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How to Create a Holistic SEM Strategy
Digital Marketing

How to Create a Holistic SEM Strategy

Though the marketing mix has dramatically changed over the past few years, there still remains a heavy emphasis on search. With about a third of total advertising budgets going to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), it’s crucial to determine which areas of SEM to focus your budget on and who to trust your hard-earned marketing budgets to, whether internal or external. One way to maximize both performance and efficiency is with a holistic SEM strategy. 

Rather than treat your organic and paid search engine efforts as separate things, a holistic SEM strategy combines them, resulting in a single consumer-focused strategy and measurement framework. In addition to stronger performance and overall efficiency, this holistic approach provides you with more data, allowing you to identify the gaps in your purchase funnel, giving you a clearer picture of where to focus your time and budget!

However, taking a holistic approach is easier said than done, because to keep all of these things in mind you have to have strong communication between the many individuals or teams handling everything under your SEM umbrella, or a single integrated team that can do it all.


It's Raining SEM, Hallelujah

Let’s take a look under the SEM umbrella!
As a fully integrated digital agency, we here at CI Design find that education helps to set proper expectations for both our clients and our internal team. So let’s begin by understanding the three most critical components under the SEM umbrella and how to pull off each successfully.

1. Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of organically increasing traffic quality and quantity to a website through search engine results. The web pages served to you when you search for something in an engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo are called search engine results pages (SERPs).

They aren’t randomly selected, though. There are thoughtful and constantly improving algorithms implemented by these search engines to find quality content and answers to questions based on the search terms you used. For example, Google sends out crawlers that go and gather information off of internet content and bring it back to the search engine to build an index. This index is fed through said algorithm to retain results that match your search query.

Moz recently conducted a survey of SEO industry experts and asked them to rank SEO factors that most affect the optimization of websites. This infographic displays the results. (The original can be seen here.)

Holistic SEM Ranking Factors

The process of optimizing these factors on your website is the essence of SEO and as you can see it is not a simple undertaking.

2. Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)
Pay-per-click advertising is a digital marketing model in which a fee is paid every time an advertiser’s ad is clicked. Advertising in search engines such as Google or Bing are the most popular forms of PPC, allowing advertisers to bid for ad placement in search engines when someone searches a keyword related to their offering.

It sounds easy, but a lot goes into building a profitable PPC campaign with real ROI: 

      • Researching and selecting the right keywords
      • Building out campaigns
      • Targeting the right audiences
      • Implementing proper bidding strategies
      • Setting up proper landing pages optimized for the campaign, and so much more

This is really something that should be managed and monitored by an industry expert you trust, but is possible for anyone who wants to give it a shot on their own.

Some might argue that SEO and organic traffic is FREE, because you didn’t physically have to pay for the clicks. However, think about the opportunity cost: organic clicks are not coming your way without the time and effort of you, someone on your team, or a third-party. I would argue that SEO and organic traffic are on average just as costly as paid traffic.

So where should we focus our efforts? Both! These are completely different pools of traffic. One (SEO) can be acquired by stumbling upon your properly optimized website. The other (PPC) can’t be acquired until you pay to put your name in front of them.

3. Content Marketing!
Content marketing is a marketing strategy focused on creating and distributing valuable and relevant content that caters to a defined audience, who in the end will hopefully drive profitable customer action for the marketer. Content should be a part of every marketing plan, because today (and probably forevermore), successful marketing is impossible without great content.

Search engines reward websites that consistently publish quality content. The best PPC campaigns have great content behind them, whether that be copy on a landing page, in an ad, or a piece of relevant and valuable gated content that can be unlocked through a form submission. Content is key to driving inbound traffic and leads to a business and should not be taken lightly.

Understanding the effect every action has on each other and catering your efforts in each area towards the greater goal is the way to generate the best returns.

The influence SEO, PPC, and Content have on each other is forever increasing as well. Without an internal team that can understand and handle it all, you might want to look to an outside source to handle this for you. Let me explain.

When a plan comes together

Effective Search Engine Marketing: It Takes A Village
Tackling search engine marketing effectively is not a one-person job. It takes a small army. And while more hands on deck mean increased costs, the return on investment can be tracked and analyzed for proven success.

If you aren’t able to build an internal team of specialists, you’ll need to collaborate with outside vendors. Typically, external vendors have a specialty. Some specialize in PPC, some in SEO, and others in content. But oftentimes, more vendors equals more problems (and limited capabilities). Alignment, communication, and workflow efficiency issues can plague your SEM project.

The ideal scenario is to find a team or agency partner that can do it all. Working with one agency partner that can offer the full range of services eliminates many of those efficiency and communication problems you face when working with multiple vendors. It’s one team in one place working towards one common goal. (Yours!)

The takeaways:
1. Make sure effective Search Engine Marketing is a part of your overall marketing plan.
2. Find the right SEM partner to help you build your campaigns.
3. There’s greater value in a fully integrated partner.

If you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like to work with a fully integrated agency vs. trying to build an in-house team, give CID's own Dylan Taugher a call at (262) 470-9743, or drop us a line at


Dylan Taugher

Dylan Taugher

Account Manager

Dylan's background in SEO and SEM gives his clients a unique advantage when it comes to their digital marketing efforts. Having a ridiculously positive attitude and being an all-around nice guy doesn't hurt either.

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