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SEO and SEM should work together, right? We all know that we don’t market in a vacuum, and there is a ton of value for those of us in search to collaborate and dominate our clients’ most important results pages.
But let’s be honest, there’s a divide between paid and organic search, and it goes beyond the little “ad” labels at the top of the page. We all talk about making your marketing work together, but most SEOs and PPC-ers don’t know when and where to tee-up an opportunity to the other side of the SERP, and it’s costing us -- and our clients -- a lot.
That’s why we put together these guides. We wanted to cover some scenarios in which it makes sense to put our marketing heads together to just plain win.
In this article, we’re talking to the SEOs of the world. We’re going to outline common headaches that paid media can help fix in the short term and over the long term. If your focus is already paid media, feel free to also check out our other guide to common PPC problems that SEO can help remedy.
Competitive Brand Searches
Brand search is a critical source of traffic for any company. It goes without saying (but here I go saying it): your brand should show up when people search for it. When your competitors are advertising on your terms, you miss out on those users and that revenue.
On the organic side, there’s not a lot you can do to combat that. If there’s a block of ads on the top of the page, you’ll be hard pressed to make content that can rank above it. And it might be time to bring in your paid team.
Brand search gets a lot of flack, but it’s a competitive play above all. Yes, these users aren’t always incremental. That said, if you have a lot of competition for your brand terms, the spillover effects of brand search can increase organic users as well. By bidding on your own terms, you are warding off anyone who would dare to steal your customers, which leaves more for you.
Image: Paid and Organic Brand search results for S’well, a water bottle company who competes organically with merriam-webster and other domains for the term "Swell."
Break Into Striking Distance SERPs
There are search terms out there that we can rank for with a little work. We can update our content or build out new pages completely. That takes time, and in the short-term, you’ll miss out on all those users.
Your SEM team can help secure your presence on these pages with some strategic campaigns, built to target groups of striking-distance keywords. As your presence on these terms grows, you can throttle spend back, or target new opportunities.
This tactic uses paid media to hold your place, and it can keep your brand top-of-mind at the top-of-the-page in a dynamic process that focuses on attracting users from SERPs where you don’t yet have a solid organic rank.
Lock Down Your Hub and Spoke Content Strategy
You’ve got the research, and by all measures, your content should be crushing it in the rankings. But for some reason, you just can’t secure one of those top listings without a competitor swooping in and stealing your place.
You can -- and should -- keep updating your content to make it as relevant and informative as possible, but to really get a lock on your best-bet keywords, you might want to come over to the paid side.
Your content hubs and spokes make for a great template for campaigns and ad groups. If you’ve got a page you want to rank, bidding on your “spoke” keywords can increase your presence on those SERPs and give you an edge that your competition might be missing.
Stalled Rankings For High-Value Terms
Sometimes your technical updates and content refreshes just don’t cut it, and you can’t seem to move up. With enough time, you could dive deep into linking pages, you could restructure, or you could make any number of other tweaks. But there’s no guarantee that will work, and these are really important searches we’re talking about.
Enter, you guessed it, the SEM team. Similar to the striking distance keywords, targeting stalled keywords is another way to hold you over while you make the updates needed to boost your rankings. Once you rank, an always-on effort to target these terms can keep the conversions flowing.
Consistent Performance With Room To Grow
Maybe none of the above apply to you. Your SEO efforts are killing it, and you’re just reaping the rewards.
If that’s the case, there could still be opportunity to improve overall performance from search. Odds are, unless you're a dominant industry player, your rankings for broader category terms could stand to improve. That’s where paid search can help.
Targeting non-brand search terms with ads is a great way to show on high-competition SERPs. You can target low-funnel, transactional-intent keywords in areas where your organic search is lacking. And you can flexibly pivot to only target the terms that make you, and your business, money.
SEM and SEO should work together to bring traffic to a website. That’s it. That’s all. Hard stop.
The more your website can show on valuable SERPs, the more likely it is for someone to click on it. A holistic approach to SEO and SEM gives you that edge on competitive, stalled, or even high-ranking terms. And that sums to more users and, ideally, more revenue.
Hopefully these scenarios can kick-start some cross-team conversations, and we can come together, paid and organic, to start to win in search.