SEO vs. SEM: The Case for SEM

3 Reasons to Invest in SEM over SEO

The question often comes up of when should you use paid search as opposed to going the traditional route of organic search. In this article we’ll go through some of the reasons why you might want to use paid search and when it can be especially beneficial to know how to use it.

Updated Article: Complete Guide to SEO vs SEM

The Case for SEM

  • Quick Results: SEM allows for immediate results as you can launch a campaign in minutes and start generating returns

  • Better Data: The data provided for SEM is far superior to organic search, allowing for deeper keyword and competitive insights

  • Test-able Experiences: SEM gives you a platform to test different experiences and learn what works for your audience in terms of ad copy, landing pages, and other variables.


First, let’s do a quick recap of the differences between paid search, or SEM, and organic search. When a user searches something on a search engine, say Google, there are a handful of results that come up on the page. Generally, the first 3-5 results are paid results, which are paid for by advertisers, followed by a handful of organic results, which are not paid for. Both may serve a similar function to the searcher, but require very different strategies for businesses. Now, let’s walk through some of the reasons to use paid search.

#1 Quick Results

The search engine can be a difficult place to break into as a newer business, and going the organic route can often take months, if not years. To break into the organic results often requires you to produce ten of thousands of words of relevant, high-quality content on your site for Google to recognize your page and domain highly. This can be a slow and arduous process. Showing up organically also requires you to build your domain authority with high-quality backlinks from other sites, which is also a challenging task.

While you should definitely go ahead and produce high-quality content for your site and get quality backlinks from other relevant sites, paid search can be a quicker alternative for breaking into the search results. With paid search, once you go through the steps of setting up an account and determining your strategy you find yourself in the search results within days. While it is no easy feat to run a successful, profitable paid search campaign, the fruits of your labor will show up a lot quicker than an investment in organic search.

#2 Better Data

Another huge advantage of paid search relative to organic search is the quality of data that you receive with a paid search account. In recent years, Google has pared down the amount of data they will give users about organic search which makes it really difficult for businesses to make data-driven decisions. The best Google tools for organic search data are Google Search Console paired with Google Analytics, although it is still limited compared to Google Ads.

The Google Ads platform gives robust data at various levels for you to gather insights and make data-driven decisions for your business. Within the Google Ads platform, you are able to see tons of data at various levels. You can see performance data for every keyword, competitive and bidding data for every keyword, performance of different ads within ad groups, conversion data for a campaign, and a whole lot more. You can also use the Competitive Insights tool to see which competitors are outranking you for which keywords, how often you show with different competitors, and more. You can use the keyword planner to find new keywords to invest in. These are just some of the tools available in Google Ads. 

#3 Test-able Experiences

Using paid search also allows you to test different variants of campaigns including your ad copy and landing pages. Within organic search, Google gets to choose which one of your pages shows up for a certain keyword. With paid search, you get to choose which page shows up for that keyword. This gives you the ability to test different experiences. Use the Drafts & Experiments tool in Google Ads, you can A/B test different landing pages to determine which page performs better.

For example, when someone searches for “cool t-shirts” you can test sending them to a page with many options for t-shirts or send them to a page with just your 3 best-selling t-shirts. Paid search also gives you the opportunity to test ad copy, the actual content that is shown to the user in the search result. For the t-shirts example, you may want to lead with “Coolest T-shirts | Shop Online” or you may want to say “Cool T-shirts | Great Prices.” With the ad rotation feature in Google, you can allow Google to rotate different ads and optimize to the best-performing ad.

Become a Digital Marketing Expert

While there are many reasons to use paid search, these are three of the biggest reasons. To learn more see our related course offerings:

How to Learn Digital Marketing

Master digital marketing with hands-on training. Digital marketing refers to marketing a service or product through online platforms such as social media, search engine websites, blogs, and email.

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