“Which is better, SEO or paid search?” is a frequent question we hear from prospective clients. Based on their company’s needs, goals, and available resources, we can declare that one or the other is more important to them at this time. However, we know that they can get better results by combining SEO and PPC.

SEO vs. PPC/Paid Search

Both SEO and PPC services can drive traffic, conversions, and revenue on your site, but they do so in different ways:

  • Time scale: Paid search/PPC campaigns can be very short-term, with rapid results and immediate feedback. SEO is a more long-term investment where results can take much longer to emerge than for PPC.
  • Volatility: Because PPC results are so fast, these campaigns require continual monitoring and adjustment for optimal performance. With SEO, stability and consistency are prized in search results, so changes to fundamental practices need only be made when algorithms shift significantly.
  • Up-front investment: You can start a small paid search campaign with a few hundred dollars, then scale it up as your budget allows, which can lead to very high costs. SEO does require an initial investment, with an average 4- to 6-month gap before results are obvious, but it can be extremely cost-effective in the long run.
  • Flipping the switch: PPC campaigns can easily be turned on and off due to performance, strategy, market changes, or many other factors. SEO is basically always on; you can’t turn it off because search engines are constantly crawling the sites like yours and indexing whatever they find.

Benefits of PPC and SEO Working Together

Photo of rocks balanced on each other, indicating the balance between SEO and PPCThe two services can balance each other in several ways:

  • Time: Harnessing paid search advertising can increase the speed of SEO results.
  • Costs: Over time, SEO’s cost per conversion approaches zero, allowing it to offset the potentially high costs per conversion of PPC.
  • Keywords: Some keywords are difficult to rank for organically, but affordable to bid on in paid search; conversely, SEO can help you rank organically for keywords that are prohibitively expensive in paid search.

They can also combine to compound each other’s results. For instance, if you can purchase and rank for relevant keywords, you get greater credibility on both “platforms”: more authority to improve SEO and higher click-through rates (CTRs) on paid search ads. Those higher CTRs in PPC improve your Quality Score on those keywords, which can help you save money on future bids.

However, paid search and organic search must be aligned to generate enhanced results together. They both need:

  • Similar value propositions: Consistency is key for any cross-channel marketing efforts. Different messages for paid search and SEO will only confuse potential customers and weaken your brand position.
  • Strong brand mentions: SEO and PPC must also be consistent in establishing and reinforcing your brand. This ties the two efforts together into a unified marketing initiative.
  • Complementary purposes: This is one area that doesn’t require complete consistency. Organic and paid search listings can send visitors to different experiences, especially to different levels of the marketing funnel. Organic listings for blog content take visitors to the upper levels of the funnel, while conversion-oriented ads deliver visitors to the lower levels, because they’re clearly ready to make a purchase.

When you’re ready to implement a combined SEO and PPC strategy, here are seven ways to try them together that have proven successful.

7 Ways to Combine PPC and SEO

  1. Boost ad CTRs with high-performing content
  2. Promote underperforming products without incurring more expenses
  3. Counteract negative search results
  4. Make a super keyword list
  5. Warm up the ad market for new products or categories
  6. Bolster underperforming content
  7. Get the most accurate tracking possible

Bright, colorful graphic of two fists bumping over background of starburst, indicating "wonder twin powers" activating1. Boost ad CTRs with high-performing content

A client’s website had many blog posts that ranked in the top 3 for their topics. By using these posts as sitelink extensions in their paid search ads, they further increased visibility and nearly doubled the average CTR of their ads.

2. Promote underperforming products without incurring more expenses

A client in the financial services industry served as a broker for dozens of billers, some of whom were more profitable to the client than others. Rather than run ads for the insufficiently-profitable billers, they improved the meta descriptions of their site pages for these billers, giving them organic visibility to drive more customers without incurring more expenses via paid clicks.

3. Counteract negative search results

Sometimes, things go wrong and a company is put through the wringer online. One client had many negative results come up from brand searches, which had a chilling effect on their paid search ads, reducing CTRs and conversions on the terms that should be their strongest. This was a job for SEO; by increasing their organic visibility and developing strong content that performed well, the company was able to push negative coverage farther down the search engine results page.

4. Make a super keyword list

Effective content often starts with a keyword list to guide content development: which terms best align with marketing and business goals and should be targeted within on-page and meta content. Producing this list is part of SEO, but including insights from paid search keyword performance adds many dimensions to the list, including which terms have been the most effective in driving traffic and conversions. PPC keyword data takes a list from useful to profitable.

5. Warm up the ad market for new products or categories

Introducing something new can be tough, whether you’re launching a new product or creating a whole new category. What you have to offer might address a need customers don’t even know they have yet, so running ads would be an exercise in futility and wasted time. Instead, use SEO to optimize your site’s technical, architectural, and mobile performance and to drive content development to gain organic visibility. When you’ve built an audience through SEO, then add PPC, using your SEO keyword data to guide PPC keyword selection.

6. Bolster underperforming content

If you’ve developed high-quality, high-value content that isn’t performing organically as well as you’d like it to, use the signal boost of PPC to promote that content. You don’t have to advertise the content itself in your ads; in fact, it’s better if you don’t. Instead, target the keywords relevant to the content, offer users

7. Get the most accurate tracking possible

SEO tracking and PPC tracking don’t often look alike, using different tags, assigning value to different goals, and measuring different things. Even if these tracking and analytics products are all from the same company, they aren’t always compatible. But if you combine insights from SEO, PPC, and Analytics through a few hours of Analytics consulting, you can create a comprehensive, accurate single source of data for page and event tracking.

These are some of the ways you can combine SEO and paid search to get the most out of your digital marketing, but there are many more possibilities. If you’d like to see the ways PPC and SEO can work together for your company, let’s talk about how we can combine them for synergy, balance, and growth.