Why bother with PPC if your SEO is doing great?

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We explain how PPC can multiply your search marketing ROI, even if you’re already getting great results from SEO.

If your SEO strategy is getting good results, you may be reluctant to invest marketing budget into paid advertising. After all, why pay for traffic when you’re already getting what you need from organic search?

That’s a fair question but it’s important to understand that SEO and PPC don’t generate the same type of traffic. The basic premise of paid advertising is that you’re paying for visitors who are more likely to convert. In many cases, this is traffic you’re less likely to get from organic search.

SEO and PPC generate different leads

The first thing to understand about SEO and PPC is they generate different business opportunities. So this isn’t a like-for-like swap or a question of whether you want to pay for website visitors or not. SEO and PPC capture different types of leads and you need both to maximise the ROI of your search marketing strategy.

Top vs bottom of the funnel leads

If you’ve read our guide to optimising marketing funnels, you might remember how we discuss the different roles SEO and PPC play at various stages of the consumer journey. Generally speaking, organic search captures leads at the early research stage of the customer cycle, which is dominant in the awareness and interest stages of the classic sales funnel principle.

The sales funnel

Conversely, PPC is generally more effective at capturing leads at the latter stages of the consumer journey, which covers the evaluation and sale stages of the funnel.

This is significant for several reasons:

  1. Organic visitors are less likely to buy now
  2. SEO leads are more likely looking for information
  3. PPC traffic usually has a higher purchase intent
  4. The gap between PPC CTRs and conversions is shorter

Generally speaking, people in the early stages of the consumer cycle are looking for information that will help them make purchase decisions in the future. So SEO traffic is less likely to buy now but capturing their interest could position you for the sale when they’re ready to make the commitment.

As users progress along the funnel into the latter stages of the buying process, their searches are more likely to include the kind of keywords that trigger paid ads, such as product names or phrases like “buy”.

These queries demonstrate a higher purchase intent, suggesting users are ready to make the purchase. Capturing leads at this pivotal moment puts you in a good position to secure the sale and generate a quick return on your ad spend.

Steady traffic vs quick results

Timeframes are another key difference between SEO and PPC. Search engine optimisation is a slow-burning strategy that can take months to see new content make its full impact but the returns are also slow-burning so the business opportunities keep rolling in from content you’ve already published.

With PPC, you can often get fast results from new ad campaigns and this allows you to boost targeted traffic numbers whenever you need it.

If your business is highly seasonal (such as in the graph below), your products are experiencing high demand or you’re launching a new range of items, you can sometimes generate traffic and capture leads from new campaigns within days. PPC makes it easy to take advantage of seasonal trends and respond to peaks quickly.

Google Trends seasonality graph showing peaks

Likewise, you can optimise bids for existing campaigns to take advantage of increased demand, lower your ad spend when sales volumes are lower and constantly maximise ROI, based on the spending habits of your target audience. If you need to make a quick impact, PPC gives you the tools to generate traffic and capture high-intent leads quickly.

How do PPC & SEO work together?

The inherent differences of SEO and PPC mean they both have different strengths and weaknesses. By combining both channels in your search marketing strategy, the strengths of PPC nullify many of SEO’s weaknesses – and vice versa – while they enhance each other’s strengths.

Combining organic and paid impressions

Getting back to the idea of purchase intent, you can see how this impacts the search experience and the kind of results Google delivers for individual queries. If a user types an informational query like “what are the best hd TVs in 2022,” Google is unlikely to show any ads because the query demonstrates little purchase intent.

Search results for 'what are the best HD TVs in 2022' showing SEO content results and no PPC ads

If the same user clicks on the organic result, reads through the recommendations and likes the look of some specific products, they might start looking for prices and reviews. As soon as Google determines the purchase intent is strong enough for paid ads to achieve performance, you can see how different the SERP looks below.

Brands that can show in organic and paid results across these searches can win opportunities throughout the consumer journey. However, companies can also increase their chances of winning clicks by combining organic and paid impressions in the same SERP when paid ads are shown.

Search results for Samsung specific TV model showing PPC ads now appearing

Google data has shown that ranking in the top spot in organic results and ad position one in the top pack of ads on the same results page can dramatically increase the share of clicks the brand receives.

The impact of PPC on clicks

Aside from taking up more real estate space on the results page, you’re also reducing the space available for competitors to capture your leads by winning impressions in both organic and paid positions.

Double brand exposure increases recall

Another benefit of combining organic and paid impressions on the same results page is increasing brand recall. With “double brand exposure,” as Google describes it, users are far more likely to remember your brand and your message if you show at the top of both paid and organic positions.

Having a PPC and SEO listing increases brand exposure and recall

All the data shows that users remember brands ranking in the top search positions more than others, even if we take clicks and page visits out of the equation. Likewise, doubling up on impressions for queries that show ads significantly increases the chances of brand recall, especially if you can claim the top positions in both paid and organic listings.

PPC wins clicks you can’t get from SEO

We’ve already discussed how SEO and PPC generate different leads across the consumer journey so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that PPC wins clicks you can’t get from SEO.

Google has found that companies showing paid ads and ranking in organic positions are unable to reclaim all of their traffic organically if they pull their ads. In other words, PPC clicks are incremental to organic clicks and SEO isn’t capable of replacing all of the traffic your paid ads win.

Incremental ad clicks from PPC when ranked in the top 5 positions.

In cases where companies rank in the top organic position, ad campaigns have been found to incrementally contribute to 50% of all ad clicks. This figure increases to 82% for brands ranking in organic positions 2-4 and 96% for position five and lower.

More on SEO & PPC

Capture leads at every stage of the consumer journey

With an integrated SEO and PPC strategy, you can capture leads at every stage of the consumer journey and nurture prospects towards the purchase.

If you need help implementing paid advertising into your search marketing strategy, you can speak to our PPC team by calling 023 9283 0281 or filling out the contact form below.

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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