6 Reasons Why SEM And SEO Should Go Hand In Hand
Oct 2012 29

Which First? SEM or SEO?

An age old question often asked – should I go SEO first? or SEM first?
Let me ask you another question – does the chicken comes first or the egg?
There’s no right or wrong answer, it very much depends on your scenario.

Chicken First Or The Egg?

The answer depends on 2 criteria, the stage your business is in and your business objectives.
A new business needing a fast turnover can’t rely on the long term benefits of SEO.
A digital veteran well optimized for the Google search engine might not (critically) need SEM.
Do they still need SEO/SEM? Yes they sure do, but it won’t be a priority for now, However, it should definitely be somewhere in the pipeline.

Why do I need SEO when I am already doing SEM – vice versa?

Similar to the current USA presidential election, there are 2 camps of supporters, 1 for Obama and the other for Romney. Among search marketers, there are 2 camps as well – 1 that believes in a direct relationship between SEM and SEO, while the other staunchly deny of such a relationship between the 2.
I am an advocate of the former and I will offer 6 reasons why, in a logical manner.

Positive influence of SEM on SEO.

1. Increase Social Sharing Opportunities.
For a new business, it’s important to gain a good flow of traffic to the website. What better way to do this than through a SEM campaign? Done right, it will bring about a significant increase traffic which in turn will increase opportunity for social sharing.

2. Better On-site Engagement.
Sending paid search to a specific page is a good way to test user engagement. Do users bounce off (Bounce rate)? Do they stay on a specific page for a long time (Time on page)? Or do they visit other related content on the website (pageview)? Good if they are, you will then know you are on the right track.
If they are not, there’s positivity in knowing that you need to revise your content strategy and draft out more engaging articles.

Positive influence of SEO on SEM.

3. Higher Quality Score Through Quality Targeted Content.
Fresh, well-written, unique content with substantial quality is often one of the key to successful SEO. Availability of such contents is a god-send for many PPC marketers.
Google regularly reviews co-relationship between keywords and landing page’s content.
Targeted content (and I don’t mean keyword stuffing) will no doubt play a part in the consideration for a better quality score which ultimately will lower the cost of your PPC campaigns.

4. Higher Quality Score Through Faster Landing Page Speed.
Let’s say you are a Singapore business targeting the local audience, a .sg or .com.sg top level domain (TLD), hosted in Singapore will earn you more goody points from the Google-in-laws compared to say a .com hosted in USA.
In recent years, a higher weightage had been emphasized on landing page speed for SEO. The same goes for SEM.
A slow page speed will get a poorer quality score and vice versa.
Why the fuss on landing page speed you might ask?
Will you wait for a page that takes 30 seconds to load?
Now I ask you.

Complementary influence of SEO on SEM and vice versa.

5. 28.6% Ownership of Results Above The Fold.
On Google’s SERP, there are 7 results above the fold, 2 organic and 5 paid.
With a silo-ed SEO or SEM effort, you can at best appear for 1 of the 7 results. With SEO and SEM working hand-in-hand, you can have ideally appear for 2 of the 7 results.
Would you prefer a 14.3% of getting a click or a 28.6% at that?

6. More Trust and Higher Credibility To Your Brand/Business.
Studies had shown that a higher occurrence of a result on Google’s SERP can lead to more trust and higher credibility on the brand/business.
If a consumer trust you more over your competitors, wouldn’t it be easier to convert for you?

SEM And SEO Should Go Hand In Hand.

There’s more good than bad (ok, I can’t think of anything bad) having SEM and SEO in tandem.
To achieve the best result, SEM and/or SEO should never be a silo-ed effort. Instead they should be conducted concurrently, one complementing the shortfall of the other and maximizing the potential of your search efforts.

If only one can be done, choose one that best fit your objective. Keep your objective to one, the most critical one. This will help make deciding between SEM/SEO an easier process.

Never ever forget the other, it can start later but never never.

PS: I would love to hear opinions from both camps. Do drop me your comment and let’s get the dicussion


  1. Sameer Saxena says:

    Totally Agree With Sam. SEM & SEO both are just act like two sides of a same coin but have different practices to make more earn independently. For a new start business, SEM will provide good results in terms of goal decided by the Campaign Manager/Client’s specification. W/ this, SEM is very beneficial for branding Purpose. As we know, Google has changed algos which results in lost of Rank for top existing sites. SEO activity is a long term activity to give a presence of a newcomer. But after spending time on SEM, we can easily get the list of performing keywords n will implement for SEO activities to get a good rank.

    So on my behalf, SEO & SEM works great together.

    • Samuel Goh

      Hi Sameer, thanks for sharing your thoughts and agreeing with my perspective.
      SEM does provide a very good avenue for new business to get on the advertising wagon effectively. I was about to say cheaply, but is it still consider cheap? The tough part is not to show results but more to managing the client’s expectation of the potential results. That being said, SEM is more of a pull mechanism which typically is more inferior to say, display advertising, as a branding platform.
      SEM can definitely aid in SEO keyword research no doubt.

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