Dynamic Duo: Using Both Organic & Paid Search
:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO ::
Search marketing is the cornerstone of any organization’s digital strategy. Search engines play an important role in that strategy, acting as the primary starting point for users before arriving at a Web page. This makes having a strong presence on Google incredibly important. If the target audience is arriving via a search, then an organization needs to make sure it’s well-placed across multiple niches for long periods.
The challenge, however, is finding the right balance between effective PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaigns, and SEO (search engine optimization). Both have their advantages, and both attain results in areas the other can’t. The trick that many businesses are starting to realize is that the benefit of using both far outweighs the positives of any single strategy. Both can get an organization’s website on the front page of Google, although generally with different results. Knowing how to utilize these results and bounce off each tactic is the key to sustained growth.
Paid Search vs. Organic Search
Paid search is when an organization pays to have their website and service appear at the top of search results. When a user searches a specific term, ads that fit this keyword appear as the first group of results. Advertisers use the Google Keyword Tool to see which keywords and phrases are being used, and match these keywords to their business to service a specific niche, product and/or service.
Organic search is search results that match Google’s search algorithm, matching websites that closely suit the keyword being searched by the user. A website with credibility, good content, and authority in a specific area is more likely to appear near the top of a search query.
Both strategies offer highly advantageous end-goals for any website: appearing on the first page of Google translates to more visitors for the site.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Paid Search
Paid search ads are typically placed above and to the bottom of search results. This placement is generally determined by the bidding process initiated by advertisers, and the quality score of the ad and site.
● Fast and Efficient: PPC campaigns are positioned in the top results of a search query from the moment the placement is paid for. Certain search queries such as popular brands represent high purchase intent, which translates to more clicks than an organic search.
● Target an Audience: Unlike organic search, PPC campaigns can be designed to service specific interests and audiences. Advertisers can aim their campaign at users of a different age, gender, education level, marital status and location.
● Promote Timely Events: PPC campaigns can be used to promote sales events and other time-sensitive offers that may otherwise take weeks to appear in search results.
● Click-Through Rate Varies: While high purchase intent searches result in a high click-through rate, users are more likely overall to click a link from an organic search listing. A survey conducted in 2012 found only six percent of clicks were the result of paid listings.
● Cost: Keywords with high purchase intent tend to cost more, whereas less lucrative keywords have a much lower click through rate.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Organic Search
Organic search results represent credibility and high authority. Google’s algorithm is an ever-evolving, complex beast. It will punish sites that employ suspicious SEO strategies, pushing them down search listings or simply not indexing them at all. Any online marketing strategy should have strong SEO goals, with the intent to appear on the first page of Google. The higher a website is in organic search results, the more trusted it is, and the better the results.
● Click-Through Rates: Organizations without a product or service to sell online or sites with longer buy cycles tend to see very high click through rates from strong organic search results. Research conducted by GroupM found that 94 percent of search engine clicks were organic search results.
● Builds Trust: With Google’s algorithm being as complex and as punishing as it is, only the best sites with great content and high authority appear at the top of search results. The higher a site is, the more the search engine values the site as a top source of information.
● Rewards Evergreen Content: Content that never ages -- such as Top 10 lists, reviews, or instructional pieces -- tends to have a longer shelf life in Google rankings. News pieces or topical pieces tend to become outdated, and therefore may be replaced. However, evergreen content tends to stay at the top of search results for long periods, in turn rewarding informative, detailed and heavily-researched content.
● Time and Money: Achieving a good standing in Google can take time. A strong SEO strategy can see results in days or a few weeks, but sometimes it can take months or even years before a site is generating consistent traffic from organic search. This may force further investment in content strategy and SEO research.
Why Both Is Best
As you can see, both organic and PPC search have their advantages and drawbacks. The important thing is that both have short-term and long-term advantages that greatly outweigh any negatives. Interestingly, a combination of both is found to be the best way to get results from search engines. Most of the time, the two strategies bounce off of one another, providing benefits in one area and then feeding another, which leads to unparalleled growth for an organization’s digital presence.
Shared Keyword Data
The Google Adwords Keyword tool can be great for finding related keywords with high search volume. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly vague with the numbers it provides for each keyword, and as such should only be used as a guide. It’s great for checking the search volume data of each keyword, but beyond that it can be shallow in its projections.
Thankfully, the real-time results generated by Google Webmaster Tools such as Search Console can help find that keyword sweet spot. Seeing and understanding how users are engaging with ads and what keywords they’re using in real time can help build a more accurate and effective SEO strategy to improve organic search results. This data can provide organizations with more detailed and accurate projections for traffic and sales.
Provides Incremental Growth in Clicks
Google’s own research shows impressive incremental growth in clicks when PPC ads and organic listings appear together. On average, a paid search ad appears with an organic search result on the same page only 19 percent of time. The study found that more than 80 percent of ad clicks are incremental when there is an organic result somewhere in the 2-4 range on the first page of the search query. For an organic result in the top spot, 50 pecent of ad clicks were incremental.
Service Two Distinctively Different Audiences at The Same Time
Keywords with high purchase intent can be focused on search ads, while content focused on products and services with longer buyer cycles can drive organic traffic. There is still the balancing act of finding the best way to achieve high CTR or ROI, but servicing similar keywords across a diverse content plan can build user trust, inviting them to engage with the organization in different ways outside of a direct sale. Having a search ad at the top of the listing, followed by an organic listing for evergreen content that services the same keyword can improve consumer trust and confidence.
Helps Build a Stronger Content Plan
Good returns for PPC search ads generally equates to strong copy and a good keyword strategy. These conversions can be good for developing an organic content plan, using words and phrases that were successful for an ad campaign in title tags and meta titles. Search ads provide faster results than organic content, which allows for a more effective testing ground for Metas.
As online marketing continues to advance and the number of places to reach your ideal customers grows, it is more important than ever to have a comprehensive plan in place. Instead of debating which is better, look at which is better for each circumstance and you will often find the 1-2 punch of paid and organic to be the key for scalable growth and increased sales.
About the Author
Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Franklin, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz