As an experienced digital marketer will tell you, search engine marketing (SEM) is essential to any digital marketing strategy. Including organic SEO and paid search initiatives in your overall SEM plan is key to successfully increasing your company’s visibility across search engines. But before you invest any money in paid search, it’s best to develop your organic SEO strategy first.

Even though social media marketing (SMM) is usually top of mind for businesses nowadays, SEM is actually driving content. Search is the top driver of traffic to content sites, beating social media by more than 300 percent. Companies with comprehensive digital marketing strategies are usually already aware of this fact. Still, they often lack a two-pronged approach to SEM, one with a heavy focus on increasing web traffic organically.

While organic SEO and paid search are critical components of your digital marketing strategy, the former plays a more significant role in increasing your company’s visibility on Google, the world’s most popular searcher engine, which currently has approximately 92 percent of search engine market share worldwide. This is one of the main reasons you should allocate most of your efforts to developing, implementing, and evaluating your organic SEO strategy before adding in paid search.

Search engine users click on paid links (so, yes, paid search is effective); however, they tend to click on organic links more often. Seventy percent of the links search engine users click on are organic. By focusing most of your SEM efforts on optimizing your website for organic SEO, you’re significantly increasing the likelihood of a search engine user finding your page and making a purchase. Targeting this larger audience first allows you to generate leads and convert them quickly.

It’s important to remember the following: Not all leads generated by your digital marketing efforts should be viewed equally. These leads usually find your page after researching what they need. SEO leads are generally some of the most valuable leads to have in your sales pipeline.

By focusing on closing leads generated by organic SEO efforts, your salespeople will close deals more frequently. Leads generated by organic SEO have a 14.6 percent close rate, while outbound leads have a 1.7 percent close rate. One of the reasons salespeople have an easier time with closing SEO leads is that these consumers have typically done their homework and place their trust in organic rankings. The higher up you are in the results, the more superior you appear to be.

Again, it’s not that paid search isn’t important (it is). Still, by investing your resources in organic SEO immediately, you put your business in a better position to generate a significant number of leads.

After you convert some of those leads, you can use the additional revenue to invest in paid search efforts. Now, that sounds like the right way to generate leads from SEM? Doesn’t it?