Search engine optimization (SEO or organic) and pay-per-click (PPC or paid) are often approached by separate teams utilizing different strategies.
It’s important to remember that both are optimizing your search results.
So which should you choose: SEO or PPC?
The answer is: both.
SEO and PPC are complementary forms of digital marketing and together these tactics will generate more leads in concert than either will produce on its own.
Here are five reasons why you should execute both tactics simultaneously.
1. SEO is Long-Tail. PPC Delivers Immediately.
SEO campaigns require a steady investment, month after month and year after year.
Google wants to see a sustained optimization effort; therefore, shifting from a lot of SEO activity to very little is a recipe for failure.
Why is this the case?
First, Google may perceive enormous bursts of certain SEO activities, such as acquiring hundreds of links overnight, as “black hat” SEO tactics and ignore or even penalize the website.
Second, legitimate SEO practices such as on-site and off-site content development and website maintenance and troubleshooting can not be accomplished overnight, even if a company had the financial resources to do so.
Conversely, PPC campaigns can be turned on and off at a moment’s notice, and ad budgets can be increased or decreased at the click of a mouse — with no harm inflicted.
The flexibility of PPC has enormous value for a company’s marketing budget and bottom line.
At a time, when business is booming, a company can keep their SEO campaign moving steadily forward and significantly boost their PPC efforts in order to make hay while the sun shines.
In years when business is slow, the company can maintain their SEO campaign so as not to lose ground built over years of effort, but slow it down to keep the budget under control.
2. Universal Search Makes Dual Campaigns Powerful.
In the old days, getting your web page to the top of Google page one really meant something. Today – not so much.
When users enter a search query on Google, they will see universal or “blended” results, which is a mix of organic results, news, videos, localized results and PPC ads.
While maintaining a high organic rank is still important, depending on the format of the search engine results page (SERP), a high ranking web page can easily get lost in the shuffle.
Here is an example of SERP with blended results. It’s not so easy for users to differentiate ads from organic results:
By pursuing SEO and PPC simultaneously, a company gains greater visibility on SERPs.
If searchers miss the organic listing, they may spot the PPC ad, and vice versa.
Furthermore, a company gains credibility when users see strong organic listings and a well-composed PPC ad. They think: This company must be a leader since they dominate Google for my search query.
3. PPC is an SEO Lab.
An important feature of PPC is that keywords, ad text, offers and landing pages can be constantly tested.
The intelligence gained from PPC testing is enormously helpful for improving SEO campaigns, which are much harder to test.
Currently, Google does not provide keyword data to webmasters for organic traffic, which makes it impossible to know which keywords produce traffic from SEO campaigns.
On the other hand, keyword data is visible on PPC campaigns.
Knowing which keywords produce strong conversions for a PPC campaign gives SEO managers valuable insight into which keywords they should focus on.
What’s more, SEO managers benefit tremendously from knowing which PPC offers have the highest conversion rate.
A solid PPC campaign takes users from the PPC ad to a landing page designed specifically around the advertised offer.
If, for instance, $50 off receives 25 percent more conversions than two-for-the-price-of-three, then SEO campaign managers can display the more popular offer on strategically important and relevant website pages and improve lead generation substantially.
4. PPC Allows For Much Broader Keyword Coverage.
In terms of keyword coverage, think about SEO as being an inch wide and a mile deep, and PPC as being a mile wide and an inch deep.
Whereas a robust SEO campaign will target hundreds of keywords, a similarly robust PPC campaign will target tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands.
So, while the SEO campaign nurtures its strategic keywords, a concurrently running PPC campaign can cover a much broader terrain, driving leads from keywords the SEO campaign is not even close to targeting.
This is especially important for long tail keywords — complex keyword phrases such as “mobile credit card processing for candle makers.”
Long tail keywords appeal to specific segments of the market or specific applications of a given product or service.
These keywords tend to have low search volume but extremely high conversion rates, making them impractical as SEO targets but ideal for PPC.
Because to achieve high organic visibility, an SEO campaign will have to create a steady stream of on-site and off-site content and acquire inbound links relevant to the keyword.
For PPC, the only cost is when a user clicks on the ad — perhaps $15 and a good chance the user will become a lead or customer.
5. PPC Allows a Firm to Control Their Brand.
Unfortunately, some companies implement “competitor PPC campaigns.”
With this strategy, the company targets keywords that include a competitor’s brand. Thus, when users search for “ABC Shoes,” they see an ad for the advertiser, “XYZ Shoes.”
First, let’s be clear: competitor campaigns are NOT a good idea.
They have poor conversion rates and reduce the effectiveness of a company’s overall PPC effort. Nevertheless, the practice occurs and companies should protect themselves by running their own branded PPC campaigns, i.e., targeting keywords that include their own brand.
Running a branded campaign, in stark contrast to competitor campaigns, is a great idea.
Branded campaigns have very high conversion rates since users are searching for the brand. Plus, branded ads are obviously relevant, increasing a company’s quality score, the Google measurement of ad quality, which makes or breaks a campaign.
Just as important, running a branded campaign means searchers will see the company’s ad in addition to or instead of a competitor’s ad.
Any clicks that might have gone to the competitor will instead go directly to the company, preventing a competitor from cashing in on that company’s hard-earned reputation.
Be Sure to Track Leads
We’ve seen how SEO and PPC work together to produce sales leads, but as a final thought, the potential benefits will be squandered if a company fails to track those sales leads properly.
A solid tracking system traces conversions, including online orders, form leads and phone leads, back to their referral source.
Only when a company knows where their online leads are coming from (PPC campaigns, SEO campaigns, social media or inbound marketing content) can they make sound decisions about how much to spend and where to focus.
Which tactics do you or clients find more valuable? SEO or PPC? Tell us in the comments below, and don’t forget to explain why!
Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, an Internet marketing firm assisting middle market firms with the SEO and PPC campaigns. You can
learn more about SEO by reading his posts on Yahoo Small Business, Website Magazine, and All Business.
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