Your business is looking to grow. Your target audience is online searching for a company like yours. How do you make sure they find you? Some say organic search is the key. Others argue paid search gets quicker results. We think you need both.
In this guide, we’ll focus on the fruitful relationship between PPC and SEO, and how the latter can help you get the most out of the organic search work you’re already doing. We’ll start by separating the two, before showing exactly how you can get them working hand in hand for maximum reward.
PPC and SEO have always gone hand in hand in conversation, just not so much in practice. For many, they’re alternatives to one another; they represent a decision that needs making before investment is made. For others, they might as well be the same thing.
Before we start bringing the two closer together, let’s draw a line between them and briefly remind ourselves of the differences. After all, it’s these differences that allow them to work so well together.
SEO – or ‘organic search’, is the process of drawing more traffic to a website by using a range of techniques and methodologies to improve or maintain its position in search engine results pages (SERPs).
PPC – also known as ‘paid search’, has the same goal of bringing more people to a site or page, but this time it is achieved using carefully placed adverts on other websites, often search engines and social networks. The marketer pays the owner of the site on which their ad is placed whenever it is clicked or consumed – hence the name ‘pay-per-click.’
Both can be hugely powerful, and both have their benefits. PPC can yield positive results almost instantly with little time or monetary investment, while the rewards of an effective SEO campaign take longer to show but can be much bigger and more permanent in nature.
Digital marketing is all about insight; the more you know, the more you can achieve. Often, a single piece of information can be equally useful to specialists across different teams. We also find that the data generated by work in one campaign can go on the benefit efforts in another, and that’s usually the case with PPC and SEO. So the data you need to drive your SEO efforts; where does it come from? Well, some of it can be provided by your PPC campaign, if you’re running one.
Testing is a big part of paid search. In order to get results, campaign managers are constantly trying different approaches; trialing various keywords and search terms so they know what works and what doesn’t.
The short-term A/B testing of adverts is often the best way for a PPC expert to determine what will be worth spending on in the long term, but can also allow for more informed SEO decisions. Say, for example, you carry out split testing for the term ‘catering company’. One of the headlines is ‘Award-winning catering company based in London’ and the other is ‘Catering company in London – request a free quote now’. Once you can see which one generates the better click-through rate (CTR), you have a better idea of which title tags are likely to draw more organic visits – either the former, with its trust signal, or the latter, which uses a strong call to action (CTA). It takes considerably longer to generate data like this through SEO alone.
We’re all restricted by budgets, and while PPC can be an impressively cost-effective way to get results, there will be times when the keywords and search terms that prove most effective in testing are not quite financially feasible in the long run.
If you’re only relying on paid search to get you seen, this is likely the point where you’d breathe a sigh and move on to look for something more attainable, but when your PPC is running alongside an organic campaign – as it should be – you have an opportunity.
If a particular term is effective but expensive, try targeting it using more natural techniques. ‘Catering company in London’ may be out of reach on Google AdWords, but that doesn’t stop you using it to inspire SEO-driven content to improve your search rankings. Sure, PPC is quick, but you’ll find that being at the top of the listings in your own right will garner more trust from your audience.
Whatever you’re selling, gaining visibility will likely be one of your marketing objectives; building your customer-base is quite literally impossible if you’re not being seen by new people. SEO is one obvious way to achieve this, and PPC is another; so if you’re doing either already, you’re on the right track. Combine the two, however, and you’ll find your visibility reaches new levels.
Time for some crowd participation. Assuming you’re reading this on some kind of internet-enabled device, go to Google and type in ‘laptop’. It’s a broad term, yes, but it illustrates the point perfectly: on a desktop screen around the top two-thirds of the visible page (without scrolling) are taken up by paid listings.
You’ve got a section dedicated to Google Shopping, as paid for by the respective retailers, and then two PPC ads before you even see an organic result. Now, it’d be wrong to assume users’ clicks are all going here – they’re definitely not – but the added exposure is undoubtedly beneficial. Even if your ad isn’t clicked on, its prominence on the page will help to increase awareness and reinforce your reputation as a trusted and established company. You’re essentially tapping into the pretty sizeable group of users who regularly acknowledge and read ads but prefer to click on organic results instead. If you’re at the top of the listings there too, there’s every chance they’ll go for you.
For example, PC World in the image above has a paid and organic listing at the top of the page which sends lots of trust signals your way. The point is use SEO and PPC to take up as much space on page one of the SERPs as you can – it’s prime real estate!
The internet doesn’t stop at search engines – there’s a whole digital world out there, ready for you to advertise in. It’s here, on ‘normal’ sites, that you’re likely to find display ads – a usually-image-based alternative to the simpler ones you see at the top of search listings.
Instead of relying on text alone, they can make use of images, animation and even audio, all with the goal of catching the user’s eye. The idea is to have these placed where the right people are likely to find them, and again, testing will be necessary. Once the results come through and you can see where the highest CTRs are, you’ll have more valuable information to apply to your SEO.
Knowing where the display ads have been most successful will make it possible to identify valuable outreach opportunities. If you find the audience of a particular site takes well to your display ads, it’s worth reaching out to the site owner with the offer of a guest blog or two. They get free content; you get more exposure in front of a promising new group of prospective customers. Everybody wins.
This works particularly well if the display ads in question have been placed as part of a remarketing drive – you’re then just nurturing an already-engaged audience.
Organic search should be seen as an ongoing activity. Some results may be achievable overnight, but the biggest rewards come from sticking to best SEO practice and maintaining your site properly in the long term. That said, there will be times when it’s not enough; times when you need that something extra to keep engagement high. As you might have guessed already, that something extra is PPC.
Having put the time and effort into your SEO strategy, traffic to your site has risen dramatically in recent months, but people are still disappearing without converting. They’re abandoning their baskets, or perhaps ducking out at the research stage.
Don’t assume these people are gone forever – they might just need reminding of your business and what it has to offer. This is where remarketing comes in. It allows you to target your PPC ads at people who have already visited your website or app at least once before. This way, you’re only paying to reach users who you know have some level of interest in your products or services – they’re further down the funnel and more likely to convert.
It’s not just about getting hesitant shoppers over the line; PPC remarketing can also be used to encourage repeat custom. Studies show that someone who has already purchased from you before is both more likely to buy again and spend more.
With the business and search worlds both evolving rapidly, it’s fair to say you need to be agile. The landscape changes, and things won’t always go to plan. Perhaps your site has fallen victim to one of Google’s big search algorithm updates; visibility has dropped and organic traffic is lower than you’re used to. Business is dented and you need a quick, albeit temporary, fix.
Providing you carefully target the right people with the right ads, PPC can step in to bridge the short-term gap. It can ensure your brand still shows up in relevant searches while you make the necessary changes to your SEO strategy. PPC’s agility isn’t only useful when things aren’t going well – it can help you stay reactive through the good times. Maybe one of your products is featured in a popular TV show and you’d benefit from quick exposure, or perhaps you’re running an impromptu promotion on the back of an exciting new trend. This is when PPC can complement your existing SEO efforts perfectly.
Hopefully we’ve done enough to convince you that PPC and SEO are, as our title suggests, a match made in marketing heaven; the Batman and Robin of digital marketing, if you like. Getting the most out of both takes a fair bit of careful planning and expertise, but don’t struggle on your own – we are here to help.
If you’d like to know more about how our experts can maximise your marketing investments, get in touch for a chat on 023 9283 0281.
Chris is Managing Director at Vertical Leap and has over 25 years' experience in sales and marketing. He is a keynote speaker and frequent blogger, with a particular interest in intelligent automation and data analytics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and is a stage manager at the Victorious Festival.
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