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How Should I Think About SEO and Paid Search in Tandem?

As SaaS marketers, we know that there are many tools we have at our disposal to increase our brand’s visibility and generate more leads. However, it can be hard to understand the particular strengths and weaknesses of certain channels. When looking at SEO and paid search, what are their different uses and how can they work together?

What is SEM?

SEM is short for search engine marketing and is used as an umbrella term for all marketing activities involving search engines. You can split SEM into both the organic search and the paid search channels.

What is the difference between SEO vs. SEM? SEO refers to organic search results, and paid search refers to paid advertisements that appear in search results. When you see results labeled as sponsored ads, these come from paid search campaigns. All other results are organic search results that climbed the rankings using SEO strategies.

How SEO and Paid Search Work Together

Going back to the original definition for SEM, you can think of SEO and paid search as two sides of the same coin. So how can you create a complete SEM strategy using both the organic and paid channels? It all depends on your overall strategy.

There are sometimes keywords that are so important for you that you do not have time to wait for your content to rank organically. This could be a keyword related to your specific product or the industry your software is in. Whatever it is, you know that you need to have that traffic. Paid search can be used as a temporary solution to gain visibility for crucial keywords that you aren’t yet ranking for through SEO content. This means you can pay for ads specific to that keyword until you’ve got the content and relevancy needed to rank well for those keywords.

When an organic result finally ranks high for an important keyword where you were spending ad budget, you may want to keep both results still. Occupying as much real estate as possible at the top of a search result may be worth it if the keyword is valuable enough. It can be a powerful dynamic to have two pages at the top of a result, but monitor your ad spending to make sure your ROI is improved by including the paid result.

Because paid search can be very expensive, it sometimes doesn’t make sense from an ROI standpoint to continue using it once you have set up the organic search for that keyword. These keywords may be higher funnel where users are just trying to find out more about a topic in your industry, but they may not be ready to make purchasing decisions. It is still important to appear in these results with content that educates users on the topic and educates them about your solution. In these cases, publish SEO performance content to start ranking where it doesn’t make sense to pay for ads.


As you can see, both the paid search and organic search channels can be used in conjunction with each other to get the most out of search engine traffic. Your strategic conversations for SEO and paid search should be tied closely together so your marketing budget gets spent efficiently and you maximize the demand generated through search engine marketing.

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