How Can SEO and Paid Media Work Together for Better Results?
Too often, companies can get stuck in a sort of tunnel vision, focusing only on one digital marketing solution for their business, either SEO or PPC. In other instances, each solution is guided by separate teams that rarely work together to collaborate. This article will highlight each digital marketing component providing the unique benefits while also including the drawbacks of having tunnel vision in each. In addition, we will focus on integration opportunities and the advantages of combining a company’s efforts at SEO and PPC.
Two Sides of the Same Digital Marketing Coin.
Though each methodology, SEO and PPC, are quite different, these two pillars of digital marketing have an often-hidden symbiotic relationship, aiding each other which, when properly optimized, can drastically improve the overall performance of a company’s digital marketing strategy. However, before we get into the meat of this, we need to define both SEO and PPC and uncover their individual benefits as well as the drawbacks of focusing on only one strategy.
What is SEO?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization and is defined by Directive’s own glossary as the highly involved and focused process of getting web pages to rank higher in search engines such as Google or Bing, for example. This process involves improving the quality and quantity of organic traffic to a website by a search engine. Organic traffic, as opposed to paid traffic, is website traffic that is gained through means which is not paid for by the website.
This can include direct traffic which basically means the user enters the website’s URL directly into the browser. It can also include referring traffic such as other websites which have the URL as a link within their own website. Finally, this includes search engine traffic through the results of a search such as search queries, videos, images, or even academic means through academic databases such as Scopus or EBSCO.
Benefits of SEO
Don’t be overwhelmed by the above definition of SEO. Despite being labeled as a highly involved and focused process, there are some real benefits which can very effectively improve your website’s visibility and therefore increase the likelihood of increased sales, leads, clients, etc. Websites that focus on SEO can capture high-intent website traffic from individuals who are actively seeking a company’s products or services. This high-intent traffic leads to higher conversion rates, higher than what we regularly see with PPC. As a result, this can lead to higher ROI (return-on-investment) when comparing SEO with PPC. Furthermore, SEO requires very little investment and these investments, such as content development or website optimization, continue to drive traffic, long after the initial investment. Another great benefit of SEO is the fact that it is far less expensive, in most cases, than PPC as the website is not paying for each visitor to the website as opposed to PPC as the name suggests, pay-per-click.
Drawbacks of SEO-Only Focus
Now, all these benefits listed previously, one might think, wow! SEO is the way to go! Hold those horses! There are some drawbacks to an SEO-only focus. First and foremost, SEO is a long play and optimizations can take weeks or even months to generate results for a company. In addition, SEO is a very technical process which requires a deep understanding of complex issues and continued education as SEO is a constantly changing landscape such as Google’s ever-changing algorithm, ranking fluctuations, etc.
Also, as SEO is ever-changing, results are often very difficult to predict and impossible to guarantee, positive results require maintenance to maintain ranking positions for keywords. Finally, competition with other websites, such as competitor websites, can often be one-sided due to domain authorities and as age of websites is factored into Google’s rankings, new websites and startups can often find themselves struggling to establish their websites in the SERP (search engine results page).
What is PPC?
PPC, like SEO, is an acronym for Pay-Per-Click (we love acronyms in digital media). This is defined as an advertising model that allows marketers to place ads on an ad platform (think Google, Facebook, LinkedIn) and pay the host of this platform each time they receive a click. The primary focus of any PPC campaign is to get the lead to visit the marketer’s website. Once there, the visitor (lead we just paid for) can do a variety of things and, hopefully, complete a purchase or sign up for a demo. Using Google as an example, PPC campaigns aim to be listed first or at least “above-the-fold” in the SERP, ahead of the organic search results which we mentioned previously.
Benefits of PPC
PPC has a ton of benefits to consider, and every company should invest some budget in developing an effective PPC strategy. First, PPC is great for websites looking to build brand awareness. As we mentioned before, the age of websites factors into Google’s rankings and new websites will struggle to rank on the SERP. PPC provides companies the ability to bypass the SEO requirements needed to have a top-positioned search result. Also, PPC provides the opportunity to reach users beyond the SERP through outbound marketing such as paid social (think Facebook, LinkedIn, or even TikTok) as well as display and video (such as YouTube). PPC is technically similar to SEO however forecasting models do allow for more predictability.
Drawbacks of Paid-Only Focus
As with SEO, these benefits do have their fair share of drawbacks to consider if a marketer is only focused on PPC. These drawbacks are mostly focused on cost. First, depending on the CPC (cost per click), targeting certain keywords can be very expensive, depending upon the competition surrounding the ad auction. PPC is also subject to the law of diminishing returns. As spend increases, the marginal gain decreases. Google bids on the best performing keywords first and lower performing keywords last.
Therefore, increasing budget typically means targeting additional keywords and this often means more ad spend is being used on lower performing keywords than before which then leads to increased CPA (cost-per-acquisition). In addition, the competitiveness of ad campaigns and their results are limited by budget size and if the budget is not there, the results will be less impressive. Finally, though different from SEO, PPC is technically similar to SEO and requires similar skills and continuous education as the PPC landscape changes over time.
How Can SEO & PPC Integrate?
As we have outlined, both methodologies have their benefits and weaknesses, however, they are most effective when they are working in conjunction with each other. In the next few sections we will investigate the impacts, advantages, and tactics that can arise from using SEO and PPC as a unit instead of siloed practices.
Indirect Impacts of PPC & SEO
As we have mentioned, both PPC and SEO have similar technical backgrounds to consider and they aim to achieve similar goals which include driving website traffic, building brand awareness, and most importantly, generating conversions such as purchases or opportunities through demo conversions. Given this end goal, many situations arise where the actions of one impact the other. These can include multiple impressions from a user from the same keyword, multi-touch conversions, and even the discovery of new more effective keywords. To explain further, let’s use an example scenario.
It is not uncommon for websites to bid on their own branded search terms. In fact, this is often considered best practice in paid media. Every now and then, exceptions to industry best practices arise. Recently we worked with a client who was experiencing issues with current users clicking on ppc ads with the intention of logging into the platform they had already signed up for. Instead of being directed to the company’s main website, users instead found themselves on a landing page designed to drive demo conversions. Upon realizing they clicked on the wrong search result, the users quickly left the landing page before clicking on the organic search result.
In this scenario, measure could have been in place to prevent this issue from occuring in the first place. An exclusion list containing current customers for example. This does however outline an issue when examining the bigger picture. With no competitors bidding on the same branded keyword, the company was essentially paying to have two search results appear concurrently in the search result. Later on in this post, we will discuss how sometimes markers will do this intentionally and with good reason.
Branded search terms that are low in search volume and difficulty score mean the website will have an easier time achieving a top ranking position organically. Due to low search volume, the competition in the PPC ad auction will also be limited. So, with a top ranking organic search result and no other paid search competitors for the branded keyword in question, the question becomes why should they continue bidding on the keyword?
The number one organic search result is expected to have a CTR of approximately 40%. This number can decrease as more paid search ads are added to the fold. With only one ad being served, and for the same website, the cost of acquiring new users increases with every paid search click. Meanwhile the statistics suggest that the user with the same search intent would have clicked on the organic search result anyways. This scenario illustrates the importance of understanding both sides of the digital marketing coin when developing strategies.
Advantages of Combining PPC & SEO
The linking of different digital marketing platforms such as Google Ads, Tag Manager, and Analytics provide far more insight for marketers. This is due to the increasing amount of data received through combining these platforms, data such as keywords, traffic, website engagement as well as messaging and copy. Also, as we outlined earlier, PPC is far more responsive than SEO with data results yielded nearly instantaneously each time an ad is served. This can alleviate pressure for a website to organically drive traffic while SEO strategies develop over a longer period of time.
Common Integrations of PPC & SEO
We aren’t reinventing the wheel here; these integrations have been around for some time and include some fantastic ideas developed by far more intelligent marketers than us! Some of these include remarketing with paid-search or even display ads to users who visited your website on an earlier occasion via organic search such as on Google or Bing.
Organic keyword coverage is another integration that should be considered. What is organic keyword coverage? Also referred to as SERP dominance, organic keyword coverage is a common technique used to combat the negative effects of dropping in organic search position. The further a webpage drops in the SERP, effectively lowers the expected CTR with each position. As we know, paid search ads are displayed above the organic results. Adding the organic keyword that dropped in rank to a PPC campaign can ensure the website still receives an impression from the search user. In other cases, digital marketers will include organic keywords in an attempt to maximize SERP real estate.
Another integration to implement is A/B testing for elements such as your website’s content, messaging, or conversion rate optimization (CRO, yup, more acronyms!). Through testing different versions of your content or messaging, any positive results (aka the winners of the A/B test) can be implemented both organically (SEO) and through paid landing pages to help your website’s conversion rates and user retention.
Finally, and we saved one of the most impactful for last, integrating SEO and PPC will garner double the data and more data can provide exponentially more visibility and insights towards consumer data, website traffic, keywords, the list goes on and on. Data is your company’s best friend! Data is what great campaigns run on, providing the needed insights like a roadmap towards success. Through sharing data between SEO and PPC campaigns, marketing strategists can understand more of the roadmap towards campaign success, enlightening them to more detail and driving more success.
Using Best PPC Ad Copy to Develop SEO Strategy
PPC is a short-term strategy when compared with SEO and using SEO to rank for a particular keyword can take weeks or even months. Furthermore, if this keyword had a low click-through-rate (CTR), those weeks (or months) of working on improving ranking through SEO would be wasted. Through combining SEO with PPC, results could be yielded within days. By using ad copy to test specific keywords, topics, messaging, even headlines and tags can reveal a mountain of data which can then be used to create more accurate and successful strategies for your SEO team. Data is king! PPC can help to make more informed decisions for SEO keywords through determining which keywords have the highest conversion rates which will help your SEO team determine which keywords they should work to rank for organically.
Integration of SEO/PPC Can Help to Achieve Better SERP Results
We couldn’t write about SEO and PPC without mentioning the SERP [warning, yet another acronym]. So, what is the SERP? This stands for Search Engine Results Page and the real estate above the fold on the SERP is what keeps many SEO and PPC strategists up at night. Domination of the SERP is the dream, getting pushed below the fold or even [cringe] to page…two…[ahhhh], that is the nightmare! With organic results being pushed further and further down the page, even below the fold in many cases, PPC and SEO must work together to ensure your brand is seen. Companies should develop their PPC game to gain an ad spot above the fold and if combined with SEO, they could potentially earn a top organic spot, taking up a larger portion of the SERP and gaining the advantage of more exposure and SERP domination!
SERP real estate is becoming increasingly important with Google’s expansion of SERP features which are increasing seemingly by the month. These include:
- Rich Snippets – these add a visual layer to an existing result such as review stars for product ratings.
- Paid Results – these include those bought by bidding on keywords such as Ad Words or Google Shopping.
- eCommerce Carousels – we’ve all seen these while searching for products and are another feature taking up SERP real estate.
- Knowledge Graph – this is data that appears as panels or boxes such as weather or even the Celebrity Knowledge Panel.
- People Also Ask – yet another feature that was added by Google which displays a list of related search queries.
As you can see, the SERP and its features provide a plethora of information to the user without even having to leave the results page. Furthermore, these features, as useful and insightful as they may be, make obtaining a click even more challenging as it further crowds the results page.
Uncover Hidden Insights Through SEO/PPC Collaboration
We’ve said it many times, SEO and PPC use keywords heavily as both are working to achieve impressions on the SERP through targeting the correct words or phrases. User intent should be the primary focus for any keyword research and then this should be bucketed into the following:
- Transaction – these include phrases which include demos, trials, price pages, or purchase words.
- Solutions – phrases or keywords that include words such as top, best, reviews, or case studies.
- Education – keywords or phrases that include words like guides, glossaries, definitions, what is, or resources.
- Competitor – these include keywords or phrases that include competing company names, products, or service lines.
PPC should avoid paying for educational-intent words and focus more on transactional and solutions-oriented keywords as they are lower-funnel, higher-intent than educational. SEO, on the other hand, should consider working to rank for educational-focused keywords for brand awareness.
What is the Final Verdict?
If you have made it this far, you have a real interest in digital marketing and how to improve your campaign results! Both SEO and PPC are critical components of digital marketing, again, aiming to accomplish similar goals, though by different means.
Despite the differences between them, the commonalities of these two methodologies provide ample opportunities for alignment. Incorporating both practices into a marketing mix can yield higher volumes of website traffic, data, and even conversions [what we are all after]. Through aligning the two practices, brands and marketing practitioners will maximize their results.
If you want to learn even more about SEO, PPC, CRO, PCS, and a plethora of other really cool acronyms join Society at Directive!