How I (And You Can) Effectively Combine SEO and SEM for Marketing Success

Victor Eduoh
Sep 12, 2017 · 8 min read
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In your overall digital marketing mix, you need a combination of SEO and SEM to be successful.

Some people wrongly believe that because organic search traffic is free, they can be obtained for free.

If you’re one of such people, please do yourself a favor and laugh it off.

Because with greater, and greater emphasis being laid on valuable content creation and promotion — which is expensive, it cost real money to show up organically on favorable positions on the SERP’s.

Hence, SEO — Search Engine Optimization, isn’t cheap. Neither is it free. It demands proactive content marketing implementation.

On the other hand, SEM — Search Engine Marketing, cannot be relied upon if you hope to build trust with your customers, build invaluable Inbound links, or establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Therefore, the best, and by far, most effective route to take is to strike a balance between SEO and SEM. And fully implement both in your digital marketing strategy.

So, how do you strike such balance?

Or, how do you effectively use SEO to attract Inbound leads, while also appearing for prospects in the “I-want-to-buy” moments, as explained by Google’s micro-moments?

Just hang on with me until the end, for this article would show you how.

By concentrating on SEO and SEM, the total focus here is on search engines.

Luckily for digital marketers, almost every innovative business is switching to adopting digital marketing as the primary marketing consideration.

No disrespect to traditional marketing, but apparently, it is fast becoming secondary to digital marketing in most companys’ overall marketing mix.

I took a step back to address this point because, while you may not encounter any difficulty getting your digital marketing budget approved, it equally means that you must deliver results.

Like the old saying, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

And to deliver results, you need a combination of SEO and SEM.

You cannot neglect anyone of the two. If you do, you may fail with your digital marketing efforts.

Once your digital marketing budget has been approved, with KPI’s and goals clearly defined for you, the only thing — in most cases, which your C-level, and high ranking executives wants to see are results.

Therefore, you must return to your drawing board, and start mapping out how best to achieve your goals using both SEO and SEM.

Mind you, while both of them are important individually, the way you apply each, and the attention, or budget you allocate to each depends on your goals and market situation.

For example, if your company just launched an SEO Webtool, you don’t expect to immediately outrank MOZ on the SERP’s organically.

While you shouldn’t abandon all of your SEO efforts in that regard however, more attention, in such situation should be given to, and would be more rewarding with SEM.

As a smart digital marketer, or business owner, you want a positive ROI.

Obviously, it’s the only thing your executives, or yourself would appraise, and call successful.

Starting out, you must decide what magnitude of motion to be applied on each, focusing exclusively on the goals and KPI’s that matters the most.

Under normal circumstances, I believe it takes about six months to start getting noticeable traction, and start showing up organically on good positions on the SERP’s.

Which means if you’re jumping on a clean SEO slate, you should have that in mind, and strategize on how you’d account for your budget using SEM.

However, primary to both SEO and SEM success is keywords research, and customer personas.

You cannot achieve tangible results neglecting any of the above two.

Because whether your business prospects are just browsing for information, or have one hand gripped on their wallets, its likely they’d be using the same keywords in their search queries.

And of course, their personas — which is who they are, won’t change irrespective of what they are looking to accomplish.

Therefore, to ensure you successfully apply both SEO and SEM, here are some steps you should take.

I used these very same strategies for a small project, even though I’m yet to arrive at my target goals, the results have been very impressive.

  • Clearly define and create your customer personas.
  • Carry out a comprehensive, and competitive keywords research.
  • Separate, and arrange your gathered keywords in descending order of difficulty.
  • Assign more difficult keywords to SEM (normally exact match, one-word and short phrases), and less difficult (or long-tail) keywords to SEO.
  • Watch, observe, rinse, and repeat what’s working, or what’s likely to work better going forward.

Define Your Customer Personas

If you call yourself a digital marketer, its unpardonable if you don’t know, or haven’t clearly defined your customer personas.

It is also wrong to apply any kind of generic attributions when defining your customer personas.

The success, or failure of your business using digital marketing hinges on your ability to know who you’re trying to sell to.

Remember, digital marketing is a two way conversation marketing process. You present your marketing solutions through the messages you publish online, while your target audience — or potential customers, identifies with you because you speak a language they understand.

So if your customers are speaking French, and you’re trying to tell them the benefits of your products, or how it can solve their problems in German, forget it, you’d fail even before you start.

Again, identifying and creating your customer personas ensures you present your products or services marketing message in the form or format they’d love to consume, and delivered timely at the places they hang out.

If you’re yet to create your customer personas, or don’t know how to, please read here how to create customer personas.

Keywords Research

Once you’re settled creating personas for your business, you then have to proceed to finding the words they use in searching for information online.

These search queries are the keywords both your SEO and SEM efforts has to show up for.

You have to carry out a comprehensive keywords research, and I’d also recommend you equally do a competitor keywords research.

First, the comprehensive approach would reveal to you keywords that are relevant in your industry as used by your customer personas, and secondly, a competitor keywords research would reveal the keywords your competitors are currently ranking for.

Both comprehensive keywords research, and competitive keywords research for outranking your competitors are two huge topics on its own.

Later, in a more convenient time, click on the hyperlinks above to read more about them.

Arrange Your Gathered Keywords

Once you’ve mined those keywords, the next thing is to open a spreadsheet and arrange them in descending order according to the difficulty of ranking each.

Normally, exact match (which are short — usually one word or two-word phrases) and broad match keywords are usually more difficult to rank for.

Hence, these keywords (or any with high ranking difficulty) should be placed at the top.

On the other hand, exact match keywords formed by long-tail phrases are less difficult to rank for. You can place these once lower in your columns.

Most importantly, remember all these efforts are driven towards one thing: attract, convert, close and delight customers.

I must add here that no single guide can get the job done for you. As a digital marketer, you may be given free tips to fall back on, however, you must be very intuitive and proactive.

In essence, you must make a decision, and take actions based on some educated information gathered from creating your customer personas, carrying out keywords research and sorting those keywords in their order of ranking difficulty.

Assign Keywords to SEO and SEM

In my case, and in the situation at hand, I attempted to show up on the SERP’s using SEM for keywords that are more difficult to rank for.

I concentrated on attending to easier to rank keywords using SEO.

This cannot be relied upon as the best strategy, you’d have to decide what is best in your case.

However, below are the reasons why I took my decisions. I state them here not to restrict you, but to help you as a guide.

  • I needed to start showing up on the SERP’s for people who were willing and ready to buy. SEO would not give me that at the instant, so I turned to SEM using CPC, and CPA campaigns.
  • I knew that with a great ad, quality landing page and optimal bidding strategy, I could challenge competitors, and hopefully win the Google auctions.
  • With such campaigns, I ensured my business showed up, and was there for the Google’s “I-want-to-buy,” and “I-want-to-do” micro-moments.
  • I knew from research and industry standards that I can’t immediately start showing up organically in the SERP’s until after some months of intentional efforts. So I resolved to tackle keywords with lower ranking difficulty using SEO.
  • To ensure I have valuable contents, which can be distributed across other digital platforms, earn Inbound links, and help my business to be there in the Google’s “I-want-to-know,” and “I-want-to-go” micro-moments, SEO contents, which was created to be very valuable contents came handy.

Watch, Analyze, Rinse and Scale-Up

This is the most important stage when you’re looking to combine SEO and SEM for a successful digital marketing effort.

Even though you make some mistakes on how you assign your keywords to either SEO or SEM, a proper monitoring and analyzing of your campaigns should help you make proactive decisions.

If for some strange reasons you start showing up organically on the SERP’s earlier than you projected, then you should apply more efforts to SEO.

If your SEM campaigns beat the targets, great job. Apparently, you’d be getting some pats on your back.

However, if everything seem to be falling out of place, don’t panic, the faults and corrections should be more closer to you than they appear to be with the campaigns or the systems.

Find them, fix them. Or, were you expecting digital marketing to be a stroll in the park?

Digital marketing can actually be a stroll in the park, but for such to happen, you must have done your job effectively.

My definition of effectively means that you base everything you do, or intend to do on real research data and some educated assumptions.


Always strive to get a fitting balance when applying both SEO and SEM to your digital marketing strategy.

There is no template called “fitting balance,” which you can rely upon, instead that balance has to, and must be decided by you.

The only thing that remains constant is that you must produce a positive ROI on your approved digital marketing budget to remain in business.

It’s not rocket science, so you too can do it. But where you can’t, or don’t have the time to spare carrying out the invaluable research required, feel free to contact me.

Else, good luck as you look to successfully combine SEO and SEM to your digital marketing strategy success.

And Wait! Don’t forget to give this article some claps. Thanks.

Victor Eduoh

Written by

I love life, people, and my country-🇳🇬. Then, I'm a multi-disciplinary growth marketer poised on growing businesses @

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