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From blurred lines to search domination: Mastering today’s complex SERP

Laura Colton
Laura Colton
Content Communications Specialist
7 min read
5 June 2023

The search engine results page, or SERP, is continuously becoming more dynamic and complex. Within the past year, AI has transformed search as we know it. The explosive popularity of chatbots like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard has radically impacted user behavior and, in turn, paid and organic search performance.

Shifts like these give marketers enormous potential and opportunities while posing new questions and challenges — forcing teams to reevaluate their search strategies to stay ahead of the curve. 

Person slouched over a laptop, hands typing away.

The line between paid and organic placements has become even more blurred, making it necessary for the two to work together.

With the increase of content automation and AI, taking a unified approach that integrates both search channels is the key to maximizing the performance of each. Not only can it help your teams decrease cost per click and ensure that your brand is more responsive to consumer needs, but you can also better align activities to reach your shared digital goals, avoid diminishing returns on either channel, target your search strategies based on your customer’s journey, and drive exponential growth. 

As the new customer journey emerges — and the linear path to purchase becomes more fluid — now is the time to ensure your cross-channel efforts are integrated and streamlined to avoid inefficiencies, redundancies, and silos. 

Understanding holistic search engine marketing

As a marketer, you likely tend to focus more heavily on either paid or organic search. So before we dive into the advantages of approaching the two together, let’s get clear on how they’re different. 

Differentiators between paid and organic search include:

  • Paid search involves bidding on keywords (essentially paying for clicks) to have your content appear on the SERP
  • Organic search is free, but the content must be optimized to have the best chance of appearing in the top search results
  • Paid search ads live at the top of the SERP (and sometimes the very bottom), while organic content appears in regular search results
  • Organic search results can also be found in elements such as Featured Snippets and People Also Ask

Together, paid and organic search have the combined power to help you achieve maximum effectiveness by seeing the whole picture. Marrying the two allows you to:

  • See the opportunity for keywords in both channels
  • Drive budgetary efficiencies
  • Improve the user experience
  • Effectively use all areas of the SERP to maximize return 
  • Reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC)
  • Dominate the search results and appear at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs)

Three advantages of Search Dominance

1. Unlock greater efficiency in your search investment and maximize results from spend 

It’s common to see brands approach paid search and organic with different budgets, strategies, and objectives.

This division doesn’t truly represent how consumers behave and can lead to inefficiencies in marketing spend. Rather than viewing these as competing channels, marketers must accept them as two sides of the same coin. A holistic search strategy enables you to make smarter, more informed decisions about budget allocation, ensuring your dollars are put toward the areas that aren’t ranking well organically. 

By cross checking your paid and organic efforts and reviewing the data from both channels, you can identify instances of keyword overlap and uncover areas where paid aids can supplement lower-performing organic positions. This approach allows you to more accurately allocate different keywords so you can avoid over-investing in specific keywords and losing out on growth opportunities. You’ll both optimize your budget and reduce the cannibalization of channels.

2. Optimize strategy and achieve domination on the SERP
AI can produce large amounts of optimized content for brands quickly and efficiently, exacerbating competition for search rankings. To combat this and stand out in the face of AI-generated content, marketers must approach both channels as a partnership united under the SERP. 

The key to optimizing your efforts on both channels is ensuring they’re working in tandem toward the same goals: maximizing brand consideration and driving more qualified traffic to obtain more conversions. Both paid and organic search have strengths and limitations, and identifying where they can help each other is critical in implementing a solid, holistic search strategy.

The magic of uniting paid and organic search is the ability to elevate brand awareness and bring higher-quality traffic to your website at each stage of the funnel. Both require keyword research to identify terms that align with your target audience’s online behavior, and this research can be repurposed for each channel. For example, if you’ve been running paid search campaigns already, you can use that search keyword data to inform your future organic keyword strategy. You can also use data from organic search campaigns to identify high-value keywords that could benefit from additional paid promotion.

3. Stop operating your search in silos and reduce internal competition 
Traditionally, digital marketing organizations tend to approach paid and organic search as two totally separate channels, run by different teams, with distinct strategies and objectives. This siloed mentality can impact the effectiveness of each channel, keeping them from reaching their peak performance as they compete for resources and may even work against each other. To counter this, companies must shift this siloed mindset by thinking of search as a single, collaborative channel.

Why is this important?

Because consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips that they can access anytime and anywhere. And with this unlimited access, expectations have risen. Brands must craft a consistent, connected, and unified experience that caters to consumers no matter where they are on their path to purchase. 

By adopting a holistic search approach, you are better equipped to ensure you touch on the right points and create a seamless journey, from education and research to consideration and purchase. You provide your customers with multiple entry points to choose from when you have bottom-funnel paid results working in tandem with upper-funnel organic results.

When you implement a comprehensive search strategy with integrated efforts, your brand can better anticipate customers’ needs and be in a better position to reach and convert them — wherever they are in the sales funnel and across multiple devices, channels, and user searches. 

Paid and organic: stronger together

By combining paid and organic search strategies, marketers can manage their efforts holistically to enhance brand awareness and bring more traffic to their sites.

Rather than viewing paid and organic search as two separate activities, DEPT®’s Search Dominance solution offers a fully aligned strategy that considers these two channels as one to maintain optimal spend levels and elevate your brand’s search efforts.

This holistic view allows you to maximize your visibility on the SERP and focus on driving overall search performance at every stage of the customer journey.  


Content Communications Specialist

Laura Colton