SEO vs. PPC – Which Is Better?
The world of search engine marketing is generally divided into two camps: PPC and SEO. Paid Search leads to instantaneous results – immediately putting your brand in front of your target audience – but can be very expensive depending on the level of competition. Meanwhile, Organic Search costs nothing (well, except time, effort, and expertise), but can take months to see similar results to Paid Search.
Brands often find themselves debating between the two options – pitting the pros and cons of each option against each other to determine the best fit for their business. Should you pony up for paid campaigns or put in the work to build your organic ranking?
One of the worst kept secrets in search engine marketing is how paid search ads and organic search engine optimization work in concert to boost the performance of the other. Choosing one over the other is akin to purchasing a “buy one, get one free” product and not taking the freebie. If you’re going to tackle the world of search marketing at all, it is in your business’ best interest to double down on your efforts and achieve greater success. Here’s why:
Google Adwords Auction Algorithm
Advertising on Google AdWords is often compared to an auction. Advertisers tell Google how much they are willing to bid to show their ad for a particular keyword and Google puts the highest bidder in the #1 position. Simple, right?
Unfortunately, unlike a true auction, the process is much, much more complicated. An Adwords keyword auction involves an algorithm, a team of mad scientists, and possibly alien technology. However, the concept is very simple: $$$.
Google gets paid per click (hence the PPC acronym) and while – all things being equal – Google would logically choose a $10 keyword bid over a $1 keyword bid, Google stands to make more money if 11 people click on the $1 ad than if only 1 person clicks on the $10 ad. In other words, Google considers behavioral factors in conjunction with an advertiser’s keyword bid.
What are those behavioral factors? Well, Google became the search giant they are today not only by showing search results, but by showing relevant search results. Google wouldn’t be synecdoche for “search” if users didn’t consistently find what they were looking for when googling. In addition to the keyword bids, Google Adwords’ auction algorithm also considers the relevancy and user experience of the landing page the ad directs to.
SEO Improves PPC Performance
Landing page relevancy is where search engine optimization comes in to play. One of the key tenets to SEO is improving a site or pages relevancy to certain keywords and all of the optimizations that go into improving a page’s organic ranking – keyword usage, meta data, page speed, etc – also lend themselves to improving the page’s relevancy in paid search.
In short, making organic search optimization changes to a page tells Google that page provides a better, more relevant user experience and Google subsequently lowers the cost-per click (CPC) it takes to get your ad shown for that keyword.
Countless case studies have shown how SEO-friendly pages can drastically lower the cost and improve the performance of a campaign – up to a 38% decrease in CPC – driving more traffic for less ad spend.
That’s right. In addition to improving your organic rankings, an effective SEO strategy can actually save you money on your PPC campaigns.
PPC Improves SEO Performance
The beneficial relationship between organic search optimization and paid search performance isn’t a one-way street. While paid ads don’t directly affect organic rankings, there are many ways in which paid ads can help improve organic performance.
The most notable of these is that the presence of paid search ads can actually improve the CTR of an organic search listing. Case studies have shown that search users are more likely to click on an organic result when there is a paid ad present for the same website. There’s good reason for this – the presence of both paid and organic results for the same brand improves recognition and evokes a stronger reputation in the mind of the search user.
Even when a paid ad and organic ad are shown separately, a search user may be more likely to click on an organic result from a site or brand they recognize over one they have not seen a paid ad for. In both scenarios, the paid ads help drive more organic clicks, which in turn improves the organic ranking (as Google weighs CTR on organic results as well!).
Other Factors In Paid Search Ads Influencing Organic Rank
Additionally, paid ads allow you greater control over the messaging of your brand. Paid ad copy can be time sensitive, personal, creative, even inventive and compelling – and that messaging is then imbued into your organic search results, which tend to be dryer and more factual by nature. With the combination of paid search ads and organic listings, you don’t have to choose between focusing on keyword-rich information or showing off the personality of your brand. You can do both!
In an even bigger way, paid ads can help increase the organic ranking of a page by encouraging some of the most important behaviors to organic ranking: sharing. Back-links and page visits are a major factor to a page’s organic rank and introducing that page in the form of a URL can help lead users to content that they’ll link to, bookmark, and mention on social media. Voila! – suddenly a page with no organic juice is in the hands of the very users who can help push that page to a top organic ranking – all thanks to a paid ad.
SEO + PPC = An Integrated Search Marketing Approach
You’ve heard the saying “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine”, but in search marketing, a one-two punch of a dual PPC and SEO strategy makes both search methods scratch better. You could put all your eggs into one basket and slowly improve your organic rankings OR rack up credit card points with paid search ads, but why would you choose when you could increase your free organic traffic, while simultaneously lowering your PPC ad cost and improving the performance of your paid campaigns?