SEO vs SEM – Which Provides the Most Benefits?

Both SEO and SEM have their benefits, so why not take a more blended approach to your businesses SEO and SEM strategy for marketing?


Trying to find your bearings in terms of digital marketing?

Your not alone.

Keeping up with current trends and trying to decipher what is actually working isn’t all that easy.

With new trends popping up almost on a daily basis and customer preferences being as fleeting as they are, brands seek some stability in the way they approach their audience, and SEO as well as SEM are at the very forefront of this game.

First, let’s clarify that SEO, short for search engine optimization, represents one element of your online strategy.

There can be no successful SEM, or search engine marketing approach without tackling SEO, and while theoretically, SEM can be powerful even without this one constituent, rest assured that its impact will be dramatically diminished.

In short,

both are vital in establishing a relevant presence in your industry, and both need to be flexible and able to evolve over time to meet the changing needs of your target demographic.

Now, you’ll find that SEO as well as SEM contain a myriad of different elements used to get more traction, some more effective than others. It’s about balancing them all within your unified digital marketing strategy and finding the most powerful way to reach your audience.

Let’s talk more on striking this fine balance and its many perks.


Blending SEO & SEM for Maximum Benefit

Better brand visibility

Now that we’ve established that this is not an “either/or” matter, but one of finding the best combination for your brand, we can safely say that getting yourself in front of your target audience is the goal that unifies all of your digital methods.

Time-tested SEO strategies such as building a user-friendly digital presence and keyword optimization come with a promise of getting more exposure in the search engines. Then again, paid campaigns within your SEM strategy will ensure that, at least temporarily, your name is prominent across a variety of channels.

While SEO naturally has a more long-lasting impact, the momentary effects of SEM shouldn’t be neglected entirely. Considering the level of competition in any industry, you most likely need the occasional boost of a paid SEM campaign to rev up your visibility while you’re waiting for your SEO long-haul methods to take full effect.

Establishing yourself as an authority

For obvious reasons, advertisements don’t really scream “authority” from your customers’ perspective.

They openly serve to boost your sales, while the purpose of pure content (no matter how optimized it may be for search engines as well) is to provide value, solutions, and entertainment without asking for anything in return. It’s how you use your content on all channels, not your ads, that will determine how well you earn your growing audience’s trust and build a reputation of excellence and authority in your probably over saturated industry.

Take Facebook use across New Zealand as a perfect example of overwhelming interest and over saturation.

If almost 70% of New Zealand uses Facebook, and there are literally thousands of active brands at any given moment, how on Earth can you as a single business entity earn their trust?

Keep in mind that this is merely one out of many regions, and that there are others, more densely-populated where you also need to compete for their undivided attention. Due to such user-density and competitiveness, focusing on SEO in NZ and similar regions has become pivotal for businesses to slowly establishing themselves as an authority in the eyes of their audience.

While stellar content alone cannot promise as many eager “buy now” clicks as ads can, search-optimized content with value is the only road to long-term loyalty and trust.

Qualifying better leads

There are still marketers out there who strongly believe that SEM makes more sense in terms of more qualified leads, and acquiring a greater quantity of prospects to begin with.

Considering that paid ads are at the very top of Google searches, above organic results, and that you literally pay to be noticed, it’s no wonder so many still hold onto this belief.

However, numbers tell a different story: according to research, up to 80% of users focus only on organic results, and organic SEO is almost six times more effective than paid advertisements.

These bits of data point to SEO as the key driver of qualified leads, even though paid ads might get you a temporary boost in interest for certain industries. Imagine what you can achieve if you pair them, and invest time and funds into your SEO as well as your SEM, or paid efforts!

You can even track your progress using website analytics.

Combining short and long-term impact

Even though every brand nobly states they wish to be there for the long haul in terms of their bonds with their audience, you cannot afford to neglect the relevance of short-term impact on their shopping decisions.

It’s no accident every brand invests more in paid campaigns and PPC during the holiday season, so rest assured you’ll notice the very same behavioral trend around Valentine’s Day as well. SEM loves behavioral patterns you can use to target your customers with greater ease and at the right time.

Famous for their shopping habits, US consumers are expected to reach a record in spending for this particular holiday, of approximately $20.7 billion, which is a staggering number for a single nation to spend for a single holiday.

Each brand needs to adjust their paid vs. organic efforts precisely for these situations: it makes sense to focus on SEO for the long haul, but you cannot skip the temporary, and quite profitable, impact of SEM during these occasional situations. It’s all about recognizing the right moment to allocate more funds towards paid advertisements, without halting your SEO game to a stop.


For marketers, life is never dull. There will always be new trends to try out and old ones to preserve. Make sure you always strike the right balance between all of your marketing efforts, including your SEO and SEM, and your brand will stand the test of time.