SEO and PPC: why two channels are better than one

Whenever I get asked: “Which service should I choose: SEO or PPC?” the answer I always give is “both”. Every data set available to me tells me this is the right answer to provide, and that has not changed for some time.

Luckily our Head of PPC also agreed with me, and here’s some of our justification for this statement:

SEO & PPC combined boost visibility

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strengthens authority, earns visibility online and provides you with free traffic.

Pay Per Click (PPC) provides immediacy of information and results at the very peak retail spaces of the search engine results pages (SERPs) at a price per click.

Together they produce a force multiplier, extending the value derived from either search medium in isolation.

“The moment that you exclude SEO or PPC, you reduce your search visibility dramatically.”

According to the 2013 Catalyst CTR study approx. 48% of page one clicks are attributed to organic search listings. The remainder of clicks are distributed in a number of ways – the main ones are detailed below:

  • PPC click – the user opts to click on a paid advert
  • Changing the search query / refining the original search based on new information available. Put simply, the user sees the search results displayed, then adjusts their search behaviour
  • End result delivered – with the growth of carousel results, answers directly available in the SERPs and more, people can often solve their query without needing to click
  • Next page results – the searcher navigates through to additional levels of search results without clicking

PPC ads are incremental to SEO results

Google has conducted over 400 studies on the interaction between PPC and SEO results. Incremental Impact of Search Ads studies the result on organic traffic when advertising is paused.

This answers the question of whether PPC ads cannibalise organic traffic. Would organic listings compensate if accompanying paid results are paused?

The results are clear: “a full 89% of the traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused.”

Occupying both organic and PPC positions drives incremental traffic.

This is fundamental to every campaign, focusing on a single channel will not maximise your reach, it’s only when both SEO and PPC are working hand in hand that traffic and visibility is maximised.

Multi devices demand more of the marketing mix

mobile devices Google Analytic screenshot
We now live in a multi device world. We consume content simultaneously across multiple digital devices.

People devour content using smart phones whilst walking or traveling, we research using a tablet at home or on the train, we have laptops, work computers, watches.

We’ve reached a ‘mobile tipping point’ – that’s to say we now spend more time on our smart phones per day than we do on computers and laptops – perhaps even more staggering is recent studies show we interact with our smart phones over 200 times per day!

Simply put, user journeys are incredibly complex. A single search, or conversion from a single session, are not the norm.

There is no typical device to optimise for anymore, and every device handles differently. Users behave in a unique manner and search results display often bespoke to the device (as well as any user preferences set).

Google reinforces this need to reach people through “all the new touchpoints of a consumer’s path to purchase” in the ‘Building for the next moment‘ article released in May 2015.

Some devices will only display paid adverts pre-scrolling whilst others target the bulk of page one visibility on the organic listings.

If you are looking to maximise all devices for search success, aligning both paid and organic mediums is a must.

With the prevalence of mixed content types throughout many of the most competitive page one results, you will also need to capture as many search verticals as possible and take advantage of the benefits of re-marketing to website users regardless of device used.

Business size should not restrict performance

It is easy to understand why smaller businesses want to allocate a lower budget to digital marketing than a larger organisation however, scaling back does not have to mean missing out.

An effectively managed PPC campaign can be highly tailored and focused towards minimal wastage and maximum returns.

In fact, effective scaling of SEO and PPC can lead to successful proof of concept, tight budget control and a solid foundation for gathering wider company buy-in to support increased spend post return on investment.

Through combining of mediums, you can target highly competitive PPC terms and groups of keywords which are not feasible (mainly due to high CPC) on a strict budget using SEO and data-driven content creation.

When you add location into the mix, your ability to dominate page one location, brand and potentially service areas tied to locations becomes clear.

In fact, recent studies suggest Google Local Pack results are seen as the most trusted and relevant search results by consumers.

Google local pack listings statistics

Source: Search Engine Watch.

Using SEO expertise and deep data, you can confidently create content that will support your end goals and apply a limited PPC budget to promoting that content. This means that every word you write has the greatest chance of succeeding online and getting in front of highly targeted audiences which you know will convert.

Conversions require multiple channels

Regardless of the attribution model you apply to tracking and reporting on conversions, one thing will remain consistent, and that is multiple channels directly impacting your volumes and quality of conversions.

This spans industries, goal completion types and is the case in every website I have worked on for over a decade.

The more information we are able to see on this topic, the more supportive the need for multi channel success is present.

Multi channel conversions - Google Analytics

When it comes to combining SEO & PPC 1 + 1 really does equal 3

Using Google AdWords ‘Paid and Organic’ reporting, you can see the cumulative value of a force multiplier in action.

Within Google Analytics you are able to see how one medium assists another with delivering greater conversions:

Google Analytics - assisted conversions

When you have access to depth of data spanning mediums, it is possible to see how investment in one area, can lead to savings in another.

For example, top performing paid adverts will have direct implications for improving organic click through rates.

Supporting expensive cost per click themes with on site authority, breadth of user value and faster loading times on information rich landing pages, will encourage greater keyword and theme quality scores and reducing costs per acquisition.

Bidding on brand, even when you are successfully optimised in this area can mean very cheap retail space and the building of reach in wider audiences with minimal investment.

The control of PPC bidding, placement and testing can drive many new opportunities to boost current performance as well as identify and fill gaps in your current search content strategy.

Looking at all of the data

When you look at all the available data, people become more empowered and this can deliver amazing results.

In this example from Apollo Insights you can see how we have identified expensive CPC terms not feasible with a PPC campaign that have high potential volume, but zero current SEO visibility.

Here we have identified a new set of content opportunities to add to a company’s content strategy, building new areas of effective visibility.

 Apollo Insights - words data combining SEO and PPC

What’s next?

Whether you are starting SEO or PPC for the first time, or simply want to find out alternative ways to deliver greater returns from current spend – contact us.

Lee Wilson profile picture
Lee Wilson

Lee has been working in the online arena, leading digital departments since the early 2000s, and oversees all our delivery services at Vertical Leap, having joined back in 2010. Lee joined our company Operations Team in May 2019. Before working at Vertical Leap, Lee completed a degree in Business Management & Communications at Winchester University, headed up the online development and direct marketing department for an international financial services company for ~7 years, and set up/run a limited company providing website design, development and digital marketing solutions. Lee had his first solely authored industry book (Tactical SEO) published in 2016, with 2 further industry books being published in 2019, and can be seen regularly expert contributing to industry websites including State of Digital, Search Engine Journal, The Drum, plus many others. Lee has a passion for management in the digital industry and loves to see the progression of others through personal learning, training and development. Outside the office he looks to help others while challenging himself, having skydived, bungie jumped and abseiled (despite a fear of heights) with many more fundraising and voluntary events completed and on the horizon. As a husband and dad, Lee loves to spend time with his family and friends. His hobbies include exercising, trying new experiences, eating out, playing countless team sports, as well as watching films (Gangster movies in particular – “forget about it”).

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