How SEO and SEM Work for Your Business

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are two different online marketing strategies. When combined, they deliver a punch that can help any business website attract more visitors and earn more revenue.

Here’s a look at how these two strategies work, how they can benefit your business, and the top strategies to use when combining them.

Learning How SEO and SEM Work for Your Business


SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference?

According to Digital Authority Partners (DAP), you can implement SEO and SEM strategies more effectively when you know what they are in the first place. Although they sound similar, they vary in these categories:

Method of Driving Traffic:

SEO uses organic approaches to drive website traffic over time. It requires keyword-rich content, search engine optimization, and excellent links. SEM uses paid advertisements (e.g., pay-per-click) to send traffic to your pages.


SEM is a paid digital marketing effort, so the budget is often significant. For example, in a PPC campaign, an ad click costs $0.30. If you get 10,000 clicks, that’s $3,000 for one keyword alone. SEO is not free, but many tools are, so it’s easier and “cheaper” to scale.


Paid ads offer faster results than SEO, which can take up to six months to work. Use SEM immediately to test new keywords or strategies while waiting for the longer-term benefits of SEO to play out. But the latter is more cost-effective in the long run. It builds your website’s credibility and trustworthiness with search engines.

SEO and SEM digital marketing strategies are not interchangeable. Although they each have different approaches, they share similar goals: to help businesses earn more revenue by driving traffic to their websites.

5 Ways to Combine SEO and SEM to Grow Your Business

When used correctly, SEO and SEM can be a powerful one-two punch that propels your business website to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Here’s a look at some of the top strategies to use:

1. Start With SEO:

Since SEO is more time-consuming, it makes sense to start it before you publish paid ads. Doing so also carries extra benefits.

For example, you can already optimize the pages before you promote them. The content is more impactful, valuable, and persuasive. You will not struggle to convert leads to customers.

SEO is broad and covers many elements, so to speed up the process, you can focus on the following in the beginning:

Keyword research: Brainstorm a list of relevant keywords that users might search for when looking for a business like yours. You can use free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to help you with this.

On-page optimization: It includes optimizing your website’s title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and images.

Build links: Linking to other websites and getting links from them in return helps improve your website’s ranking.

Focus on site architecture: A well-designed website structure makes it easier for search engine crawlers to index all your pages. Create a sitemap, use breadcrumb navigation, and make keyword-rich URLs.

2. Match SEO and SEM Campaigns With the Buyer’s Journey:

Most leads go through various stages before they buy. Your job is to ensure that you can continually push them deeper into the sales funnel with the right optimization strategies and paid ads.

For example, a lead in the awareness stage is still getting to know their problem and looking for information. By providing them with blog posts, articles, infographics, and other content types that answer their questions, SEO comes into play here.

Meanwhile, you can use PPC for remarketing. These ads target people who have visited your site but left without converting. The key is to create ad copy that speaks to their needs at that stage of the journey.

As leads move further down the funnel, they become more interested in your product. That’s when you can start bidding on branded keywords. For SEO, you can publish product pages and target long-tail keywords with high commercial intent.

3. Maximize Visual Assets for SEO and SEM:

Images, videos, and infographics are some of today’s most engaging content types. They deliver the highest click-through rates (CTRs) and conversions. They’re also effective in both SEO and PPC.

Here are the different ways to use them in your two campaigns:

Include alt text: Search engines can’t “see” images, so provide them with relevant information through alternative text (alt text). It is the description that appears when an image fails to load. Specify what the image is about and be as detailed as possible. For optimization, use target keywords but only when they sound natural.

Publish ads on video channels: You can use platforms like YouTube and Vimeo to host your videos and create PPC campaigns promoting them. Find the best video format and choose the ideal ad types. These include skippable in-stream ads, non-skippable in-stream ads, discovery ads, and bumper ads.

Optimize infographics for social media: Many find new infographics through social media. Post them on visual websites like Pinterest and Instagram to make the most of this. Optimize them with keywords and catchy descriptions. You can also create PPC ads that lead to these visual assets.

4. Use Local SEO and SEM to Promote Physical Stores:

These two marketing strategies are not only for e-commerce shops and affiliate sites. You can also implement them to bring customers to your physical store.

In fact, over the next year, at least 50% of consumers plan to search for a product online and buy it in a physical store. Meanwhile, around 30% of businesses would like to expand their store footprint.

How do you use local SEO and SEM to grow your brick-and-mortar shops? Here are some ideas:

Get listed in online directories: These include Google My Business, Yelp, and Foursquare. Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is consistent across all listings to avoid confusing search engine crawlers and users.

Publish location pages: Include relevant information about your store on these pages, like the products you offer, store hours, and directions. Optimize them with local keywords and make sure they’re mobile-friendly.

Create PPC location extension ads: These ads show your store’s address, phone number, and a link to directions. They appear on the SERP and help increase your CTR.

5. Measure and Analyze SEO and SEM Campaigns:

The final tip is to track your progress and analyze the data you’ve gathered. Doing so helps you assess your return on investment (ROI) and make the necessary changes to your strategy.

Know your metrics for each: Good SEO benchmarks include organic traffic, conversion rate, and SERP rankings. For PPC, track ad spends CTR, and quality score.

Monitor your progress using the tools: Google Analytics is a free and popular choice. So are other software options like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush, which often have more comprehensive features. They may have keyword and competitor analysis, a site audit, and a backlink checker, among other things. Paid ad platforms also have their own built-in reporting tools.

Conduct A/B testing: Try different versions of your ads and web pages to see which ones perform better. For example, you can test different headlines, descriptions, images, and calls-to-action (CTAs).

Summing Up

SEO and SEM are two of the most effective digital marketing strategies to grow your business. You can apply them by themselves or combine them into one comprehensive advertising plan to see positive results fast.

If you’re having trouble understanding your data or don’t know how to improve your campaigns, get professional help. A marketing agency specializing in SEO and SEM can give you the guidance you need.