How SEO & SEM Complement

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine marketing have become an integral part of the internet and digital marketing. Both sound almost similar, but they are really not. However, they work together and share a common goal. Contrary to the belief that SEO and SEM are independent, the term to call them is “complementary” as you get optimum results when combining both processes. When it comes to both methods, the point of discussion should be how we can use them together rather than which one is better for marketing.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization uses several techniques to improve the visibility of a website, which means improving a website’s rank on search engine results page (SERP). The basic idea behind using SEO as a marketing tool is that search engines are the most used tools online today. Google, the leading search engine, processes about 2 trillion searches per year, and it accounts for the majority of online searches. The goal of marketing is to be available to your prospects where they need you and what this means for SEO is if you can rank on SERP when your prospects search for something you’re offering, you get direct conversion.

Ranking on SERP is, however, very competitive, and because it’s an organic process(it does not require paying for it), it’s a level ground for competitors to hone their technique. SEO requires a number of on-page and off-page techniques to be effective. Search engines crawl the web using spiders and robots to find materials online. Answers are provided to queries based on relevancy and authoritativeness of the website crawled. 

Search engines rank results based on quality. Some of the criteria used include keyword frequency, backlinks, readability, and a few technical features concerning the website like loading speed and usability.

What is SEM

Search Engine Marketing has little SEO, but the overall focus is on getting traffic and visibility via organic and paid search. When you make a query on Google, you’ll find out that Google search results are sectioned into two categories: the paid search results on top with the “ad tag” followed by the organic search results. SEM is essentially SEO plus PPC (pay per click). PPC is a simple model of advertising where advertisers have to pay for every click from search engines. But these days, paid advert is beyond PPC; there are several other paid ads like paid search ads, CPC, and CPM. SEM encompasses all.

With SEM, the ads come in various formats. Some are text-based ads, whereas others, like product listing ads, may appear as visuals— product-based advertisements that transmit important information to a consumer at a glance. The greatest strength of SEM is that it offers advertisers the opportunity to occupy the top of the page. It’s not as competitive, and it just places you directly in front of ready-to-buy customers. This is why it is unrivaled as the most effective advertising medium. 

SEM is the umbrella term for all marketing that involves the use of search engines, and organic identifies as SEO. 

How SEO and SEM Work Together

Marketing is so effective when you combine SEO and SEM. SEM already sounds like it covers SEO, but it doesn’t. SEM requires that you target a certain keyword for visibility on search engines, but that’s as far as SEM goes with SEO. The rest of the effort is covered by paid adverts. Combining both methods means that you should optimize your website as if you will not pay for adverts.

SEO and SEM are complementary. People only choose which one to use depending on what their specific goal is. If you’re looking for long-term traffic, SEO is the perfect go-to, while SEM only provides short-term visibility, and you disappear as soon as you stop payment. SEM could complement your marketing strategy if you have strong organic visibility.

Additionally, SEM provides exclusive insights that could supercharge your SEO approach. Insights you get relating to expected conversion rate, keyword performance, and estimates around traffic opportunities could be the bedrock for your SEO.

Combining both methods allows you to remarket previous campaigns and contents to customers that SEO alone did not reach. Besides, why opt for one when you can appear on both the ad space and organic listings on SERPs?

Scaling Above Competitors

The paid ad space may not be as competitive as organic listings, but your competitors are also aware of ways to beat your SERP placements. You’ll scale above your competitors by studying them. Use research toolkits to understand their search engine marketing process. You can analyze their organic research, keyword gap, backlink details, and position tracking. Knowing what they do places you in a better position to beat their strategy.


SEO and SEM are often seen as two different marketing strategies. Maybe they are, maybe they are not; it is up to you as an advertiser to understand the point where both methods cross. It will aid your wider marketing strategy and how to use both to gain competitive advantage and drive success effectively.

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