The “vs.” is the problem. Use them to strengthen each other.

How is it that companies cannot seem to get it together when it comes to SEO and SEM? I am pretty close to the subject, and it’s striking that with all of the talk about integrated marketing, more companies do not create synergies between paid and organic search.

At one of my most recent employers, I literally sat across the aisle from the paid search team, and we rarely worked to integrate our efforts. It was only after some prodding with one of the SEM managers that we began to experiment with comparing keyword performance across branded and non-branded terms.

This can be mirrored at the organizational level, with the web teams and demand generation teams often sitting in different departments with different KPIs. As a result, each department has different priorities, making it difficult to share resources.

A Business Case for Shared SEO and SEM Goals

The need to combine the data and goals for each team may not seem obvious on the surface, but it gets more compelling when we drill down into the data. What we do know, without drilling, is that the paid and organic teams are in the same business. The paid (SEM) team is focused on building campaigns that use keyword traffic and landing pages to sell products and services. Using this keyword traffic data, the paid team can optimize ads and matching landing pages to get the best performance for each dollar.

The organic search (SEO) team uses the same or similar keyword data to create and optimize web pages designed to attract visitors based on keyword searches. There can be a bit of an art to picking relevant keywords, adding them to pages, and making it all work to increase organic traffic. The good news is that it is a skill that can be learned, and as with golf, you get better with more practice. Also important is taking the step to make sure that your web pages (like paid landing pages) are designed to convert visitors to leads or buyers. I cannot even count the number of times I have optimized a page for SEO and then had to appeal to the client to redesign the page to give the visitor a logical place to go after viewing the content.

The point that I am attempting to get to is that an SEM campaign is designed to drive traffic to a targeted landing page with a clear call-to-action or form field. And SEO is designed to drive traffic to a targeted web page that is crafted around a keyword-focused theme, so you can say that SEM and SEO teams are in the same business, just using different tactics.

It All Comes Down To Keywords and Content

Keywords are where it’s at! Keyword research tells us what terms searchers are using, and it our job to know the content. We target these SEM keywords in hopes of garnering enough conversions to keep the sales coming in and the doors open.

And what if I, the SEO, can keep search traffic coming in for our most valuable keywords even after the paid search campaign budget runs out? The answer to this most important question is that we must create website content that is optimized and relevant for these valuable keywords so that we can continue to get organic traffic and conversions night and day, paid campaign or no paid campaign.

SEO working in concert with SEM can create what is often referred to as an “always on” strategy that can demonstrate long-term revenue value – which should be the ultimate goal of an SEM/SEO tandem.

– Kent Yunk, VP of SEO

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Kent Yunk
Kent Yunk, a longtime practitioner of SEO and an established leader in the field, is leading search engine optimization initiatives for new and existing clients across a wide spectrum of industries. Kent began his SEO experience at IBM as Senior Web Strategist in the Information Management organization. This position led him to Global Strategies (a division of Ogilvy & Mathers), where he became a Global Search Strategist with client engagements that included Adobe Systems, Seagate Services, Cisco and Intel. At, Kent used his search optimization experience to build new Q&A focused content sites. At QuinStreet, he directed SEO efforts for more than 40 financial services websites. Most recently, Kent led SEO consulting engagements at Roaring Pajamas, a digital marketing agency.