In the fight over search engine results dominance, is there a clear winner between SEO and SEM?
The answer is: not really. In fact, Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search can work together.
Since Google’s algorithm updates the past several years, there has been much speculation around the “death” of SEO. And though many SEOs (“search engine optimizers”) have changed their tactics because of these updates, Search Engine Optimization is here to stay. Which means that in any long term digital strategy, SEO should play a key role.

Mobile optimization and voice search are just a couple of areas of growing importance to search engines that require a strong technical SEO strategy. However, this will also impact any Paid Search efforts. For example, if you’re ad comes up in a voice search and is selected, you’ll want to make sure that your site is optimized. Just like a mobile optimized site with accelerated mobile pages will ensure a positive experience for a user who clicks on a mobile ad.

Interesting, up-to-date content is also paramount to SEO, but benefits Paid Search as well. You want to send users to a site that is informative and will ultimately help them complete an action such as fill out a form, download a file, or even just make a purchase. Having content that is relevant to what people are looking for will not only help your SEO, but also your Paid Search campaigns’ performance.

But should you just focus on SEO? There are several benefits to using Paid Search as well, dependent on your goals and objectives. One of the most obvious is that Google places ads ahead of organic results in searches and can provide prime visibility (especially on mobile). And if your objective is to capture leads or drive product sales, a solid Paid Search strategy will allow you to better target your desired audience. With Paid Search, for example, you choose a targeted, timely message that drives to a specific landing page. The agility and flexibility of Paid Search makes it a high performance tactic.

SEO and SEM should not be looked at as opposing forces in search engine results. The trend in SEO has been towards user experience and making a site as user friendly as possible. And Paid Search trends do the same: give the user exactly what they searched for. When used together, SEO and Paid Search can provide stellar results. A study (albeit done by Google) showed that paid ads coupled with organic results boosted clicks by 50%.

Whether you decide to focus more on SEO or Paid Search should depend on your overarching objectives and digital strategy in both the long term and short term. Used together they are powerful tactics that can provide strong performance and profitability.