All right critical and/or skeptical SEO pros, marketers, and business owners, it is time you and I had a little talk about your decision to not supplement your organic search efforts with the wonderfulness that is known as paid search (a.k.a. pay-per-click/PPC)! So get your mouse away from that back button, and give this one a couple minutes of your time.
First of all, we need to clarify some myths that have been floating around in the search marketing world, like those saying that search engine optimization (SEO) is better than PPC or vice versa, or that SEO and PPC are as different as day and night, and thus, couldn’t possibly co-exist in the same marketing plan for the purpose of fulfilling a similar goal.
I will admit SEO and PPC have their differences; however, they have just as many similarities. Also, what differences they do possess, do not make one better than the other – they actually make the two a perfect search couple. Sold yet? That’s OK, keep reading.
Let’s Start by Airing Out Their Dirty Laundry
Most would agree PPC can be a pretty nifty marketing expense, especially if the industry you or your client is in is very competitive. I mean, you pay per click, and some of the keywords in a competitive industry, like email marketing, can cost up to $51 per click—and that’s just an average, not a max. SEO, on the other hand, is pretty much a free strategy, excluding minor costs for certain directory listings, and maybe the occasional link.
(OK, maybe SEO isn’t free—you need to invest labor hours, through either staff or consultants. But if done right, the results stick, and you don’t have to keep paying for them.)
Additionally, many hold a reservation with PPC because they think: Why waste money on a click for a paid ad ranking for keyword X when I already have an organic result ranking on page 1 of Google for keyword X? Hmmm, good question.
Let me ask you this: Is your organic result for keyword X, result 1 on page 1, or is it result 2, or maybe even result 7? If you don’t hold the top organic result, how can you be certain a searcher won’t find another result he/she likes better while trekking 10 miles through potential competitor territory, and be invited in by one of them for a cold beer and a warm meal before making it to your door?
That brings me to my next point. While SEO offers no guarantee your website or content will ever top page 1 of Google (and the likelihood is most dismal for local startups trying to rank for broad keywords, and businesses that have competitors with high authority sites, like Amazon and Entrepreneur), PPC ensures that you will rank, and usually in the top 3 paid results, that is, if you have a good-quality score and play the bidding game right, but I will save that topic for another post.
Ranking naturally in organic takes time, and involves the diligent process of consistently creating highly targeted, quality content, forging meaningful relationships with influential online figures, and building relevant backlinks to your site.
However, with PPC, you can rank in Google almost instantaneously for a keyword, and all you have to do is create a campaign in Google Adwords, pick and group your keywords, write an ad, set a budget and make a CPC (cost-per-click) bid, and voila, there your result is on Google.
Unlike SEO, PPC doesn’t really ever change. Sure, Google makes some minor policy tweaks and creates new features, but there are no algorithmic rules in the forms of Panda and Penguin, which are constantly changing, making the search engine visibility playing field a fickle game of Russian Roulette. By that, I mean, a white-hat link building tactic today can be deemed black-hat tomorrow.
These variables in SEO make optimizing content and testing keywords a delicate balancing act of strategy and considerations. If you have a “just enough to be dangerous” knowledge of SEO, one small maneuver could increase your ranking and click-through-rate (CTR), or send you flying down 10 flights of search results pages (SERPS).
PPC, on the other hand, not only provides quick feedback because of the ability for paid ads to instantly rank, but with paid search, you can optimize keywords and ad/landing page copy without fearing a penalty. How, you ask? Just write A and B versions of an ad or a landing page, and Google will automatically split the traffic it sends to each, allowing you to efficiently gauge what really resonates with searchers.
If you are in a competitive industry, SEO doesn’t really excel at letting websites rank for their competitors’ keywords. Actually, the only way to do this well would be to create a lot of content around your competitors’ branded keyword phrases, and unless all this content is meant as a slander (which I strenuously DO NOT recommend), it is not worth it, because it only promotes your competition.
PPC, however, while it doesn’t allow for advertisers to use their competitors’ trademarks in their ad copy, does permit advertisers to bid on, and rank for, all of their competitors’ branded terms.
Why PPC and SEO Are Like a Non-Tragic Romeo and Juliet
Now, before I go into the lovey-dovey scenarios about why SEO and PPC are a match meant to be, let me not discount the potential of stand-alone organic search strategies. In fact, SEO is an extremely vital component of a long-term marketing effort meant for achieving search endurance which, when executed wisely, can be very rewarding in its ability to confirm a company’s or website’s trustworthiness and industry expertise.
Additionally, unlike PPC, SEO can’t just be cut off. SEO is an investment that, over time, delivers loyalty. That means that after you have put in many a sleepless night to get all of your pages to rank on the first SERP, you can then just sit back and monitor to ensure that some stealthy competitor doesn’t try to sneak in your seat; it’s no longer a game of constant directory submissions, begging bloggers for links, etc. Although, staying on top of content creation is still a must.
With that said, though, another vital component of search endurance is first knowing and accepting that SEO alone cannot give you the best return on investment (ROI), and second, learning best how to implement a PPC strategy to supplement your SEO efforts—pick up the slack of organic search pitfalls.
I mentioned that PPC can be, or seem to be, a very costly solution for businesses with a small budget, but get this. One of PPC’s best bragging rights is that it rocks at lead generation and customer acquisition. This means if you are having trouble getting an e-commerce site or a page with a lead form on it to rank on the first SERP, a paid ad showing above all organic results, could be the way to go until that organic result starts rocking the SERPs.
Moreover, a Google-sponsored study conducted by Enquiro found that a searcher’s purchase intent increases by 8% when both a paid and organic ad show on the same page. Also, the video below illustrates that companies that use paid online advertising with SEO see an increase in in-store sales and a 15-to-1 return on ad dollars.
Getting success-hungry, are you? The SEO-PPC combo sure does smell like a yummy way to increase sales and revenue, doesn’t it?
Combining SEO and PPC is a synergistic, not a cannibalistic, tactic. The Adwords Agency blog reported that when used together, PPC and SEO generate a CTR 66% more than that of SEO alone. In fact, a Bright Oak article notes that companies that use both PPC and SEO, and then dump PPC, will usually see a decline in organic traffic. Scowley, the author of the post, writes:
Making a duo of PPC and SEO gives businesses the opportunity to optimize their content and, in turn, their visibility. While it is difficult to test different versions of a landing page in SEO to figure out which visitors like, or convert, better on, PPC makes it easy to test not only landing pages, but meta tags, as well as keyword phrases.
Like I mentioned, a platform like Google Adwords will automatically split the impressions of an ad, or traffic to a landing page. Why not, then, test an ad with two headline or description variances in paid search, and then replace your current meta title and meta description for an organic page with the winning headline and body text from your paid search test?
And why not conduct a similar paid search test to find a landing page with winning content that you can replace a poor-converting organic page with? Additionally, since PPC ads are pretty much guaranteed to rank for keywords, why not test to see whether long-tailed or short-tailed, branded or product, etc., keywords will give you the highest CTR and ROI?
A final reason why SEO and PPC make a fine pair is because together, they dominate more search real estate, especially when it comes to competitors’ turf. What is better than owning every result on page 1 of Google for your branded keywords? Owning land at the top of the hill on the first page of results for your competitors’ branded keywords, too!
With strategic SEO, you can own all organic results for your branded keywords, but the only way to have visibility when searchers are looking for your competitors is to bid on their keywords in paid search. The cool thing is that not only does that give you visibility on your competitors’ turf, it can give you visibility at the top of their turf, meaning searchers initially with the intent to find your competitor, may actually see your result first, and choose to visit you instead.
Ready to Ask PPC to Marry Your SEO?
If you answered yes, then great! If you are still unsure, then maybe some of my search marketing industry peers will kindly share their optimistic insights and experiences with you in the comments below. We’re always open to your thoughts.