3 Reasons Why SEO and SEM Teams Should Work Together

I've always thought it made sense for search engine optimization (SEO) teams and search engine marketing (SEM) teams (i.e. those paying for traffic) to work together and share, at the very least, their keyword lists. I'm finding out now that such cooperation is actually not the norm, but rather the exception. A recent discussion with a fellow search professional got me to thinking about how one might pitch to upper management the need to bring the SEO and SEM teams together. Here are the three arguments I'd start with.

Keyword Expansion via SEO

A lot of SEO work results in traffic from the long-tail of searches. That is, a properly optimized site can bring in a lot of traffic in small amounts for a very, very large number of phrases. This list of long-tail words is an excellent source of ideas for what can be used with PPC campaigns. This can be particularly effective if a site is ranking well organically in one search engine, but not in another. When this situation occurs, the list of words from search engine A can be used for a PPC campaign on search engine B.

Long-Term Cost Savings from SEO

It's inevitable that every PPC campaign will contain high-traffic terms that cost a lot per click or high-conversion terms that don't quite offer the return necessary to justify their cost. With such words, SEO could be the answer to significant savings. For example, rather than spend $10,000 for 2 months for these high-cost terms consider instead turning off the campaign and pouring the $10,000 in to optimization efforts to attract the same traffic organically. Yes, deactivating the campaign for 2 months is going to result in short-term loss of revenue, but the results from the successful optimization effort will be many months or even years of “free” organic traffic.

Decrease in Per Click Costs

Recently Google made public some changes to their AdSense program. These changes include the addition of a quality score that is used when determining the cost of an ad. This quality score will mean that two exact ads will have different costs depending on the quality of the destination page. Although there are many factors that will be used to measure the quality of the destination page, most of these factors can be influenced by SEO. In fact, improving the quality of a web page as perceived by the search engines is pretty much what all SEO is about. So if you use SEO to increase the quality of your site, you will end up reducing the cost per click of your ads.

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  1. Da Vinci,

    It seems to me from talking to various people that even when SEO and SEM are done inhouse they are done independently. Even agencies which handle both pieces for a particular client don't bother to get together to share findings.

    As for why SEO is often done in house I'd say it's because SEO requires actual changes to infrastructure and workflow. You don't just do SEO once and move on. Rather, content creators need to adjust their workflow to incorporate SEO from the start. SEM on the other hand requires next to no changes to anything. Once tracking is enabled with whatever analytics package is being used, an SEM provider can go off and do their thing without needing any resources from their client.

    ROI from SEO is, as you said, harder to measure than ROI from SEM. However, research shows that conversion rates are similar whether the visit came about from an ad or from an organic listing. This supports my second idea of going after organic traffic when the PPC traffic is expensive.

  2. Good article, thanks. A couple of thoughts/questions:
    1) It seems that SEO is often done inhouse while SEO is outsourced. Is that why, as you said, SEO and SEM teams don't normally consult? Is it also true when SEO is also outsourced or when SEM is done inhouse?
    2) If my assumption in #1 is correct, then why is SEO in-house and SEO outsourced? My guess is because SEO is a less measurable goal (i.t.o. ROI). If so, what is the ROI on SEO vs. SEM and do companies even research it?
    3) To me it seems that SEM is blind without SEO data. I.e. an SEM team can spend a lot of money on keywords that are already *effective*. I think that's what your second argument is about. This would be a direct result of #2 above.

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