Optimizing search engine marketing efforts involves leveraging both SEO and PPC. Read on for the best SEO and PPC strategies that’ll increase search rankings and organic traffic – not to mention expedite results.

Here, you’ll find:

A quick Google search shows you the top dogs in your niche, thanks to search engine marketing (SEM).

This marketing technique involves two key components that, when done effectively, get your business in front of the right buyers: search engine optimization (SEO) and PPC (aka pay-per-click or paid search ads).

Companies like OpenTable, Expedia, and Headspace bring in millions by leveraging impeccable SEO strategies, paid ad marketing campaigns, and a hefty load of optimizing.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the fundamentals of SEO, paid ads, and how to optimize search engine marketing efforts, complete with expert tips from our VP of Growth and Strategy, Steven Dang.

Pull up a seat at the top dogs’ table, and let’s get started.

What is search engine marketing?

Search engine marketing is a collection of strategies used to boost a business’s online visibility on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

In other words: SEM helps you show up in top results when a potential customer Googles your services.

But that’s just the beginning.

Diverse Office Conference Room Meeting

SEO and PPC together can get your business in front of the right buyers. (Image: Adobe)

Search engine marketing positions your brand as a leader in your niche. But web searchers won’t just bring hits to your business page. Ideally, you’ll support and educate them in their quest for knowledge on relevant topics, too.

The most effective SEM strategy combines SEO and PPC advertising. So let’s have a deeper look at each.

What’s SEO?

The goal of SEO is to appear higher in the SERPs by creating content and implementing technical strategies that make your brand more visible online.

On-site, or on-page optimization uses techniques like targeted keywords, headings, and creating authoritative, relevant content, to boost organic traffic and rankings. Off-page SEO involves external tactics, such as backlinks to your site from high-authority websites, to increase brand awareness.

The result?

More search traffic, leads, sales, and customer trust through your business’s increased presence in organic search results.

(We’re mainly talking about Google, which takes up over 80% of the search engine market, but Bing and Yahoo count, too.)

Travelers explore the mountainous forest map.

Google uses a series of constantly updated search algorithms to pinpoint an industry’s most relevant businesses and web pages to feature in the SERPs. (Image: Adobe)

Now back to Google: Search engines work by using a series of constantly updated search algorithms to pinpoint an industry’s most relevant businesses and web pages to feature in the SERPs.

How can you get there? By implementing tried and trusted SEO best practices, which we’ll delve into shortly.

Next up:

What is PPC advertising?

PPC is a method of online advertising in which you pay for every click you receive to your website or landing page. Marketers create ad campaigns for search engines, and each click costs a certain amount, whether that click results in a conversion or not.

This means you can bid on specific keywords and key phrases, and your ad will appear in the SERPs for those terms.

Whereas SEO gets your homepage on Google’s SERPs (ideally the first page) PPC ads can put you at the very top of the SERP — a throne your competitors will fight for.

Tourist man hiker on top of the mountain. Active life concept

PPC ads can put you at the very top of the — a throne your competitors will fight for. (Image: Adobe)

To start, you’ll need to invest in building bulletproof PPC campaigns. This means bidding for the space and toggling campaign features like keywords, ad groups, and more through Google Ads.

The goal here is the same as SEO — more traffic, leads, and revenue. But the path there involves different strategies.

So, can you actually boost revenue with a search engine marketing strategy that combines SEO and PPC? Absolutely. Keep reading as we walk you through it.

3 steps to get started with SEO

SEO isn’t a one-day or even a one-person job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started on your own.

If you’re a beginner SEO marketer, start with these three SEO best practices.

1. Consistently publish high-quality content

Google won’t rank you if you stay silent. You have tons of industry know-how to share with the world. Speak up with regular, quality content.

“Blog pieces, white papers, and any sort of PDF downloads or even small, authoritative ebook-type content pieces should be useful here,” says Dang.

“Many SaaS companies also have a built-out ‘library of assets’ or knowledge center section of their site to show their authority and leadership in a particular area or niche. A library of video assets with tutorials and how-tos could also be helpful.”

Quality is paramount, but quantity matters, too.

You might have a solid article on your site that’s garnered tons of traffic. But unless you keep up the momentum, Google’s crawlers will move on to competitors that are publishing high-quality content consistently.

Pump out quality content with these tips:

  • Know your audience. What topics do your customers want to know about? Study them through surveys, news monitoring, and other tactics to get a feel for ideal content topics. You can leverage this even further by using local SEO strategies.
  • Conduct keyword research. What search queries does your audience plug into Google? Use Google Search Console to find out and center your content around these terms.
  • Hire talented writers. If writing isn’t your strong suit, or you’re spread too thin to write content regularly, outsource the task to qualified writers. If your content has grammatical errors, lacks focus, or struggles to distill complex topics into easily readable content, your audience won’t stick around. Low-value content can do more damage than good, even if you publish consistently. The same goes for AI writing tools and bots.
  • Maintain E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). Your brand should have a clear voice with credentials to back up online content.
  • Create a consistent schedule. Google rewards consistency, so create a content calendar and implement systems for creating and posting regularly.

If you’re reading this, chances are high that you’re a busy business owner or marketer. Writing, editing, optimizing, and posting content takes time and proficiency.

Our SEO experts can help you analyze and develop content that will convert and rank. Talk to us about SEO content today.

2. Apply technical SEO

Let’s say you’ve hired a flawless writing team to craft on-page SEO content. Your expertise shines through each word while engaging every reader. Fantastic. Now it’s time to get technical.

Technical SEO involves behind-the-scenes optimization including:

A well-organized sitemap

Sitemaps are exactly what they sound like: a map of all the pages, information, and files on your site and the structured data (aka schema markup) on each page. Make your site map easy to navigate for Google’s crawlers.

Meta tags

The SERPs show snippets of your page’s title tag and a description of the content called a meta description. This is your chance to quickly capture Google and the reader’s attention — don’t forget to add a primary keyword.

Alt text

Every visual piece of content (images, videos, infographics, charts, etc.) should have alt text, a short written description used in HTML code that describes its contents. This small but key information tells Google what that content contains, and is used as an assistive text for people with visual impairments.


How many of your pages are indexed, meaning they’re crawlable by Google? Find out, and if you notice any that aren’t, then optimize, update, or remove them ASAP.

Title tags and headings

Headings and subheadings help readers and crawlers make sense of your content and website. It organizes your content into bite-sized sections that are easy to navigate.

User experience (UX)

Google wants web visitors to feel comfortable and confident in top-ranking sites. Meaning? For starters, web pages should load quickly.

Plus, website structure and architecture should make logical sense. Asana’s website is a great example, separated into four main areas: resources, blog, use cases, and template. All this should apply to desktop and mobile visitors, especially mobile devices, which generate over 49.78% of site visits.

Here’s the thing: technical SEO isn’t always accessible, even to savvy marketers. It’s complex and requires a skilled hand and SEO tools (such as Ahrefs or Moz) that help streamline and optimize the SEO work.

If you’re up to the task, check out our detailed technical SEO guide. And if you need more firing power. We’re here to help.

3. Score backlinks with a link-building strategy

Imagine that you’re chatting with a friend about saving money, and you mention something you heard on Bruce Sellery’s Moolala finance podcast. You’re sharing sage financial tips you learned from a trusted credit expert.

Link building and backlinks do the same for your brand, where link building is the conversation and backlinks are the tips mentioned. You want other brands and public figures to talk about you online.

Boots climbing up a ladder

Once you start creating content, technical SEO, and backlinks, you’ll likely see results within a few months. (Image: Adobe)

And guess what? Google loves backlinks and internal links enough to name it a top-three ranking factor.

Here are some tips for building backlinks from scratch:

  • Build an online presence. Start publishing authority content that satisfies search intent, from roundup articles to how-tos that help your audience solve a problem. The more high-quality content you publish, the better chance you have of showing up in another writer’s research, leading to more backlinks, quotes, and mentions.
  • Use HARO and Help a B2B Writer. These platforms connect journalists with sources. You might have a staff member regularly monitor journalist queries and respond with insights. Or, an SEM agency could handle it for you.
  • Include data and statistics in your content. Do you have the latest stats and trend figures that nobody else has? Perhaps you conducted a survey or study? Publish these figures in your content to position yourself as a credible source.
  • Consider link exchanges. You’re not the only one after backlinks. Chat with your network or join backlink groups to create link exchange relationships.

Once you start creating content, technical SEO, and backlinks, you’ll likely see results within a few months, with heavier revenue after a year of consistent and effective campaigns.

Want to supercharge results?

Add data-driven tech and SEO experts to your strategy. At HawkSEM, we use our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ, to dive deep into the data behind your web traffic. After that, our SEO professionals translate the data into actionable insights to help you rank and drive revenue.

So now that we’ve covered SEO, how should you approach PPC?

3 steps to get started with paid ads (and optimize your search engine marketing)

Paid ads can be the devil or angel on your shoulder.

On one hand, they can pump up website traffic, lead generation, and sales in a much shorter time span than SEO.

“Doing both [paid ads and SEO] simultaneously isn’t a bad idea, as SEO takes time to germinate,” says Dang. “We want to plant those seeds early as it will take a period of time before we can harvest. Paid search can help generate leads immediately or in the near term as we wait for SEO to bear fruit.”

On the other hand?

A poorly planned ad campaign can bust your ad spend.

Let’s look at three steps for creating superb ad campaigns:

1. Keep up with keywords

As you shift from SEO to your Google Ads strategy, keep the momentum going. We know that PPC ads can place your business at the top of page one. But that ad placement depends on a few factors, including keyword targeting.

Dang recommends starting simple, specifically with “organic bottoms-up keyword generation (i.e., brainstorming and writing down keyword ideas that come to mind).”

Next, check out Google Ads’ keyword planner. Once you plug in a few search terms, Google generates potential keywords for you to consider using. Try to capture a mix of low and high search-volume keywords, and take note of how much you’ll have to bid for each one. But be careful not to go overboard.

“Be disciplined about keywords,” says Dang. “Choose high-intent, bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, and stick to exact and phrase match types.”

After that, you’re ready to dive even deeper with keywords. Dang recommends the following next steps:

  • Use competitive research tools like SpyFu and SEMRush
  • Comb through the company website and competitor sites for keyword ideas
  • Do sample searches on Google and see what other terms are “suggested”
  • Use a keyword multiplier tool to generate bottom-of-the-funnel, longtail keywords

Anything else to look out for? Steer clear of keyword stuffing (jamming a bunch of keywords into your ads). That’s a sure way to drop ad rank.

Here are our insider tips for making the most of Google ad keywords:

  • Leverage smart bidding. You’ll have to bid for every keyword you want your ad to rank for. But if you have a few parameters in mind, you might automate the process with smart bidding, which enables Google to automatically prioritize high-performing keywords. Still, Dang cautions against putting all your eggs in Google’s suggestions basket. “Be wary of relying too much on Google’s automated options. This means relying on Performance Max too early, using broad match keywords, or using dynamic search ads.”
  • Invest in branded keywords over basic keywords. For example, “coffee beans” is a general keyword. “City Bean Roasters coffee beans” is a branded keyword for a local LA coffee shop. Bid for branded keywords to help you capture customers that are further along in the buyer’s journey.
  • Learn how competitors rank. Explore which keywords your top competitors are ranking for. This helps you see what your shared audience is typing into Google. You can easily find this info by plugging in competitor URLs into similarweb.com.
  • Use small ad groups. “Pay attention to ad group structure,” says Dang. “Three to five keywords per ad group is the sweet spot.”

2. Prioritize Quality Score

Your ad won’t secure top positioning off the bat. For the top spot, you’ll need a solid Quality Score, which Google uses to assess:

  • Ad relevance: Does your ad have relevant keywords that match the searcher’s intent?
  • Landing page: The ad should match the resulting landing page (plus, user experience should be A+)
  • Predicted click-through rate (CTR): The chance of searchers clicking your ad

“Make sure the quality rating of your ads [is] high,” says Dang. “Aim for a “good” if not an “excellent” rating.”

As Search Engine Journal says, Google makes money when users click ads. This gives Google an incentive to ensure relevance. Plus, a solid quality score doesn’t just earn you top-SERP real estate; it reduces CPA and acts as a great diagnostic tool to help you improve your strategy.

Here are some surefire ways to keep your Quality Score high:

  • Spruce up your ad copy. Make every word count. Weave keywords naturally into persuasive, stellar copy. “Write ads well, and make sure the ad aligns well with the keywords,” says Dang. If you need help, task the writer you outsourced content creation to, or partner with an agency.
  • Speed up your load time. Landing page user experience suffers if your webpage takes a minute to load. See where you’re at with this tool and make changes accordingly.
  • Don’t forget about negative keywords. Your ads might rank for irrelevant keywords that Google sees as similar to your regular keywords. For example, a coffee shop in Athens, Georgia might soar in the search engine rankings for keywords related to Athens, Greece. See the problem? Negative keywords mitigate this and improve your Quality Score.

The final step for setting up high-performing ad campaigns?

3. Optimize SEM: Review results with Google Analytics

Once you launch a PPC campaign, keep your finger on the pulse of how your ads are performing.

Some questions to ask are:

How much is your ad spend?

Are your target customers clicking and converting?

How do organic traffic and paid search results compare?

You can find out the answers to these questions with Google Analytics. Here’s how to make the most of it:

  • Have a goal in mind. We’re big advocates of reviewing the data, but not mindlessly. You should have a content marketing goal in mind when reviewing your ad results. Create a custom dashboard on Google Analytics to see a bird’s eye view of your most important metrics.
  • Examine the buyer’s journey. Is your bounce rate through the roof? Don’t panic, but observe and make changes accordingly. Where in the journey are you losing your customers? Similarly, at which point in the journey are they converting?

And before we wrap up our insights on paid advertising: is Google the only place for PPC? Glad you asked.

Don’t skip social media marketing

The SERPs see millions of users daily. But you could say the same for social media platforms. And if you already know your audience is on one platform in particular, that’s even more reason to explore social media ads.

Think about where your target audience is online. Are they corporate professionals? Chances are, they’re on LinkedIn. Baby Boomers? Try Facebook. Gen Z? TikTok.

Social media marketing helps boost SEO by providing more pages for Google’s index — not to mention the backlinks. But most importantly, social media metrics help you glean invaluable insights about your audience. You can use that data to inform both PPC and SEO in your digital marketing strategy. Win-win!

The takeaway

A search engine marketing strategy protects your brand from slipping through the cracks of Google’s SERPs. But most importantly? It boosts your revenue and builds credibility within your niche, leading to more high-value leads and loyal customers.

You can hit the ground running with a solid search engine marketing strategy, but over time, it may become difficult to maintain consistency or accurately track the performance data.

Optimize search engine marketing for success, by analyzing your data closely and continuously tweaking and fine-tuning your strategy. Bid adjustments, keyword monitoring, and writing quality SEO content take time.

Sounds like a lot, right? We won’t sugarcoat it: it is.

“Unless you’ve got a really built-out digital marketing team with deep experience in SEM, it’s best to leave it to the experts,” says Dang. “You can do more with less, and achieve goals faster and with less of a headache.”

That’s where we come in. We’d love to hear about your search engine marketing goals.

Once you notice your plate overflowing, call on us. We’re ready to help.

This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2023.

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon is an entrepreneur and writer from sunny SoCal. She leads Lyon Content, a tight-knit team of bold creatives, and crafts engaging written content that helps brands sparkle and scale.