In the last ten years of my career, SEO and PPC were often viewed as two mutually exclusive channels. Most SEO’s scoffed at the idea of integrating PPC into their repertoire. Paying for search traffic felt in some ways unfaithful to one’s deeply-rooted SEO background.
Having deep roots in organic SEO myself, I get it. Nothing defeats the marketing value of targeted organic search traffic. But over those years, I stopped pushing PPC aside and started exploring new ways to create harmony between both.
Now, as a certified Google Ads specialist, I appreciate both sides of the coin and almost always use both SEO and PPC in strategic unison. To help shed light on the opportunities avail by combining these valuable search channels, below are several creative ways you can support you SEO strategy by using PPC advertising.
Jump Start SEO by Driving Traffic to Your Pages
The number one Google ranking factor is an important topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Backed by a reputable study conducted by SEMrush, direct website traffic is the most influential Google search ranking factor, next to a number of engagement factors.
“Direct website visits,” or simply direct traffic, is defined by users who visit a website directly from the browser bar, without searching Google or clicking a link from another site. Similar to the more widely-discussed top of link building, Google recognizes this activity as a trust signal indicating a credible website.
So how does direct website traffic fit into PPC and SEO? In short, using Google Ads gets the ball rolling.
Unless your targeting niche, long-tail keywords, it could take months before search users find your site. Paying for visitors gets things moving quicker by driving qualified traffic to your pages. If your site leaves an impression, the outcome can cultivate brand awareness and motivates repeat (direct) visits.
…and Build Brand Awareness
In must-read SEO trends piece by Search Engine Land, the idea of building brand awareness “should be a priority” for SEO. Combine with other channels like social, using paid search is highly-targeted means to do just that. Leveraging features like remarketing, Location extensions, audiences and geographic targeting can further maximize a PPC investment.
Some brands derive tremendous value in using PPC to bid on their brand name. Not only do these clicks often come at a cheaper cost, but it’s also a reputation management strategy that allows you to fully control what users first see when they search your name. For brands with questionable reputations or negative press, employing PPC is crucial. Take BP in the figure below, a company under immense scrutiny for its oil spills.
Even if you already rank #1 for brand name, ads for brand keywords drive some of the highest CTRs of any category, according WordStream. Based on accounts I manage, it’s not uncommon for branded keywords to consistently generate a 15-20% CTR. Based on the latest CTR data and assuming your website occupies the top organic listing(s), combining PPC ensures most (or at least half or more) Google users visit your site.
Test a Keyword’s Value with PPC First
If you’ve been doing SEO for awhile, then you’re probably well aware that achieving top rankings is not an overnight success. It can take several months (even years) to earn organic search visibility for competitive keywords.
Before investing in a long-term SEO strategy for particular keyword, it’s critical to have undoubted confidence that the given keyword is going to grow your bottom line. Certainly some keywords will be obvious pursuits, however others might be up for question.
I’ll give you a personal example based on a project I am currently working on for a triathlon coaching website. An attractive keyword I am considering is “triathlon trainer.” But is the word “trainer” synonymous with “coach?” In the context of cycling, a “bike trainer” is an entirely different thing from a coach. It’s an expensive product that enables you to ride your bike indoors. So is “triathlon trainer” are worthwhile target for our SEO strategy?
One way to find out is to test how well the keyword performs using PPC first. If we’re finding that our bounce rate is high and very few users are converting, then it’s likely not worth going after. However, if we’re engaging users and generating coaching leads by targeting “triathlon trainer” with PPC, then we confidently target this keyword with SEO.
This strategy is particularly useful for very competitive keywords, such products or high-dollar services. Ecommerce SEO’s can employ these experiments to validate the conversion value of certain product keywords before investing heavily in a competitive SEO space.
Mobile Search Visibility and PPC Ads
One of the most compelling reasons to consider PPC advertising is the nature of mobile search. Unlike desktop where users can swiftly bypass the paid listings to the organic, mobile users often have to scroll through several ads before reaching the organic listing. Further, paid ads appear deceptively natural and blend in easier from mobile, despite being labeled with a small “Ad” icon.
Take for instance the mobile search below for “triathlon coaches online.” There are three paid ads shown above the organic (two shown here), with the top ad showing both Sitelinks and Call extensions. In short, that top paid ad is occupying a significant amount of real estate in the mobile search results.
By the time a user reaches the organic listings, it’s likely they’ve already seen a series of paid ads, as well as other SERP features like “People also ask,” related images and videos, or a Google featured snippet.
With 52.3% search queries conducted on a mobile, it’s important to acknowledge these fundamental differences in how users engage with mobile search results. Ultimately, search real estate offers far greater value, especially in the first few listings.
Depending on the search query (i.e. local and “near me”), mobile users can represent a vast majority of the search volume for certain keywords. If your pages are still stuck near the bottom of page one, chances are you’re getting very few clicks from mobile users. PPC is an instant way to bridge the gap.
Never Stop Exploring Your Creativity
Depending on the project, there’s ample creative potential in how you approach both SEO and PPC. Because having an integrated content strategy is often fundamental to SEO, often times you can generate PPC traffic to valuable content. Insightful white papers, compelling case studies, and link-worthy reports can often make for valid PPC landing pages, especially if the clicks are cheap.
Tyler Tafelsky started as an SEO Copywriter back in 2009 for small agency based in Traverse City, Michigan. Today he serves as Senior SEO Specialist for Captivate Search Marketing spearheading client content strategy, Google Ads, and various strategic and creative initiatives. In addition to working with Captivate, Tyler has developed learning material for Google Ads training courses as well as white papers and ebooks on various topics related to SEO.
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