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  1. Predictive Marketing Blog /
  2. Intelligent Campaigns

How to Grow Your Reach with a Combination of Paid & Organic Search Marketing

Can brands succeed on search with a purely SEO approach, or do they need SEM to supplement their efforts? Find out when SEO can work on its own, and why SEM can help you reach a small business audience.

A few weeks ago I caught a Twitter argument during a Shoutlet Webinar between Mike Volpe, CMO, Hubspot, webinar speaker Jason Miller, Sr. Manager Content & Social, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions and Jennifer Brown, Senior Manager, Social Media, HSN about the value of paid advertising.

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Volpe believes that organic search can drive 100% of a successful inbound marketing program. Miller asserts that in order for an inbound program to be successful, marketers must bolster organic with paid search. Brown says that it’s a matter of and, not or.

While a fully inbound marketing program works well for some companies–like Hubspot–because their audiences are online and engaged. But for the rest of us, an outbound marketing strategy that consists of both paid and organic is the best way to reach our customers through search.

When and Why SEO Works on Its Own

To succeed on SEO, your brand has to rank highly on Google.

To rank highly on Google (or whichever search engine you choose), you have to own a significant amount content that Google can crawl–tagged pictures, blog articles with lots of relevant keywords, optimized headlines, inbound links, etc.

To create all this crawlable content, you have to build a consistent and strong content program. You also have to have a flexible measurement schedule, as an SEO program takes six months to show results. In addition, if you don’t have a strong social reach that grows steadily to expose your content to new audiences, your content will stop attracting new prospects.

A productive and effective content marketing team doesn’t scale overnight–especially if you don’t have content creators, social amplifiers, and IT-savvy marketers that understand the intricacy of link-building. Through all of their brand channels, Hubspot publishes 10+ blog articles a day–in addition to frequently released ebooks, webinars, and other marketing campaigns. Hubspot earns top Google ranks through volume alone, and few marketing teams have developed as advanced content marketing systems. Until 2013, less than one third of marketing organizations even had formal content strategies.

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As content and SEO are inextricably related, marketers that don’t have a strong content program probably won’t succeed using SEO alone.

The other contingent on which a successful SEO program depends is an engaged audience. Unless your prospects engage with your content, a solely SEO approach may not be worth the time and budget that goes into it.

If your prospects do engage with your content, it can work incredibly well.

When and Why SEM Works on Its Own

For a lot of marketers–particularly those that sell to small businesses–the conditions that lead to successful SEO simply don’t fall into place. Many companies fail at SEO because they don’t have strong content teams, their audiences are disengaged, and they don’t know which keywords and trends for which their target customers search.

Where SEO works best is when marketers have already determined target keywords, SEM can help marketers identify the right keywords. Search ads deliver instantaneous results, and when marketers need to scale online presence in a short amount of time with a small team, an SEM program can help them get off the ground.

In other cases, marketers have very specific revenue goals. Paid search is easily trackable, and can deliver incredibly specific results in a week. Organic search can take over a year to deliver results that tie clearly to revenue goals. However, because paid search involves deep analytics, you have to have numbers-driven people on your team to manage it.

Furthermore, if you have an SEM landing page, people are much more likely to look into what your company does than if you don’t–and it’s a great source of measurable brand exposure.

An organic search program can be incredibly successful, but if you don’t have the resources, a paid search program can be even more effective.

Why Paid and Organic Search Work Better Together

It’s clear that you can make a purely organic or a purely paid search program work alone, but each offers the other a number of advantages that lead to a search program that’s ultimately stronger.

Marketers can track paid ads to determine into which markets their efforts can and should grow, then use SEO tactics to dominate the identified markets.

Paid ads that direct traffic to keyword-rich content can also significantly boost exposure and increase content downloads. Constant audience growth is paramount to organic search success, and if your audience ever becomes stagnant, a paid campaign can expose your brand to new audiences.

Both organic and paid search offer marketers the ability to grow reach and collect leads, and with the exception of the rare few organizations that excel at one alone, the best marketers use a combination of the two to maintain constant prominence in their chosen search engine.


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