Up until a few years ago, it was quite normal to have one agency for SEO and another for PPC. And why not? The two disciplines were at opposite ends of the search marketing spectrum and it made sense to have specialists working on each one separately.
However, the line between SEO and PPC has faded over the years. In today’s search marketing landscape, SEO and PPC are co-dependent; you’ll never get the best results out of either unless they’re working in sync. To achieve this, you’re going to need a team or agency capable of integrating organic and paid search into a coordinated strategy.
There was a time when SEO and PPC advertisers were marketing rivals. On one side, you had the long-term, cost-effective organic search strategists and, on the other, the more immediate influx of traffic from paid advertising. The image below shows the kind of search query SEO campaigns are built around.
The two philosophies are almost polar opposites but the more important point is that they each generate different types of leads. With organic search, you’re more likely to attract people in the research stages of a purchase decision, for example, while paid search will capture those who already know what they’re looking to buy. As purchase intent increases, paid search comes into the equation with Google Shopping listings.
Businesses need both types of leads and you need the right mix of SEO and PPC campaigns to cover the entire consumer journey. Search marketing teams have to create an integrated strategy that ensures the right kind of organic opportunities are being captured while paid ads are bringing in high-quality leads that are likely to convert in the more immediate future.
To achieve this, SEO and PPC teams need to share data to make sure they’re covering all the right bases. First of all, you need to identify where the touchpoints are so you can pinpoint where the organic and paid search opportunities are along the way. With campaigns delivered in the right place, both teams need to ensure they’re working together and not competing against each other.
For example, you might want organic and paid results on the same page to maximise visibility but you’ll need to keep an eye on impressions vs CTRs on those PPC campaigns to ensure performance doesn’t suffer.
“Housing SEO and PPC under one agency roof will often provide greater returns on advertising investment,” says Vertical Leap’s Head of Services Lee Wilson. “Integrating these marketing channels effectively can be the key to maximising every pound of marketing budget, and leveraging the combined digital opportunity to its full potential.
“It is the proactive sharing of data and insights, with creative working between departments, which leads to faster action-taking and ultimately greater results – this is generally much easier when SEO and PPC are at the same agency.”
We’ve covered the pure marketing benefits of combining SEO and PPC before – the data says it all. There’s another key factor that brings SEO and PPC together, though. Google and other search engines are increasingly merging organic and paid into the same experience for users.
Take a look at the top of this Google results page:
There’s a mix of paid ads and (organic) local listings before getting to the standard pack of results. Now, in this case, paid ads and local listings are competing against each other, but they can also work together. With your PPC team ensuring paid ads appear for searches that return your local listing, you’re going to double your SERP presence and your SEO team could even triple it by ranking your content in the organic text results.
Your PPC strategy can also help mitigate losses where your local listing doesn’t appear. The recent Possum 2.0 update shrank the vicinity for local results, meaning you have to be much closer to a user when they conduct their search to appear (in most cases).
By increasing visibility in the paid positions for these searches, using assets and experimenting with ad positions, you can generate traffic via PPC that you’re not able to win through local SEO.
Organic and paid search capture different types of leads but they play different roles throughout the customer journey. Your organic content should provide your target audiences with valuable information that helps them make buying decisions or get the best out of products/services they’ve already bought (ie. customer retention). In other words, organic content provides what your audiences don’t already know; it answers their questions or solves problems they can’t fix on their own.
Paid search takes the lead when your prospects know what they’re looking for (or think they do) and they’re motivated to take action.
So let’s look at this in action with a couple of examples.
Let’s say a new business owner is on the hunt for some cloud storage and the first name that comes to mind is Dropbox. An obvious question or anxiety for such a business owner might be whether the service is safe for commercial use. So this kind of query opens up an opportunity for Dropbox to ease the concerns of one of its most important customer types (enterprise businesses) but it also gives the company’s rivals a chance to jump in and antagonise this anxiety, as one rival does here:
By the time a prospect has a product in mind, they’re more likely to use branded keywords and trigger paid ads. Here, Dropbox dominates the top of the page with the only ad and the top-ranking organic result – a perfect example of SEO and PPC working together.
Again, there’s always space for rivals to jump in here by bidding on branded keywords.
Organic content isn’t finished by the time customers make a purchase decision, either. Brands need to continue delivering value for customers after the purchase and help them get the best out of their products and services.
Blog posts, guides, help centre articles, forums and tutorials play a key role in keeping customers happy and buying from you, instead of taking their business elsewhere.
Google dominated paid advertising for so long that PPC came to mean one thing: Google Ads. Everything revolved around search and you could nicely package SEO and PPC under the term ‘search marketing’.
Now, we have the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and co. monetising their social networks through paid advertising, which adds another dynamic to modern PPC. So today’s PPC teams have to be more than search experts; they also need extensive knowledge of social media, content marketing, CRO and a range of other strategies. The modern elements of marketing don’t work independently; they work in unison. Which brings us to our next point.
A few years back there was little choice other than working with multiple agencies. You would have one for web design, another for development and any number for different marketing channels. It was a challenge. Designers were only interested in design, SEOs about organic search and PPC advertisers about buying more ads. Nobody was talking about the best overall marketing strategy for your business.
With a single team handling a client’s marketing efforts there are no egos or hidden agendas. The priority is to set out goals and then devise the right kind of strategy to make them happen. When PPC needs to take the front seat, it will. If organic search needs more emphasis, it’ll get it. Marketing decisions are made based on achieving your business objectives, not the interests of different agencies.
If your SEO and PPC efforts are pulling in different directions, you miss out on having a comprehensive search marketing strategy that can adapt to new opportunities and overcome business challenges.
Covid-19 has been a drastic example of how having a unified search marketing strategy can save a business during the most difficult times. With companies pulling ad spend, SEO stepped up as the saviour in times of crisis.
This is fine if you’re getting SEO and PPC from the same agency because they can make this impartial call and help you get the best out of your search marketing investment, even if it means scaling back or redistributing some of your budget. But, if you’re getting these two services from different agencies, you’re going to face resistance if you tell one that you want to pull back spending and you can never be sure how impartial the advice you’re getting really is.
We are one of the leading search marketing agencies in the UK with large teams of SEO and PPC specialists working closely together. If you’d like to adopt a more integrated approach to your search marketing, speak to our team today on 02392 830281 or submit your details here and we’ll call you. Plus, we also offer all-in-one marketing strategy services – with an Account Manager assigned to tie all the services together, this might be the perfect solution for your marketing needs.
Dave is head of SEO at Vertical Leap. He joined in 2010 as an SEO specialist and prior to that worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands such as P&O Cruises and Harvester. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.
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Categories: Data & Analytics, PPC, SEO
Categories: Data Science