What role does SEM play in an effective SEO Strategy?

Some businesses choose to run SEO and SEM campaigns separately, particularly those who outsource their SEO and SEM services to a vendor or vendors outside of the company.  I believe that this is a strategic mistake.

SEM can be expensive, and it my mind it is necessary to manage pay-per-click bids and expenses as much as possible. The most effective way to do this is to use SEO and SEM information together to make decisions.  This approach results in greater search visibility, insights into strategic direction, and crucial page optimization information.

Search Visibility

Most companies that run SEM campaigns know that the primary purpose of the search marketing campaign is to get a website to appear on the first page of search results without having achieved competitive search optimization in the organic listings.  Another compelling argument is to appear in search results for highly competitive short keyword phrases, or competitor brand names.

This is true, and it can be used for a brand new site, a brand new product, or a new batch of keywords and landing pages.  It is important to keep this purpose in mind as being only temporary. SEM is not the final step, but the first step toward gaining search visibility.

Strategic Direction

Once the initial “visibility” phase of SEM has been established, the back end analytics provided by Google Adwords and Microsoft AdCenter offer additional value.

These analytics will provide key information including:

  • Keywords that get the most impressions
  • Keywords that get the most clicks
  • Keywords that get the most conversions
  • Keywords that cost the most money

Of course, the analytical information can be used to know whether tweaking of target keywords, tweaking of ad copy, or tweaking of landing pages are called for in any SEM campaign, and I won’t delve into this here.

What I’m looking at is SEM information that’s useful for SEO campaigns.  Hone in first on the keywords that are costing the company the most money. If organic search can be optimized for those keywords, there is an instant payoff.    Next, check out the top performing keywords – the ones that get a lot of impressions and a lot of clicks. Those are the next target for organic search and site optimization.

Use the SEM results as a guide to reflect what target customers are truly searching prior to embarking upon a major SEO campaign.

Page Optimization

Finally, Search Engine Marketing is a great tool to help SEO consultants and content managers understand how to best optimize the landing pages.

From the way SEM visitors behave on the website, it’s possible to understand how customers are using the landing pages.  By performing A/B testing on the landing pages, it’s possible to test everything from the content on the site to the color of conversion buttons.

The Google Quality Score is also impacted by the keyword match and basic content of the landing page identified. By optimizing landing pages for enhanced SEM value, it’s possible to also enhance their SEO worth at the same time!

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