SEM Or Paid Social: Why Use Both?


Howdy, my fellow search and biddable media business pals.

For people who watch, observe, and/or troll my Twitter account, you’ve seen me on #ppcchat bashing issues like Pmax, Auto-Apply Suggestions, and GA4.

That’s along with my typical rants concerning the New York Jets (however hey, they’re 4-2 as of penning this), and social commentary on the entire Actual Housewives franchises.

At this time, we’re going to talk about when you must use search engine advertising and marketing (SEM), paid social, or each.

Full disclosure: I’m not a “guru” (I actually hate that time period), nor am I one of the best factor since sliced bread within the biddable media business.

However I’ve completed this for an extended sufficient interval and labored with sufficient good individuals and types to be thought of a considerably dependable supply of perception.

However Jon, they’re each biddable media; shouldn’t they all the time go collectively to realize a holistic purpose? No.


As a result of: SEM and paid social aren’t essentially apples-to-apples however extra like “a starfruit and a 1992 Volvo 240 with a spoiler on it.”

That is to say: one is enjoyable and fascinating, and one is commonly ugly as sin and simply misused however serves a hearty goal.

What Are SEM And Paid Social Media Promoting?

The truth is that they’re completely different capabilities.

Paid social is taken into account proactive media, which means that somebody isn’t essentially searching for data, however receives the advert. (In actuality, almost all digital media is proactive.)

SEM, alternatively, is reactive media – somebody is actively searching for one thing, and the advertiser is assembly them with the associated advert.

Doing them collectively at equal allocations to realize the identical goal is an ideal instance of the favored saying and meme, “F-Round and Discover Out.”

F-Round and Discover Out: The worth correlation of SEM and paid social.

SEM vs Paid Social QuantityPicture created by creator, October 2022

Regardless of the completely hilarious title of the chart, it does function an evidence: Sure, you are able to do it , however the output of it’s going to differ primarily based on its goal.

Sooner or later, the co-mingling of SEM and paid social will meet if unmonitored. Nonetheless, the reliance, whether or not on quantity or buyer qualification, could also be lower than fascinating.

The Advantages Of SEM Vs. Paid Social

As a normal common sense rule throughout the business, be sure to keep in mind the next:

  • Paid social may get you last-click conversions/gross sales/leads, and many others., however in actuality, it really works like show and video, serving to you garner extra consciousness or re-engagement. It’s about getting higher and extra direct conversions, however nonetheless not one of the best.
  • Paid search/SEM has excessive intent for sooner conversion/sale/leads, as a result of the buyer should set off your advert. It’s not one of the best device for driving consciousness. Search does an okay job at injecting your model into the search engine outcomes web page (SERP) if you happen to aren’t a identified participant, however be cautious of the “branding” raise you get out of it.

Takeaway: SEM drives actions, and paid social drives consciousness.

So, how have you learnt when to make use of each?

Effectively, if you happen to’re asking your self that, maybe you aren’t paying shut sufficient consideration to the graph or prior clarification of proactive vs. reactive.

So, let me clarify it in a bulleted, extra simplistic/media-esque method:

  • Natural social: Whereas not what we’re discussing right here, your natural social represents what you’ll be able to management – your owned media. You should utilize paid social to push it additional.
  • Paid social: Used to additional push your wonderful natural social and drive new followers to your web page, so you’ll be able to information extra owned media towards them. Or, drive them straight to the location to push additional consciousness/to reap their information, along with making an attempt to promote them one thing immediately. These customers could or is probably not actively searching for what you wish to promote them, however you have got particular instruments that provide help to decide if they might be.
  • Paid search/SEM: You have got one thing you wish to push to individuals, however you solely wish to push it to people who find themselves searching for your factor (or one thing just like it). So, you come collectively on engines like google and supply them with a portal to the merchandise they might be searching for immediately.

Now that I’ve reiterated what you most likely already know, let’s talk about which one ought to be used, when, and why.

When To Use SEM Vs. Paid Social

  • In case your finish purpose is to drive direct-from-site gross sales/leads/website-based engagements, then lead off with SEM.
  • In case your finish purpose is to drive model or product consciousness or re-engage with prior customers/guests, then lead off with paid social.

That mentioned, there are a number of causes to run each on the similar time.

A few of the most easy situations embody:

  • Remarketing clear up: Somebody searches and enters the location on a Google advert however abandons – that’s when paid social (or actually any programmatic) can seek out the searcher with the identical thirst for blood because the TSA agent at LaGuardia airport, looking for my half-full water bottle.
  • Capturing the mid to low funnel: An individual busy arguing political factors on Fb who’s proven an advert pushing mouth-watering bacon will then go do much more analysis on Bing (I refuse to name it Microsoft) in hopes of discovering a greater low cost code.

Right here’s a paid social consciousness advert, serving to to push model recognition:

Social Awareness AdPicture from Fb, October 2022


And right here is the search advert that garnered model recognition and traction when paid social was pushed:


search for bacon brand discount on BingScreenshot from seek for [nueske’s bacon], Bing, October 2022
  • Stacking the remarketing lists: A private favourite of mine is utilizing SEM to “inject” extra highly-qualified customers to the web site, and the converters to develop my social CRM/remarketing lists – which, in flip, results in creating larger and extra correct lookalike audiences for paid social.

What Is The Proper Mixture of SEM And Paid Social?

The correct mix is a shifting goal and, to a level, subjective. The degrees differ by vertical, seasonality, and finish intent.

I like to recommend setting a main and secondary focus.

If the first focus is direct conversions, lean extra closely into SEM.

Whether it is consciousness/engagement, lean extra closely into paid social.

The very best factor you are able to do is pull from historic information to determine.

If you happen to don’t have historic information, go into pure testing mode: Begin with a 50/50 cut up in funding, and inside 48 hours, you’ll have a way for search impression share (and hopefully conversion information), and it could provide help to determine if you’ll want to shift funds a technique or one other.

The 2 will work collectively, offering the right goal is ready for every:

  • SEM: Direct to web site, convert, and seize these shifting down the funnel.
  • Paid Social: Consciousness, re-engagement, and shifting a client alongside the funnel.

Solely you recognize which is correct on your wants.

Simply keep in mind: Wach channel serves completely different functions, so maintain the thoughts open and the price range fluid.

Extra sources:

Featured Picture: fizkes/Shutterstock


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