Since beginning my career in search, the industry has chopped, changed and thrown me a number of curveballs that have challenged and forced me adapt. Through it all though my eagerness to learn both sides of the search spectrum has taught me the areas in which SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can work together in an integrated way. With all the recent shifts and changes in search, having a strategic and integrated approach can really be the difference between a good and great search program.
When working on a search program, be it SEO or SEM, we always ask the same three questions:
- Who is our target audience?
- What is the unique service offering we are promoting?
- How are we going to track success?
In getting the answers to the above questions, it’s important to understand what each team is doing, so both are working towards the same goal. Here are some highlights of how having both strategies working together can benefit your overall online objectives.
SEM & SEO: Partners in Information
One of the biggest areas in which SEO and SEM work together is in the beginning stages of each program, SEM is the perfect testing and information gathering ground for SEO. SEO strategists have the option to examine how keywords are performing from a conversion perspective from the get go, which helps plan out the execution of an SEO campaign to ensure we are appearing in the organic SERPs for the keywords we KNOW will produce a positive ROI. In turn, SEM is bringing in the lead volume on a consistent basis until a point where we start to see a positive shift in organic.
Better Together For Your Click through Rate
A number of case studies have been done to prove that, despite what some may think, organic visits do not act as a substitute or replacement for having a paid search program running. In fact in an experiment done by Mark Meyerson on the MOZ blog he found that he saw a 26% click through rate when SEM and SEO were displayed together and 19% when his paid search program was off. Similarly in a recent Google study they found that having an associated organic search result in rank one does not necessarily mean a low ad click. On average, 50% of the ad clicks that occurred with a top rank organic result were incremental, compared to 100% of the ad clicks being incremental in the absence of an associated organic result. The message here is simple, if you chose one and not the other you are missing out on traffic either way.
Reporting: Digital Attribution
Digital Marketing is a tricky beast sometimes, not only will you be looking at search, but most companies will have display, social and email marketing parameters to their campaigns. This is why attribution model reporting is so vital now especially within search. You want to present the whole picture when reporting, not just singled out parts of it. Also from a strategic side, when you look at both campaigns performance in Google Analytics and other web management tools you see patterns, keywords that work on one side of search not the other, and pages on the site that users are not interacting with. It’s not just for accuracy of reporting anymore, it also helps with our growth and optimization strategies.
The above is really only the tip of the iceberg. I would encourage all digital marketers and strategist to examine how their search programs can work together to create true search integration. This is something that has always been a priority for me since the early stages of my career.