SEO vs. SEM: Which search strategy is best for B2B health care?

SEO vs. SEM: Which search strategy is best for B2B health care?

Research continues to show the B2B discovery and sales power of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). And in today’s digitally driven market, B2B health care companies can’t afford to forgo a well-thought-out search strategy.

But which tool drives traffic better for your organization: SEO or SEM? The answer is both. Here we’ll take a deeper look into the individual strengths of SEO and SEM and how they can be used together to create a combined search strategy to maximize digital marketing results.

SEO: Utilize the dominant source of trackable web traffic

SEO focuses on increasing organic web traffic to your site. This is done with keyword research and by optimizing your site with quality content that will help place it higher on the search engine results page (SERP).

SEO is critical for standing out against competitors that are fighting for the same potential clients. According to a recent study by BrightEdge, organic search queries account for more than 53% of all trackable web traffic across industries, and B2B companies generate twice as much revenue from organic search when compared to all other digital channels.

Combine this visibility and profit potential with the fact that more than 40% of searchers click on organic content in a time where more than half of searchers don’t click on anything, and the reasons why you need to focus on SEO speak for themselves.

SEM: Reach the right people

SEM (also called paid advertising through a platform like Google Ads) doesn’t lead to nearly as many clicks as SEO. However, the clicks from ads may have more value. That’s because SEM allows you to narrowly target the people you’re trying to reach.

With SEM, you can target potential clients by factors like:

  • Industry
  • Job function
  • User behavior, such as if a user has visited your site before or a competitor’s site
  • Location
  • Device (i.e. mobile, laptops, desktops, etc.)
  • Windows of time when your target clients are likely to be online
  • Demographics like age and gender
  • And many more

Targeting is key to SEM success because you’re typically paying only when someone clicks on your ad. Because of this cost per click, you want to make sure the right people are the ones clicking.

Another strength of SEM is that it can deliver immediate results, unlike SEO, which takes time to start seeing its benefits. This can be helpful if your company is testing a new health care product or service to get a feel for the interest level among your target audience. It can also help you establish an online presence if your company is just getting off the ground.

Combined search: Maximize visibility and revenue

By playing off the strengths of both SEO and SEM and filling in their weaknesses, you’re more likely to achieve the results you’re looking for.

Consider the buying process for the typical B2B client. According to a 2021 Demand Gen Report:

  • 56% of B2B buyers across all buyer roles (i.e. primary decision maker, internal influencer such as a clinical department chair, technical influencer such as IT or legal, etc.) said they were first informed about a solution via a web search
  • 67% of B2B buyers noticed ads from the solution provider they chose, and 32% of those who noticed the ads said it positively impacted their view of the vendor
  • 65% of B2B buyers ranked easy access to relevant content that demonstrated expertise in their industry as a top criterion when making a decision
  • 80% of B2B buyers said the vendor’s content had a positive or significant impact on their buying decision

Because paid ads and high-quality organic content both play a significant role in more than half of B2B buyers’ decisions, it’s important that they both have a place in your digital marketing strategy to accomplish short- and long-term goals.

When SEO and SEM content are strategically used together, they can also complement each other in searches. Some searchers may be drawn to the first listing on the SERP, which is typically an ad, while others are inclined to skip the ads and look at the top organic results. This provides two opportunities for searchers to find their way to your site.

Search strategy takeaways for B2B health care companies

There are a couple of simple ways B2B health care organizations can improve their digital marketing goals through the lens of a combined search strategy.

Focus on content quality

More than 50% of B2B buyers ranked higher-quality content as a top reason for why they chose a specific vendor. Incorporate multimedia, make straightforward information like pricing easy to find and ensure your content is easy to digest. After all, there’s no reason to pay for ads to lead to a website that isn’t worth the visit.

Recognize the value of content marketing

B2B buyers care about whether their vendors have expertise in their industry. Demonstrate your health care expertise by blogging about relevant topics and becoming a thought leader on the latest industry news. This content can also be repurposed for social posts, newsletters and other channels.

Prioritize your target searcher and their intent

Get specific about your ideal buyer and the reason they might come across your site. Do they want to learn something or buy something? Do they prefer videos or white papers? How will your solution make their life easier?

If you are targeting busy physicians, for example, they might not have much time to listen to a 30-minute podcast. If you’re after IT professionals, they might want a visual demonstration of how your solution works. Anticipate their questions and make it easy to find the answers.

Work with B2B health care digital marketing experts

TruStar Marketing has been a leader in health care digital marketing since its inception 12 years ago. We offer:

Contact us for free advice on how to reach your future client base.