Monday, October 12, 2009

Should you Pay-Per-Click When Your SEO is Strong?

You've optimized and optimized and you've finally managed to get that coveted SEO top spot. Time to turn off your PPC, right? Not so fast. One thing I've learned is that search marketing isn't always clear-cut.

I often get asked why we continue to sponsor some keywords when we are already ranking high on the SEO side. So here's a quick summary discussing the benefits of doing SEO-only versus keeping PPC running alongside SEO.

Approach 1: SEO-Only
Once you have gained a top SEO position, then one approach is not to continue sponsoring these keywords in PPC anymore. Why cannibalize your free click stream with clicks that you have to pay for? If your budget is stretched then you can use this money to better support keywords that aren't showing up organically. Afterall, searchers trust organic results and according to Marketing Sherpa, the Top 5 SEO rankings command 55% of clicks.

Approach 2: Combined PPC and SEO
There is nothing in the SEO-only approach that I don't agree with. However, I do believe that there is value in keeping PPC running alongside SEO, particularly for those golden keywords that convert well. Here's a few reasons why:

1. Reassurance to the Searcher
Having a presence in both SEO and PPC helps to reassure a searcher that you are relevant to the search they have carried out, and that you are the right next step to click on. Sure there will be some cannibalization along the way, but often the combined clicks are higher than just having a presence in SEO alone. However, these numbers are worth testing out for yourself.

2. Shelf Space
Searchers may trust SEO results, but almost 20% of them are still clicking on PPC ads (Marketing Sherpa). By appearing in both organic and paid search positions, you increase your visibility and in effect, double your shelf space in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). One more position that belongs to you, means one less that can be taken up by your competitors.

If you are interested, check out this article by Kevin Lee (ClickZ) which explains more about the concept of Search Marketing Shelf Space.

3. Control
Just because you are in a top SEO position today, isn't to say that you will stay there. SEO is very fluid and you have to constantly monitor and optimize in order to stay on top.

- Position
One benefit of PPC over SEO is that it is a lot more controllable. If having a top SEO and top PPC position is too much overkill, then look to achieve a balance. If you command a top SEO position then you can afford to bid slightly less for a lower PPC position - this way you are still providing reassurance to the searcher, maintaining that double shelf space, whilst not spending as much to achieve it.

- Preferred Landing Page (PLP)
Sometimes your SEO entry doesn't lead people to the preferred landing page you want people to see when they click through from the SERP. With PPC you can control/tailor both the adcopy and the PLP to better match the intent of the searcher, or guide the searcher towards a particular outcome/conversion of your choosing.

For example, if you do a search on the word "Google", "Google" appears in both the top SEO and PPC positions. The organic entry leads people to google.com, but the paid ad encourages people to "Make Google Your Homepage" with a direct link to that page.


There are fors and againsts for both approaches, but it is worth not automatically ruling out PPC when your SEO is strong, especially for those high-converting keywords. What is important, is to continually monitor spend and performance to make sure that your PPC is providing enough return.

3 comments:

  1. check out enquiro's and emarketers published info.. it supports your point

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  2. Thanks Steve, I'll take a look

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  3. Here's a good whitepaper by Enquiro looking into the Brand Lift of Search http://bit.ly/3ua8lg

    The study found a significant correlation between companies in both the top SEO & PPC placements, and brand affinity, recall & purchase intent.

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