Blending SEO and PPC as a strategy for great web traffic

Do any google search for a commercial item. Let’s say something like ipad mini. Well, look at that page: adverts take up a huge part of the real estate on the page.

Above the fold on a typical desktop computer screen are just a couple of organic search options, in fact when I took this screen grab there was just one.

Right there, is why we often recommend blending pay-per-click (PPC) and on-page search engine optimization (SEO) for most commercial websites.

ipad screenshot

For a start, the concept of Google putting three adverts at the top of its search results is relatively new – there once was only one ad. If you measure how much real estate is taken up by sponsored messages, the percentage had been measured as organic results had only 13% of your screen, according to one study. Yahoo’s search also has three main ads, but use Bing and you can get up to four ads while has gone wild and sometimes goes with five.

On my mobile I see only one organic result for the same google search. When I’m signed in to google on my phone, searches that require local results – such as for car mechanic or burger restaurant – get one organic result and then the next 5, 6 or 7 are all local businesses.

PPC is crucial with highly commercial searches

So, while organic still gets hits and is generally still the main driver of overall visits on websites we manage, these examples indicate how for commercial searches PPC for sponsored results is an essential addition to get your site’s offerings in front of interested eyeballs.

Also, it’s almost impossible to survive with just one strategy. A blended approach is what I recommend.

PPC also has other uses. Most importantly, since the decision by Google to encrypt most searches, the keyword data of users is now being shown as “Not Provided”  in Google Analytics.

Running an Adwords campaign is a way to get access to this “hidden” search query data.

What types of site PPC can work well with

As well as purely commercial sites, selling product and services, there are plenty of other areas where PPC is a crucial tool.

For b2b publishers sites PPC can also work really well at creating initial leads for contact for content such as white papers or research. If you have a good piece of research PPC is a really good way to put that in front of people.

For all web publishers there will be certain keywords that are good for creating sign-ups (you may know these already or we can work them out). For example, for a smaller financial publisher, when the tax year or the budget comes round, it can be impossible to compete organically with Bloomberg, Financial Times, MailOnline, Daily Telegraph and similar. In that scenario your smaller site’s great editorial content could be missed, so run PPC on that instead.

It works particularly well as the expensive terms are the commercial ones, terms to sell products, so PPC around news and advice is much cheaper and you can get super cheap clicks, 6p, 5p, 4p, 3p!

New sites are another area where I’ve had success. For newly built sites, sites that lack authority, it’s important to use a combined strategy of using PPC as well as organic content creation. It takes a while for organic strength to build up. If you want leads or eyeballs in the early weeks and months of a new site then PPC can fill in while you’re creating that great, iconic web content. I’ve done this a couple of times – after six months the authority has built up on the site with the creation of organic  content so you can bring the PPC down if you want.

Why push organic search if you’re using PPC?

Even if you’re well committed to PPC, don’t just think that you can just dump organic.

As well as establishing your presence for search engines, your organic content gives you ‘permission to sell’ at a later time. Quality web content enables you to grab consumers early in their buying process, when your content demonstrates your expertise and, with a heavy dose of branding, worms its way into the consumer’s brain.

Early on in the buying process is when your organic content can have a good influence over consumer behaviour.

Content, as has been said, is the fuel that drives the inbound effect. Content is a conversation starter and is generally the only way to develop a strong standing with search engines.

(Organic content also is good for confirmation and reducing buyer remorse – ‘you made the right decision, what a clever consumer you are’ – and building brand loyalty for repeat purchases.)

Secondary effects of organic content

As the consumption process involves so much online research nowadays, during the early stages of their “decision making journey” consumers build up what McKinsey calls “accumulated impressions” that form the initial set of products of their potential purchasing options.

You have to accept that the consumer will leave your site and visit competitor sites. You will get some who buy on the first visit but most will not. Later in the buying process they will come back to check details or specifications, re-read things. It can be a long process – even longer with big ticket items.

It’s been found that PPC is often at its most powerful when the consumer nears their final purchasing decision. Especially when you have a strong landing page with a clear decision funnel. In the decision-making stage the consumer has definitely decided to purchase, they have done the research, and they now have one or two actual model numbers that they are searching for. That’s when PPC really works.

At the final point of decision making, your previous content work has earned you that permission to sell. Now with PPC you can put your site in front of a customer who is already well entwined with you and your site.

PPC can work where organic has hit a wall

Finally, even with the best will in the world, a great content team producing great, original, interesting content, you can’t win them all. There are some keywords you can try and try but you never seem to be able to beat the competition in organic results.

But if you can’t get any traction from organic content, as long as the return on investment is profitable, then bring PPC into the game.

If you create content but google won’t recognise it as being better than the competition then PPC can pull in the eyeballs instead.

Written by

TIW's head of search, Jez has been in web marketing and SEO since 1999. His specialties are SEO and PPC, with a dash of market research and analysis

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