Search Engine Optimisation and PPC: Creating a Balance
Imagine you are ranking at the top of a search engine results page for a particular keyword. Although that is an accomplishment; it can be taken a step further. There is no arguing that search engine optimisation (SEO) or paid search have proven to be effective online marketing strategies. But, using the two together can bring praise-worthy results from your boss.
A common question that marketers ask is, “which is better?” That is the very challenge when you look at paid search versus SEO: It isn’t about being better, it’s about having a different purpose. Taking the strengths behind SEO and paid search allows you to acquire traffic in a refined manner that leads to the best possible outcome.
Adobe Director of Global Search Marketing, Jay Middleton, highlights the gritty details about where search began, and where it’s going:
From a visual standpoint, it’s pretty clear that each has a common objective: acquiring traffic. The difference is the method of approach, and the realistic outcomes of each. Although these two online marketing strategies have unique strengths that complement each other, there aren’t too many companies in Asia taking advantage of using both methods together to capture maximum success.
Unique strengths of Search Engine Optimisation and PPC
The above shows the unique strengths of SEO and PPC. But, the best way to understand how each works is by drawing a line of comparison. Taking the time to understand the purpose and place for strategy further emphasises why the two should be used together as opposed to against one another. Taking the time to understand the strengths can help you see the benefit of the synergy between the two.
Search engine marketing strategy
SEO is great if your search engine marketing strategy has a long-term view because ranking your pages for the desired keyword(s) takes time. But, once they are ranked, you can expect continued traffic for as long as these pages are online and indexed by the search engines.
However, if your online strategy is for immediate traffic, then a PPC campaign is what you’d look to run. It is one of the most effective online advertising techniques and is ideal for time-sensitive promotions/campaigns.
You can organically rank multiple pages on a search engine results page (SERP). With PPC, it is one ad per domain per SERP. The image below is a sample SERP. We have four organic listings ranking for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (our photo editing software). You can’t do that with PPC.
Messaging: length or flexibility?
The ad copy of a PPC campaign is something that can be updated at any time. The sitelinks are controllable, but the message is much shorter than the SEO description (aka meta description), which has a higher max character count, but changes take longer to be reflected in search results. And, organic sitelinks are shown at Google’s discretion.
The traffic life is essential to a campaign being successful; once an SEO page has been indexed it will continuously drive traffic as long as users continue to use the keywords associated with the target search. Paid search is entirely based around whether or not the budget applied to a given ad campaign can still fund it.
With Google’s move to secure keyword data in 2011, SEO practitioners have much less insight into users’ intent (you can still get some keyword data from Google Webmaster Tools). With PPC, you still have access to the full search queries report which you can leverage for your SEO campaigns.
The intended target between SEO and PPC is going to vary drastically; SEO is going to target a very broad an audience. PPC campaigns allow pinpoint targeting by location, language, time and remarketing, and additionally are going to have the option to make small adjustments when and if needed.
SEO strategy and PPC strategy are going to be two separate approaches with very different obstacles. It’s easy to see the results that are available using each; the strategy part of it has to do with using both online marketing strategies together. Utilizing both to work together as a core unit leads to better results.
A Different Message for Different Results
By now, you’re probably thinking, “If I’m already ranking high organically for a particular keyword, why would I want to buy a PPC ad for it?” Would this not cannibalise my SEO traffic? Well, it depends. If your ad copy and meta description have the same messaging, then yes.
Take a keyword like “Adobe Photoshop.” Although we know there is awareness for the product, we do not know the intent—whether to buy or simply to get more information. By having both paid search and SEO in SERP, we can have different messaging to target users with different intent.
Online search optimizing is a guessing game for a user’s intentions. When you consider SEO and paid search, there is one point that should stand out above all: SEO is going to allow you to target a much wider audience, whereas paid search allows you to fine-tune and target specific users. SEO and paid search working together allows you to cover all the bases and seal the potential for getting that click.
Having SEO and PPC working together grants several benefits, such as:
- Larger data pool
- More exposure
- Consistent branding and messaging
- Budget enhancement
It’s wise to keep in mind that SEO and paid search are going to have entirely different obstacles as well. SEO is going to be at the mercy of search engine algorithms that are constantly changing. Paid search, on the other hand, can get results quickly and doesn’t have to worry about search engine algorithm change the way that SEO does. Each method has great opportunity when used together in an effective manner.
Do you have experience using SEO and PPC in your work? Share your story on how you use both in the comment section.