Want to get the most out of both search engine marketing and search engine optimization? You need to understand what both of them are best designed to do - and what they're not designed to do. If you figure that out, you can get the most mileage out of your SEO and your SEM. If you don't figure it out, you can end up where every other major search mistake leaves you: with a gaping hole in your advertising budget.

The basic point to keep in mind is this: Paid search is your best option for reaching people looking to make a purchase. SEO does its best work reaching out to people doing research.

Before we go into how to take make the best use of the two sides of search, you need to understand who's searching to begin with. The search population is basically broken into two groups:

- Researchers are looking for more information on a topic. They don't know what they want to find - and they might not want to find anything specific just yet. They only want to know more.

- Purchasers know exactly what they want. They're searching because they don't know where to find it. At the most extreme, that could be the searcher who knows exactly where she wants to fly to for vacation, the type of hotel she wants to stay in, and the price she's willing to pay; all she needs is the best Web site to book everything on. In general, purchasers are looking to do something (like book a flight), rather than to learn something. (There are plenty of searchers who want to do something specific, but who aren't looking to buy anything - but we'll still call them searchers, for the sake of simplicity. And you can be a "purchaser" of information, too - looking to subscribe to a particular magazine is one example.)

Of course, there is a middle ground: people who have a pretty good idea of what they want, but haven't worked out the kinks just yet. Even if someone knows she wants to go on vacation in Orlando, FL, there might be a lot of information - like the kind of hotel she wants, or the flight length she'll tolerate - that she's left undecided.

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