• 02 Aug 2018
  • Daniel Kaempf

SEO vs. SEM, what is the best strategy for your company?


All companies offering services or products on the web have to have Search Engine Optimization (SEO)* and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)* strategy that will achieve the best return on investment (ROI). Often the question is whether your company should focus on its SEO ranking or run an SEM campaign. In either case, you will need to do your market research, or you will be throwing good money out the door.

To get started, you have to understand the online business environment you are operating in; this means knowing your:

  • Customers
    Who your customers are and their online behaviour; create customer profiles
  • Competition
    Identify your top three online competitors and the strategies they have adopted
  • Products and Services
    You need to be able to describe in detail the products and services you are offering and the position they hold in the market.

You have done your homework, you can now select the strategy best suited for your business:


When Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the best option

  1. Niche products or services

If you are working in a niche, your clients will find you through long-tail keyword searches*, e.g. “Bang & Olufsen 1990 Speakers Spare Parts Dealer”. SEO keyword competition will be low.

  1. Localized products and services

When you are physically located in a geographic or linguistic area with limited keyword competition, you should always implement good SEO, e.g. “Entreprises de Creation Site Internet à Lausanne Suisse”.

  1. Established brands and market leaders

When you are a renowned brand, you need to invest in an SEO strategy. Being a star player also comes with certain expectations such as a well-thought SEO friendly website.

  1. Unique product/service website

If your product is unique, it is important that you implement an SEO strategy that is sustainable as it has a unique position on the market and should be ranking in the top spot.


  • Benefits are long-term and its impact is easily sustainable
  • Organic traffic to your website is the best traffic
  • No need to put in a request for budget


  • The change will not happen overnight. Patience is required as the bots need to index the website and backlinks
  • Writing an SEO friendly text is difficult and requires time
  • Your website needs to be optimized for SEO and your team will need to be trained on SEO best practices


When Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the best option

  1. Highly competitive keyword environment

When you are active in a highly competitive market, such as a pizzeria in Rome, you may have to consider SEM as many competitors will use similar keywords as you. Using SEM adverts will list immediately on specific keyword searches.

  1. Sale or promotion of time specific products or services

When you offer your product or service for a limited time, you might be better off with an SEM campaign. Studies have shown that when people perceive a product or service as a scarcity, they are more likely to purchase it in order to avoid the feeling of missing out or regret.

  1. Building brand awareness

SEM is great for building brand awareness, especially a new brands. When you invest in CPM, large numbers of people can view your ad and become aware of your company.


  • Research has shown that top Ads receive over 40% more clicks than other Ads on the page and thus generates more traffic to the website
  • Around 65% of the people who look for an item online, click on Google Ads which could generate a higher ROI and increases your revenue


  • The price of an SEM strategy can quickly get out of control when implemented inefficiently and you may end up with throwing money out of the window
  • Certain keywords at certain periods are more expensive and thus require a higher budget. E.g. advertising children’s toys around Christmas may cost you more money than the toy itself

When hybrid SEO/ SEM strategies work the best

  1. Any company whose success is intrinsically linked to being discovered through search.
  2. A strong SEO foundation will help you with creating a neat PPC strategy and when these are in synergy, this will improve the quality of your own online presence.

About Darwin Digital

Darwin Digital is a full-service Swiss Digital Agency with offices in Geneva, Lausanne, New York and Belgrade. We are specialists in SEO and SEM strategy and execution.

SEM and SEO Audits

Not sure what to do next? Darwin Digital provides audits for both your SEM/Digital Marketing and SEO. On average, we see a 20-50% increase in SEM/Digital Marketing efficiency after the implementation of our recommendations and consistently rank our clients in the top three SERP* positions of Google search.

*Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of achieving the highest ranking for your website on a search engine in an organic way. Rather than paying for ads, you are optimizing your website in a way that it naturally ranks higher in the search engine result page (SERP).

*Search Engine Marketing

SEM refers to paid search marketing, meaning that you pay the search engine where you would like to advertise e.g. Google AdWords. The most used paid options are PPC (Pay-per-click) or CPM (Click per impression).

*Longtail keywords

Longtail keywords are phrases with usually more than three or four keywords and contain usually the exact search the user is looking for e.g. tips for a good SEO strategy.

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