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Why It’s Time to Forget About the SEO vs PPC Debate

The whole SEO vs PPC debate is old, but many companies fall into it when they first start marketing as if it is always a case of one or the other.  But there is no need to fall into one camp.  You will find that many agencies focus on one or the other. Sometimes they focus on both, but rarely do they give equal weight to each.  At LeapGo, we have long understood the benefits of using both PPC and SEO. And over the years, we’ve found many ways to use PPC to enhance your SEO and vice versa.

Here are some of the ways that we regularly use PPC to fill in the gaps in your SEO campaign.

1. Use PPC to Target Better Keywords for SEO

Let’s say you have just started an SEO campaign, and your primary aim is to rank in the top position for the big money keywords.  But let’s be realistic: At the start, that just isn’t going to happen. In fact, even after years of working on your SEO strategy, you are not likely to be hitting the top spot for all of the big money words (depending of course on how many you are targeting and how competitive your market).

So what do you do? You fill in the gaps.

Let’s say you’re ranking for 15 of your 20 keywords after a few months or years working on your SEO. So you launch a PPC campaign, and on the same day, you have a first-page presence for all of those remaining 5 keywords you couldn’t rank for before.  So if you want to have a presence on the first page for all of the most important keywords, it’s often a good idea to use PPC alongside SEO.

2. Use PPC for Faster Keyword Discovery

There is a big difference between using SEO to drive traffic and using SEO to drive actual conversions. If you want conversions, you don’t want to be wasting your time on the keywords that are not going to perform.  But I cannot count the number of times a client has come to us without knowing which keywords to target to get conversions, or worse yet, ranks the priority of keywords based solely from traffic estimates.  So how do we know which keywords will perform? We set up a PPC campaign.

Instantly, we get a huge selection of keywords ranking on the first page—and then we see which ones convert and which ones don’t.  Why is this so effective? Because you are actually testing real keywords for YOUR company, for YOUR products and services—rather than basing your keyword choices on the latest trends or search volume.

I always put it this way – “What if you could have a list of keywords for your business that you know will convert, BEFORE starting an aggressive SEO campaign?  How much would that list be worth?” – chances are, it’s a pretty valuable list now that I put it that way.  The beautiful thing about this approach is that it’s not a pure expense.  Many times we turn a positive ROI during a keyword discovery campaign.

3. PPC Can Increase Overall Revenue

There is a perception that paying for PPC alongside SEO is simply throwing away money, especially when you are already ranking highly for keywords.  It’s a common myth that PPC cannibalizes your organic efforts when you bid on the same keywords.  But like everything in online marketing, never just believe broad statements, and always trust in your own testing.

When we test this at LeapGo, many times we see higher profits for our clients who use PPC alongside SEO. So when they have an organic ranking and a PPC ad, they get more conversions and more revenue—over and above the money being spent on their PPC.  I know that goes against the myth, but this is why it is so important to test.  This is nothing new—here is some old Google research from 2012 that covers a similar topic.   This is on the subject of the incremental increases in CTR from PPC ads, and it states: “50% of the ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental.”

This means that when an advertiser has a top ranking organic result and also has a PPC ad showing in the top position, 50% of the visits to the advertiser’s website were not replaced by organic clicks when the ads were paused.  So having PPC as well as organic results increases CTR overall. And the results were even greater for organic listings lower down the page. In positions 2 to 4, the incremental increase is 82%. And position 5 or lower, the increase is 96%.

In the same way, you may find that your PPC ad gets a higher CTR than your organic ranking for the same keyword. Don’t assume that because you are ranking organically, this will always perform better than your ads.  Yes, people naturally trust the organic results more because a high organic ranking suggests authority. But that doesn’t mean it will always perform better.  Again, this is nothing new. Check out this old case study on Moz where the company in question got higher conversions from its PPC ads.

The truth is that searchers are happy to click on ads. Having a PPC ad presence in the SERPs often affects organic CTR, as detailed in this Search Engine Land article from 2014. It suggested that when ads were present in the search results pages, they caused a drop in CTR of organic results by 30%, and the impact of ads is greatest for the top result.  And the more ads displayed at the top, the greater the drop in CTR for the first organic listing. This could be even more important now after Google’s recent changes to AdWords that will see up to four ads displayed in the search results.

4. Use PPC to Test Your Landing Pages

PPC also provides excellent opportunities for testing. If you want to test a landing page, for example, you may already know that tiny differences on the page can often have a huge impact.  PPC allows you to set up a split test in no time at all, so you can test the position of the CTA, the headline, the image, the copy and more. You can then test all of these and roll out the changes to your organic pages.

5. Increase Your SERP Real Estate

Ask yourself a simple question: would you rather show up once on the SERPs, or twice?With PPC, you instantly double your real estate on keywords you also show up for organically, helping you to stand out more from your competitors.  By simply increasing your visibility, you can get more people clicking through to your website overall. Again, the recent AdWords changes could make this even more important seeing as in some devices, only the PPC ads will now show above the fold.

By getting a greater presence in the SERPs using PPC, you can also avoid fluctuations in your first-page presence. Your organic listings may change on a regular basis, and there is no guarantee that you will continue to show up on the first page.  But if you lose your first-page ranking, having PPC ads running will mean you can ensure you show up on the first page to provide a more consistent presence.

SEO and PPC: It’s Not a Case of One or the Other

When it comes to SEO and PPC, there is no need to decide on one or the other. We love focusing on the strengths of both to improve results for our clients.

Interested in using PPC to boost your SEO, or vice versa? Then let’s talk.