How do I create SEO/SEA synergy?

SEO and SEA are two strategies that are all too often opposed to each other… but are in fact complementary. This is how you create synergies between SEO and SEA.

SEO and SEA: how to create synergies between natural referencing and paid referencing?

In many companies, SEO-SEA strategies are still treated separately as if they don’t get along. In fact, marketing departments very often choose to invest in one or the other—rarely both at the same time—because they mistakenly believe that these approaches cannibalize each other. Why risk screwing up optimization efforts by launching PPC campaigns? Conversely, why push internet users towards organic results when you can attract them with relevant and targeted ads? However, this division of the acquisition process is a mistake. Because by combining these two levers, SEO and SEA, synergies can be created and unexpected results achieved.

SEO VS SEA: two opposing marketing philosophies

Before analyzing the points of convergence between natural referencing and paid referencing, it’s worth remembering that these two marketing levers are built on very different foundations.

Natural referencing (SEO): a more profitable long-term strategy

SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”) aims to generate traffic by achieving positions on the SERP (the search engine results page) in a natural way, that is, without paying for the placement of ads. To achieve this goal, natural referencing is based on a series of levers to be actuated, affecting both the architecture of the site and the content of the pages, through the setting of links (internal and external).

From the point of view of profitability, the dominance of SEO is undisputed: natural optimization offers the best ratio between the achieved visibility rate and the allocated budget.

On the other hand, it is a long-term strategy, and the results are a long time coming. Because you need to build site authority and create a large amount of content and then wait for the actions taken to take effect.

Paid referencing (SEA): a more effective strategy in the short term

SEA (“Search Engine Advertising”) or “Pay Per Click” (PPC) marketing consists of generating traffic from advertising links that appear in the SERP, other search network tabs, or on website partners (via the Display Network). will. . These links appear above the organic results: they therefore enjoy greater visibility in the eyes of internet users.

The PPC model is advertising: advertisers pay a certain amount each time their ad gets the expected result (click, impression, action, etc.). The upside is that the traffic benefits are immediate, particularly with highly targeted targeting, making internet users who click on these ads more likely to convert later. The downside is that the effectiveness of the strategy depends on the allocated budget. Once the campaign is over (and the wallet tightens), the ads disappear – and traffic plummets.

SEO and SEA: two levers with the same goals

These differences that stand in the way of SEO and SEA should not make us forget one thing: they are ultimately two marketing levers aimed at the same goals. When a business employs an SEO or SEA strategy, it tries…

  • improve visibility in search engines,
  • increase traffic to its website,
  • attract qualified visitors with the aim of converting them,
  • Optimize conversions to generate sales and revenue.

These two approaches also have in common that they rely on keywords. Regardless of whether it is SEO or SEA, in order to appear in the SERPs, the company must target relevant and strategic searches in order to be able to bring up the appropriate pages (or the appropriate links) when Internet users enter these phrases. With natural referencing, keywords are placed intelligently in the content (especially in HTML tags). In the case of paid referencing, they are placed in the text of the advertisements and lead to auctions. And in both cases, a preliminary analysis of the relevant search queries is essential to understand what internet users are searching for and how they are searching for it.

In short, SEO and SEA are actually interdependent. They are also grouped under a common term, SEM’s for “Search Engine Marketing”. This connection is not insignificant, because a sensible combination of both approaches makes it possible to create synergies and optimize the performance of the acquisition strategy. We will now see how.

Synergies between natural referencing and paid referencing

Synergy is a phenomenon where multiple factors work together to produce an overall effect (see Wikipedia). Creating synergies between SEO and SEA therefore means working on a unique impact that is stronger than if only one or the other lever had been activated. Through these synergies, each method tends to support the other and enhance its own effectiveness.

Let’s find out right away what advantages can be gained from using the two approaches together.

Cover the whole range of acquisition

We said it: SEO delivers long-term results, while SEA allows you to generate traffic immediately – from the start of the campaign and throughout its duration.

By using SEO and SEA, we have the opportunity to cover the entire area of ​​acquisition. This sharing allows for the generation of traffic and conversions early in a strategy, the time when SEO efforts materialize and take over. For example, a Google Ads campaign can bring a website to life during its launch when the business needs to increase its traffic and conversion rate before moving to organic acquisition. (This is all the more relevant since when a website is launched, Google has few indicators to assess its relevance: the good signals that the traffic generated by sponsored links sends are therefore very useful.)

This way of covering the scope of acquisition is also relevant when it comes to compensating for possible traffic failures. A company that sees a dent in its SEO strategy due to a change in Google’s algorithm can thus catch up with SEA campaigns. Conversely, when there is a need to reduce the budget for paid links, the company can count on the stable traffic brought by the organic results.

It’s even more interesting for an e-commerce site. SEA ads appear on the search network, but also in areas reserved for Google Shopping campaigns. The complementarity between SEO and SEA thus makes it possible to occupy a maximum space in the SERP and above all to cover all the needs in terms of acquisition: generic pages optimized for SEO and product sheets adapted to SEA ads.

Multiply the touch points

Sponsored links appear at the top of results in the SERPs, while organic links appear further down. Combining SEO and SEA efforts makes it possible to populate both parts of the results page at the same time: an ad at the top and one or more organic links at the bottom. In fact, in some cases, a brand can benefit from a dual presence on the results page, as the example below shows.

This dominance helps to multiply the touchpoints for Internet users, who then have two entry points to access the same website…even at different points in their buying journey. Thus, a user can discover a website by clicking on an organic link, consult several pages, then exit … and return later via a targeted sponsored link that presents him with the desired product or service. His prior knowledge of the brand has helped give him confidence and fueled the conversion enabled by the ad.

It’s also a lever to build awareness. Repeated appearances in the SERP tend to inspire more trust among Internet users and help them remember the brand better – through the so-called “exposure effect”. At the same time, this double presence has two interesting consequences:

  • The more space a brand occupies on the site, the less it leaves to its competitors!
  • The more popular a site is with Internet users, the more Google will rank it in the results.

Use the synergy between keywords

As we have seen, SEO and SEA are two acquisition strategies that focus on keywords. But far from kicking each other, they also feed on each other on this point.

  • Businesses that have been practicing SEO for a while already have a list of strategic keywords that they can use to improve the effectiveness of their PPC campaigns. In addition, the SEO-optimized semantics of the site’s pages help Google’s robots to better understand the content and ensure its coherence with the texts of the SEA ads.
  • Conversely, businesses starting out with SEO will struggle to identify relevant phrases. In this case, the lessons learned from the sponsored link campaigns (the results of which, it should be remembered, are immediate) provide in-depth knowledge of the keywords that work, on which it is interesting to optimize the pages for natural reference.

Generate more traffic

Last synergy between SEO and SEA: the complementarity of the traffic generated by the two types of links. Contrary to popular belief, there is no risk of cannibalization. A business will not lose organic traffic because of an ad and vice versa. On the other hand, the two traffic sources can complement each other.

Studies show that organic results generate more clicks than paid ads. As can be seen in the image below, the first organic link gets almost 40% of the clicks while the first ad only gets 2.1%. The first three organic spots get 68% of the clicks from the entire page, but the two ads only get 3.7%.


Two conclusions can be drawn from this. On the one hand, organic links are a stronger acquisition lever (even if the ads generate more qualified traffic). On the other hand, Internet users are not equally attracted to the two types of links.

In fact, 77% of internet users know how to distinguish a paid link from an organic link (source) and have every reason to knowingly click on the former. Knowing this, it is safe to assume that the users who click organic links and those who click sponsored links are not the same or that they are at different stages in the buying journey.

Finally, it should be noted that a majority of web traffic comes from organic search (69% if we add generic searches and local searches), while PPC accounts for only 8% of traffic, as shown in this graph:

This means that investing in SEA is not enough and that maintaining a good organic position on the first page of the SERP is imperative for a business looking to profit from search acquisition. It also means that by combining the two levers, it has every chance of generating more traffic by placing both ads and organic links in the SERP.

SEO and SEA strategies therefore complement each other in many ways. Provided that we work together and employ a strategy that combines organic and paid leverage, synergies can be created and results greatly optimized in terms of acquisition and conversion.

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