5 Ways Paid Search Compliments SEO

Recently, one of my colleagues at Greenlane Search Marketing (a company that partners with WenzelPPC for PPC management for their clients) asked me for list a differences/similarities between SEO and PPC. I decided to take that question to the next level and describe how SEO and PPC can compliment one another - this article is the result.

Your Competitors Are Using PPC

The most obvious advantage of complimenting your SEO efforts with PPC is that if your competitors are running PPC ads, they will have an opportunity to outrank your organic listing every time.

While the best things in life may be free, showing up first in the search results usually is not. On any given search engine with ads, the majority of keyword searches will result in a SERP with paid listings showing above the organic listings. Many times, these keywords can be your company’s unique trademark or brand. In this case, the only way to beat them is to join them.

As an example, here’s what happens when potential clients search for this website but include a space between “wenzel” and “ppc”. How annoying!

Example of competitors showing above organic brand keywords

Example of competitors showing above organic brand keywords

Higher Search Engine CTR

Consider the following data:

  • When paid listings are shown by themselves, they have a CTR of 19%
  • When paid listings are shown with organic listings, then the overall CTR of the whole SERP increases to 26% Source: Moz.com

This suggests that the more times your website is listed on the SERP, the more impressions you make on a customer and, as a result, a higher rate of clicks to your website than utilizing SEO or PPC alone.

While I’m just quoting data from one particular study here, this relationship has been tested and independently verified by various sources - most famously by Google itself, however, I also find that study to be the most self-serving and therefore didn’t quote it in this article.

Test Website Offers and Meta Tags

Another way to improve your SEO using PPC is to use your paid text ads as a way to A/B test your website’s meta-descriptions and content headers. A standard feature of any paid search platform is the ability to evenly rotate ad copies and compare the impact of different words and phrases. By testing ads, marketers can determine what offers or value propositions have the the highest CTR or drive the most leads/sales. Using this data, SEO’s can make data driven optimizations to a website’s HTML and content that will not only improve the on-site messaging and performance, but improve the way a site’s organic listings perform in the SERPs.

For example - would someone searching for “internet marketing consultants” rather “Request a Free Consultation” or “Download a Free White Paper”? To find out, simply create two ads, one with each message, and let them rotate for a few days. At the end of the experiment you’ll know which call to action is most effective and make appropriate changes to your website based on hard data rather than a hunch.

Landing Page Optimization

On the PPC side of things we have a mantra: “Always Be Testing”. Much of this testing will take place on a keyword’s landing page, which is the page that a customer is directed to after clicking an ad. What separates PPC from SEO is that we can easily A/B test these pages without affecting a website’s organic ranking.

If Blake was addressing a room full of PPC consultants

If Blake was addressing a room full of PPC consultants

By optimizing landing pages, we can fine tune a customer’s experience after the click in order to ensure that our hard earned SERP presence results in as many completed goals as possible. A click that directs a customer to a page that doesn’t convert is a wasted opportunity. Some examples of elements that can be tested on a landing page are:

  • Page layout and design, including images and color schemes
  • Content and value propositions
  • Lead forms of various lengths and complexity
  • Call-to-action buttons (so important!)

Foolproof Keyword Research

Note: I’ve saved the best for last - if you take nothing else away from this post, take this.

In late 2013, due to concerns that the NSA was spying on everyone’s search information, Google announced that they were shifting to encrypted search data. As a result, all of the keyword data that SEO’s relied upon to track performance and research new opportunities was replaced with “(not provided)” within a matter of months.

Thankfully, all was not lost. Paid keyword data collected by Google AdWords remained available for customers that utilized the platform. Regardless of why Google doesn’t encrypt paid keywords (many argued at the time that Google’s primary motivation was selling more ads). AdWords has become an invaluable source of search query analytics for SEO’s and PPC managers alike.

That same year, Google launched Dynamic Search Ads which allowed advertisers to match searches with content on their website, not keywords. Now advertisers didn’t have to rely on their own keyword choices to trigger ads. AdWords would automatically display ads based on content - just like organic search results - and marketers could see the exact queries that were being searched and that Google determined were relevant.

Cut to 2014/2105 and the addition of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). RSLA is a feature that lets you customize your search ad campaigns for people who have previously visited your site. Suddenly, a new form of keyword research was born: Combine RSLA with Dynamic Search Ads and a search marketer could run a report that showed exactly what actual customers were typing into the Google search box after visiting an advertiser’s site. If there’s a more fascinating keyword research tool out there, we haven’t heard about it.

Whether you’re an SEO looking to pitch PPC to one of your clients or a website owner wondering why you should pay for clicks when you already rank organically for your core keywords, it should now be clear that in order to maximize your search performance you need to have both paid and organic listings.

If you have any additional thoughts on combining PPC and SEO strategies - or if you have any questions regarding any of the techniques listed above - feel free to post them in the comments!


Christian Wenzel

Search Engine Marketing is a passion. I'm always staying one step ahead in the ever-evolving Search Engine Marketing industry. Whether reading industry blogs, testing advanced pay-per-click strategies or brainstorming with colleagues, I'm constantly searching for the next tool, platform or idea that strives to change they way people search, shop and connect online.