Guest post by Max DesMarais.
Great SEO can get sites to the top of organic search rankings, provide valuable traffic from long-tail or high-traffic keywords and play a crucial role in driving growth to your company. However, there is one pitfall to all the hard work that goes into ranking at the top organically. That pitfall is paid search. With pretty minimal effort and investment, competitors can start driving traffic from the same keywords you spent months attempting to rank for. That’s why the best digital marketers supplement SEO tactics with targeted PPC to yield top results.
It’s always important to remember that no matter how good your rankings, the top 2 or 3 or even 4 results are likely to be search or shopping ads. They will inevitably cut into the click-through rates of top-ranking pages.
SEO and PPC Work Best Together — Here’s Why
SEO strategies are often thought of as long-term and sustainable approaches to digital marketing. Fast advancements in rankings and increases in traffic are hard to come by. Strategies take months and often years of commitment in order to yield results. PPC management efforts, in contrast, can yield results almost immediately—but are costly in the long term. Balancing both long-term and short-term strategies is ideal.
Stopping the Competition:
No matter your ranking, it is likely that paid ads appear above your organic results. If you want to fully capitalize on search results, it is a good idea to supplement keywords of value with targeted PPC ads.
In addition, some companies love to implement “conquest” campaigns in which you pay for keywords that include your competitor’s brand in them. These can be costly, but potentially quite effective. Thankfully, protecting your own brand with PPC is relatively inexpensive, but then again, you’re spending extra money on something you probably rank for.
Actionable Tip: If you’re on a tight budget, or you have a client concerned with branded campaigns, drop the maximum cost-per-click significantly lower. AdWords likely won’t tell you how low you can go, and will suggest much higher, but because this is your brand and there is likely a much higher relevance to your ads and landing pages, you can significantly reduce costs without losing your position. Make sure to test this out to find the right balance and determine your optimal standing.
Use PPC results to determine the best opportunities for organic, long-term approach (this includes PPC tests for headlines, ad copy, landing pages and keyword optimization).
PPC campaigns can be a great way to test the potential value of creating content that can organically rank for the same keywords. Maybe there is significant volume, but if no one converts, PPC can help determine that.
If competitors are paying for keywords, it is likely that they have determined that those keywords have value. Checking competitors’ campaigns can give great insight into new keywords to target, as well as language that best converts.
Actionable Tip: Utilize the SERP (search engine results page) overview tool at ahrefs.com to determine what kind of results, organic and paid, are showing for keywords you’re considering. This can give you an idea of the difficulty in ranking and the traffic you can expect. Keywords Explorer 2.0 from ahrefs will provide data on the number of clicks, paid and organic, for specific keywords. This tool can be extremely valuable for determining what keywords to pursue for both organic and paid campaigns.
Social Media Exposure:
It can be difficult to create large social media followings along with a good content strategy. Using social networks to drive impressions and engagement can be a great way to boost social growth and drive traffic to your site.
Actionable Tip: Give new posts or pages a little SEO boost with some paid social. Drive additional traffic and eyes to your page. Google will see this increase in attention and take note. This increased reach could be great for generating links if your content offers value to your audience.
Display and Remarketing:
The display network is hugely valuable both for building brand awareness and driving valuable traffic from other sites.
Remarketing is an extremely powerful tool that can enable companies to further capitalize on current organic or paid traffic. Creating audiences that are targeted from specific pages can yield some very high conversion rates, and bring back visitors or customers that you may have never seen again.
Actionable Tip: Create separate display campaigns for contextual display (keyword-based), remarketing and topic-based display. This will allow you to accurately judge the performance of each, control the budget and make further adjustments when necessary.
Finding the Balance—Be Careful of Cannibalization …
Can your PPC cut into your organic traffic? Can it hurt rankings? The short answer to both questions is yes. Therefore, you should always keep an eye on how your PPC activities could potentially affect rankings.
Here’s How PPC Can Cut Into Your Organic Traffic
Though branded terms (keywords that include your company’s name or products) are kind of like “fake” organic traffic, don’t forget that Google Analytics is still considering it organic. When running branded PPC campaigns, you could see a pretty significant drop in organic traffic from branded terms (sometimes as much as 30% on certain keywords).
In addition, branded campaigns can be taking some of this traffic at a relatively high cost. Branded campaigns can be an effective strategy to protect your brand when competitors are bidding, but be careful of unnecessary clicks and high spend.
How Can Really Good Ads Be Hurting Your Rankings?
Click-through rates play a major role in organic rankings. If you’re consistently up in the top 1-3 or lower down the first page, Google knows what your click-through rates should look like. If you’re running paid ads that absorb tons of clicks for keywords you rank for, it is possible to have decreased click-through rates that will affect your rankings.
For more insight into how paid ads can affect organic search rankings, check out this article by Search Engine Land exploring How Ads Influence Organic Click-Through Rates.
About the Author: Max DesMarais is an SEO and PPC specialist for Vital in Portsmouth, NH. With experience in both SEO and PPC, he creates strategies and manages accounts that combine both organic and paid search to maximize results for clients in a wide range of industries.