive, often extremely expensive. There are monthly maintenance fees to consider and site owners must pay for every click, regardless of whether or not the site visitors makes a purchase. The more competitive and popular the keywords used in the campaign, the more expensive they will be.

If keywords aren't carefully and wisely chosen, an SEM campaign can quickly become cost prohibitive with little or no return on investment.

Paying for SEM is much like paying rent every month. Once you quit paying, the traffic stops. With a long-term, strategically sound SEO program, on the other hand, you are building search “equity”, much like you would if you were purchasing a home and making mortgage payments for several years.

SEO success requires you engage in a long-term strategy. The potential benefit - a consistently high volume of traffic can be very nice, though! Once a longer-term level of SEO success is accomplished, you may want to curtail or stop SEM, or use it briefly and only on occasion for specific, targeted purposes like the launch of a new product.

Also, SEM campaigns can become overwhelming complex and difficult to manage. If a company doesn't have professional, experienced SEM experts to handle its PPC campaigns, they'll probably want to consider hiring an outside firm to help them.

Yes, there are potential drawbacks and downfalls to both SEO and SEM. Don't let these stop you from investing in these potentially very useful traffic generation tools. Invest in the services of very capable, highly experienced search professionals (either in-house employees or outside consulting firms) if you or your staff don't have the skills or time to handle these critical activities yourself.

A word of warning: Be very careful which SEO or SEM firm you hire. Avoid any firm that seems shady or “fly-by-night”. Avoid any company that promises your webpage will be ranked on the first page of search results. Insist on seeing verified results of their work with previous clients.


Despite the potential drawbacks, expense and difficulty, SEO and SEM/PPC can pay substantial dividends for firms that invest in them and make the effort to see them succeed. Leveraged together, SEO and SEM can be a truly powerful traffic generating combination. Companies, especially those just getting started in the search traffic game, should consider using them both – SEM for short-term traffic and SEO for a longer-term traffic strategy.

Please be aware of this: Your site has to be ready for the visitors you drive to it through your SEO and SEM efforts. It's critically important that your traffic convert, that a significant percentage of the visitors to your site take the action you want them to take – the action you had in mind when you set up your SEO and SEM-based traffic strategy.

You can get all the traffic in the world, but if it doesn't convert, it's useless to you. You've then wasted a lot of time, effort and money driving traffic to your site. And for what purpose? Lots of companies make a serious mistakes and fall short here. Please don't be one of them!

Yes, getting traffic to your site is critical. But conversion is even more important. That's when apps like ours appears to help you with your conversions.  For example, for your PPC Campaign you'll need a Landing Page, but if don't have one, don't worry you can build one in simple way with Lander. Create your account for free! 

Our next article will cover strategies related to conversion – steps you can take (once you've flooded your site with traffic) to get a large percentage of those visitors to buy from your company!