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The relation between ecommerce, SEO and SEM

30-second summary:

  • What is the difference between SEO and SEM?
  • What are the elements of a successful search strategy?
  • How can marketers choose a success formula for their business goals?
  • Lisa Little, the Goodway Group’s Search Center of Excellence, will help you find the answers.

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM? Why should I bid on my own branded keywords? Should we start with SEO or SEM? Is Ecommerce Considered Search? Where should i invest?

To understand the relationship of these channels within the search function, think of a playground tournament made up of dodgeball (SEO), kickball (SEM), and tetherball (e-commerce). All games are played on the same playground (search engine results page, SERP) with the same type of ball (platforms), but with different rules, game processes, player positions, strategic play, variables and profit goals.

Some players (advertisers) invest everything in just one game. The athletes (performance marketers) who play a combination of these games and who have mastered the common skills (data storytelling, understanding the business impact, influential communication skills, continuous learning, test readiness, rapid changes) rule the playground.

The SERP is filled with aspects and listings of all kinds that fall into these three channels to make up the search marketing function. A comprehensive search strategy offers three main advantages:

  • At the same time, they take up more real estate on the SERP so that your brand owns and displaces your competition. Combined brands can achieve maximum visibility.
  • The searcher usually does not know whether he is interacting with e-commerce, paid or organic offers. The right combination can mean that you are there for your customer when, where and how they prefer to interact with your brand personally.
  • No matter how chaotic the road to conversion can be today, a consolidated search strategy will cover the entire funnel base and ensure that you reach the customer in a personalized, effective, and efficient manner.

Advertisers, brands, categories, industries, and seasonality all play a role in determining the right combination of SEO, SEM, and ecommerce for your brand. It’s definitely not a one size fits all.

Here’s the what, why, and when to help brands develop their unique search combination.

Search engine marketing or paid search or SEM or PPC

SEM is paid advertising triggered by keyword searches. Every time a keyword is searched to position itself on SERP with the other advertisers participating in the same auction, a real-time blind auction (a combination of bid, quality and relevance) takes place.


SEM provides messaging and targeting control that is at the top of SERP. If you don’t participate, your competitors are.


Marketers use SEM when they need instant awareness, traffic, and results. The need for a controlled advertising message and measurement of activity is determined by specific dollars. Getting to know your customer behavior acts as a behavioral learning machine. To get the most out of SEM, marketers should have a budget for paid digital media.

SEO or organic search or location list management

SEO offers the SERP listings based on relevant search terms. This can be done in the form of knowledge graphs, SEO listings, map listings, social media, ratings / ratings, and more.

Note: Other SEO areas include optimizing app search, managing location lists, mapping content, free shopping lists, web development, and much more.


Understand and examine what overarching terms like “SEO” or “Reputation Management” really mean for brands, what marketing problems they want to solve or what they want to achieve.


SEO is the basic and basic infrastructure of your brand’s DNA on the internet. Even the most beautiful mansion (paid advertising) is crumbling under a weak foundation. The internet shares everything organically, so you might not even know what’s around your brand without a strong SEO strategy and consistently mindful and intelligent messaging.


Any brand that has a website should get involved in SEO and work in organic lists to achieve the corporate brand’s guidelines and goals. Marketers should regularly update and optimize the location lists for these stationary businesses. This is an ongoing process, but it usually starts with an assessment or opportunity assessment.

Ecommerce, Shopping Ads (formerly Product List Ads)

E-commerce is the broad term for online retail, which includes paid and unpaid aspects that work together. This ranges from shopping ads in search engines and open marketplaces like Amazon / Walmart to integrations like Shopify.

Note: You need dealer center accounts in order to store structured product data feeds.


Automation and machine learning are the keys to e-commerce success. Use a management platform like Kenshoo to consolidate holistic ecommerce stories and get advanced features in the ecommerce program.


Ecommerce is vital to effectively and efficiently promoting online sales and maximizing the bottom line impact.


When selling products online, the entry point is shopping for ads on search engines. From there it depends on the retailers, the supply chain, and the marketplaces where your products are sold.

Each brand’s requirements are different and require a unique combination of SEO, SEM and e-commerce. Marketers need to evaluate the brand’s goals and capabilities to determine what programs are needed, how they will help achieve the goals, and what data is required to achieve the goals.

When it comes to implementing SEO, SEM, and e-commerce, brands have goals similar to those of establishing a SERP presence. However, there are numerous opportunities for creativity on these platforms to achieve a brand’s unique goals. It is important that marketers focus on these goals throughout the campaign, but also be agile when the industry changes, and redistribute funds to different platforms when the desired results are not achieved. By tracking the results in real time, marketers can quickly realign their strategies to ensure goals are met.

Now that we know the relationship, use cases, and benefits, let’s look at a few questions you can ask to determine the next steps that can take you to take your search program to the next level.

  1. What is your primary business goal?
  2. What weak points are you trying to solve?
  3. Do you have the right partner who has strength, expertise, tools and skills in all search channels?

When marketers take a holistic view of channels, they should take a nimble approach to strategic planning to tailor the results. This is the reason for the excellence of your entire marketing program. While they each play different roles and bring different benefits to advertisers, these channels should never be played off against each other, compared 1: 1, or substituted for the other’s role in the marketing mix. Instead, they should be viewed as complementary to each other and critical to success.

Lisa Little is the Search Center of Excellence at the Goodway Group.

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