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Jimmy McCann, Head of Digital Strategy, Search Laboratory

 

When it comes to reaching customers online, SEO and PPC are two very different channels which brands can use to drive traffic and conversions. 

SEO is typically seen as a long-term strategy as it can take weeks to months for activity to pay off and visibility to increase. Organic traffic is ‘free’, visibility is more sustainable long term (i.e. it does not require constant paid investment), and organic listings are often seen as more credible than paid listings, so investing in this area sooner than later can make all the difference when it comes to long-term success. 

On the other hand, PPC allows brands to gain visibility for keywords instantly, making it an ideal channel for driving conversions and sales right away. Ad platforms allow marketers to target different audiences and adjust bids to ads in front of the right people, which means listings are seen by users who are more likely to convert. However, PPC requires constant investment – once the budget stops, the listings disappear. In industries where CPC is high, this can mean a significant ongoing media spend if there is little organic visibility.  

Why you should consider an integrated search strategy 

The skills needed to manage SEO and PPC differ, so these channels have traditionally been looked after in silos, each with their own unique set of objectives and KPIs.  

However, combining these efforts and joining up your strategies can reduce costs while increasing visibility, traffic and conversions, as each strategy can be tailored to make up for any shortfalls in the other channel – for example, running PPC campaigns on pages which have low organic visibility, while turning them off for pages with a high organic visibility to save budget.  

SEO and PPC often reach users at different stages of the customer journey, so combining strategies also allows for a more consistent user experience that pushes users from awareness through to purchase.  

How to get started 

Ideally, an integrated PPC and SEO strategy would have a single set of objectives and KPIs, with both channels working together to achieve these goals. This can take a lot of restructuring and time, particularly for brands who outsource their marketing, meaning it is not always possible to implement.  

There are steps you can take to a more holistic approach to search which do not require the overhaul of your current marketing team. The first step is to set up cross-team communication and ensure that PPC teams share their data with SEO teams, and SEO teams do the same. From there, it is a case of using these insights to build smarter, more integrated strategies.  

Use PPC data to inform your content strategy 

PPC campaign data allows you to see what keywords, calls to action (CTAs) and messaging works (and what doesn’t) – insights which can be used to guide your meta data and landing page copy to improve your organic listings’ click-through rate and conversions. 

Target keywords with a high CPC or high volume with low conversion rate in your SEO strategy 

Keywords which have a high cost per click (CPC), or keywords with high volume of traffic but low conversion rates, can eat up your PPC budget without driving results. Improving organic visibility for these keywords through your SEO strategy means you can reduce or pause paid listings, freeing up budget to use elsewhere.  

Use organic insights to inform your PPC strategy 

Organic insights, such as which keywords led users to your site, or what demographics tend to convert better, can be used to improve your paid media campaigns through bid adjustments and keyword targeting.   

Gain visibility for keywords where you have a low organic presence 

PPC can be used to bolster visibility for and drive traffic to pages which suffer from low organic visibility, for example because the page is new so has little authority yet.  

This strategy can also be used to target short-tail keywords where organic competition is stiff, particularly in landscapes where the SERPs are dominated by comparison sites.