SEO & SEM: A Symbiotic Strategy

June 3, 2022

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Search Engine Synergy

At Orchard, we don’t look at SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimization) through an either/or lens. Instead, we see them as two crucial, complementary components of your overarching marketing strategy.

When you start looking at these two initiatives as interlocking pieces of the same puzzle, a new, more complete picture will begin to materialize.

SEO + SEM = Search Engine Experience

While SEO is purely organic and SEM is purely paid, search engines reward paid ads that are directed to SEO-friendly websites. In other words, for your SEM investments to flourish, you need a healthy and well-maintained SEO strategy.

Just as a workout routine is more effective when you incorporate both cardio and strength training, your marketing strategy is more likely to succeed when you combine the distinct outputs of SEO and SEM. SEO impact and timing are long-term, while SEM allows for faster, shorter-term results. Leveraging SEM best practices and regular optimization allows for quick gains, and ongoing SEO investment sustains long-term prosperity.

The symbiotic application of SEM and SEO is increasingly referred to as “Search Engine Experience.” Along with related conventions User Experience (UX), Interaction Experience (IX), and Customer Experience (CX), Google favors websites that follow this principle.

The Pros of SEO

SEO is considered one of the most effective means of catching prospective customers at opportune moments. Organic Search is one of the top channels when it comes to User Acquisition, making it a crucial part of your brand’s strategy.

Because the aspiration of Google and other search engines is to provide Users with what they’re looking for as quickly and efficiently as possible, UX strength is typically synonymous with SEO strength. The more a website can deliver on the promise of a search, the better.

SEM Strengths

SEM has the benefit of being a space in which anyone can play. As long as you have a budget and a means of launching a campaign, you can get SEM efforts up and running. On top of this, SEM typically yields fast, short-term results. A short-term strategy works well for driving traffic to your website, getting your brand in front of new eyes, and capturing a lot of data in very little time.

It’s important to note that SEM tends to “fill” the middle of the advertising funnel. SEM often falls under Consideration, which is more focused than Awareness but still broader than Remarketing and Lookalike Audiences.

1 + 1 = 3

You’ve probably heard of the “1 + 1 = 3” concept in marketing, and the theory absolutely applies here. If you combined the results of an SEM-only strategy and an SEO-only strategy, the total traffic would be less than what you’ll see when both strategies are activated simultaneously for the same search query.

This phenomenon can be chalked up to incrementality, or a lift in performance thanks to the output of another marketing activity. Activating SEO and SEM creates an opportunity for two complementing forces you wouldn’t see by employing only one channel or the other.

Whether the math makes sense or not, it’s clear that these strategies work best when they’re working together…and that all adds up to increased propensity for success for your brand.

The Halo Effect

What we hope you’ll take away from this is that when you bid on SEM terms without optimizing on the Organic side or focus on SEO without investing in paid marketing, you’re leaving opportunities on the table.

If you’re still skeptical about leveraging the two channels together, we recommend testing the theory out for yourself by following these steps:

  • Align on business goals
  • Solidify a measurement and tracking process
  • Measure performance with Organic + Paid on
  • Pause Paid, monitor & measure results

At Orchard, we truly believe in the power of incrementality, or the “Halo Effect.” Employing a multi-channel marketing strategy is one of the many ways we guide our clients to success, and we hope you’ll give it a try.

Note: To maximize the benefits of your SEM and SEO efforts, it’s important to put time into your website. If you’re curious to learn more about the positive impact of User focus on website design, read our post on The Halo Effect of User Experience.

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