3 Essential Elements of a Full-Funnel Search Strategy

Want a winning formula to hit your business goals? While there’s no one size that fits all, our Lisa Little, one of Search Engine Land’s 2020 search marketers of the year,  says it comes down to having these three elements in your search strategy – a healthy mix of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and ecommerce.

The search engine results page (SERP) is filled with aspects and listings that fall into SEO, SEM and ecommerce, and you need to have a solid combination of all three to take up more real estate on the SERP, not only for maximum visibility but to push out your competition. Since typical searchers don’t know if they’re interacting with organic, paid or ecommerce listings, including all three elements in your search strategy means you can be there for your customer when, where and how they personally prefer to interact with your brand. No matter your customers’ path to conversion, having a consolidated search strategy will cover your full-funnel bases and ensure you’re reaching each of your customers in a personalized, effective and efficient way.

Three Different Games, Same Playground

Lisa compares SEO, SEM and ecommerce to playing three games during a playground tournament: You’re playing dodgeball (SEO), kickball (SEM) and tetherball (ecommerce) on the same playground (SERP) with the same type of ball (platforms) but with different rules, gameplay, player positions, strategies, variables and objectives to win. Rather than invest everything into one game, to succeed at a full-funnel search strategy, you have to play a combination of these three games and find the right mix of SEO, SEM and ecommerce for your brand. When you do and when you can communicate well; enjoy continual learning, testing and rapid change; and excel at data storytelling, you’ll be well-versed to reach your brand goals. That’s when you’ll rule the playground.

SEO, SEM and Ecommerce – What They Are and How They Relate

Let’s dig into what SEM, SEO and ecommerce are and how they relate to one another. They each bring different benefits to advertisers, so including all three channels in your full-funnel search strategy is vital. Never ignore them, pit them against one other or compare them on a one-to-one basis. Each one is supplemental and pivotal to your success:


SEO is your brand’s DNA, your fundamental online infrastructure. It’s your organic search online strategy, your mindful, smart messaging that lays the groundwork for your brand. Lisa says without SEO, your paid advertising, like a beautiful mansion, will crumble under a weak foundation.

SEO provides listings based on relevant search terms to the SERP, which can be in the form of knowledge graphs, SEO and map listings, social media ratings and reviews to app search optimization, location list management, content mapping, free shopping listings and web development. It’s an ongoing process, trying to rank your website in organic search listings, updating location listings for brick-and-mortar businesses and more.


SEM is paid advertising triggered by keyword searches. Each time a keyword is searched, you and other advertisers compete in the same real-time blind auction (a combination of bid, quality and relevancy) to determine positions on the SERP. The one who wins gets to display their messaging and targeting at the top of the SERP. One good reason to engage in SEM is because your competitors are. But doing so can be beneficial in other ways: It can tell you who your customers are and how they behave. Plus, you can control your promotional messaging and measure its effectiveness  with tangible dollars. SEM is an excellent way to build immediate awareness, traffic and results if you have a budget to spend on paid digital media.


Ecommerce is the broad term for online retail, which encompasses paid and unpaid aspects that work together, and can range from shopping ads on search engines, open marketplaces such as Amazon or Walmart or integrations such as Shopify. For ecommerce success, automation and machine learning are key, so leverage a management platform like Kenshoo to consolidate holistic ecommerce stories and gain more ecommerce program capabilities.

How To Elevate Your Holistic Search Strategy

To evolve and use SEO, SEM and ecommerce and elevate your holistic search strategy, determine your primary business objective and the pain points you’re trying to solve. Our ecommerce playbook and any of our other free digital advertising resources – guides, case studies, white papers and more – can offer you the expert insights and tips to know where to start. Or seek out the right partner with the strength, expertise, tools and capabilities who can be with you right from the beginning and every step along the way to help you grow and evolve across all search channels.

To see if we may be a good fit and to get a recommendation custom built for your brand, reach out now. We can help you harness the right combination of SEO, SEM and ecommerce capabilities and opportunities to rise above your competitors and claim the notice you deserve.