SEO & PPC: Are They Related?
Updated: Oct 20
All too often, these two vastly different practices are conflated. Below, we'll explain the differences, the interplay, and why both are important. Recently, this article was quoted in a piece by Databox. Check it out here.
When someone talks about wanting to "do Google marketing"(something I was asked about earlier this week), I find that I need to ask them what they mean. Invariably, they will tell me that they want to be at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Which, of course, should be the goal of all Search Engine Marketing. However, what they mean by the top can be two radically different things. If you want to be at the top of the SERP for organic results, then you need someone that is skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If you want to appear as the first paid result, you need someone that specializes in Pay Per Click ads (PPC). So what do we mean by all of this, and are they related at all? Let's explore.
Organic Search Success Is Based On SEO
When we talk about organic search results, we need to talk about how your website is set up, what kind of content you are producing, and how the search engines respond to (or index) this information. Let's use an example to better illustrate what we are discussing.
Let's say you are managing a firm that specializes in digital marketing. Your website titles, page descriptions, alt text, and other "nuts and bolts" all need to communicate this to the search engines when they crawl and index your site. If you have a page dedicated to discussing PPC ads, for example, then your description should tell the search engine that is what is on the page. If your description says something like "local restaurant owner describes how websites work", then the search engine may not index your site or page properly.
Your content (blogs, videos, images, etc) should all be focused and have the proper alt text for your topic. If I were to write blogs about the best burgers in Manhattan, then the search engine will index me for burgers in Manhattan over time. As another example, I have a friend that is a real estate broker. Her website is beautiful. She publishes amazing marketing for her client's homes. However, her site is ranking for search terms related to dining options in her hometown. Why?
A marketing company suggested that the best thing for a real estate agent to do is to highlight other local businesses in order to appear as an expert in the area. This is a fantastic social media strategy. It is a terrible strategy for SEO. Keep your website content focused on what you do best, and it will pay off in the long run.
Given all of this, you might think it best to simply publish some content on your topic and call it a day. Hardly. SEO is a long play. When I first broke into the industry a decade ago, I was told "SEO is a marathon, not a sprint." You must publish relevant, timely content on a regular basis for your SEO strategy to have any real meaningful impact on your rankings.
So when someone tells me they want to be at the top of the SERP for ORGANIC search results, I tell them that they need to strap in, because it isn't going to be a short trip. Depending on the focus keywords, you can spend a lot of time and effort in getting yourself ranked highly.
Paid Search Is A Different Game
The idea behind paid search (PPC, Google Ads, Bing Ads) is similar to the goals of SEO, but it has changed dramatically over the years. I won't get into the long history of PPC ads here, but I will touch on it slightly.
From the advent of search engines, it has always been the goal to be at the top of the page. Why? Early on, search engines (Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, etc) made it clear that they were going to display results in order of relevance to the search query. This makes for a better user experience (UX) and also makes for a cleaner, better internet overall. However, it has also been no secret that search engines, in their quest to make money, allow advertisers to pay to have their search results appear the the top of the SERP.
Years ago, most consumers did not know they were clicking on an advertisement. Google started making it more clear by highlighting the paid results in yellow, or putting the word "AD" next to the result, in an effort to be more transparent. Does this mean that the public views a "paid" result as less authoritative than an organic result? Not necessarily. But more on that another time.
The benefit to paid search is that it provides a level playing field. For instance, let's take shoes. We all know that companies like Nike, Foot Locker, Adidas and others will rank high on the organic results for any search for any type of shoe. How can a small shoe store or smaller manufacturer compete with these behemoths? Paid search enables small businesses to get their name and information in the same searches as the bigger companies.
With the overall goal of having your ad display when the consumer is searching for your product of service, a strong paid search strategy will enable you to compete with larger companies when it matters most.
For example, when you search for "homes for sale near me", Zillow shows up high on the organic search results. However, if you are a brokerage or team, you can compete with Zillow fairly easily via paid search. In fact, real estate clients of Karasin PPC often get their ads shown more often and in better positions than Zillow, Redfin, and other large companies. It is all about the strategy. Because we employ the latest and most innovative search engine marketing tactics to our PPC campaigns, we are able to generate high intent leads.
Part of our strategy is utilizing SEO best practices, and this is where PPC and SEO intersect.
How Can PPC & SEO Work Hand In Hand?
When Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines decide which ads to display in response to a search query, a very complex process takes place behind the scenes. This process is governed by the search algorithm, a detailed process which we will discuss in a later post, but we will cover the basics for our purposes here.
Millions of considerations are taken into account, including the bid for the keyword, the quality of the landing page or destination, the relevance to the query, and the ad quality itself. For now, we will only focus on the the landing page, as this will explain the interplay between SEO and PPC.
Let's use this blog for our example. When I am done writing the content of the post, I will input a title and search engine description. This will be a carefully considered paragraph and title, as this will tell the search algorithm how relevant my post is to certain search queries. For example, this post has absolutely nothing to do with social media marketing; so my description will not contain any content about Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. The description will talk about SEO, PPC, Google, Bing, and other terms relevant to the content of the blog. At the end of the day, I don't want someone looking for social media marketing to read this post, because it doesn't benefit them or me.
I want my titles and descriptions to be relevant to searches for PPC management, SEO, and other search engine marketing content. In fact, this entire blog is written with that express purpose in mind.
By utilizing these SEO best practices, I am able to make my PPC ads more relevant to those I am attempting to deliver the content to.
If you have questions about your current PPC or SEO strategy, or if you simply don't have one, schedule a free consultation with us today!