Marketing Strategy – SEO vs. PPC

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We talk a lot about individual aspects of SEO and PPC, i.e. tactics.  We focus on best practices and offer some tips that we have learned through our own experiences/expertise.  However, to the best of my knowledge, this blog has never discussed the differences in overall strategy that should be taken in using PPC vs. SEO.  That they would be different may make inherent sense, but you will find that many marketers apply the same strategy to these two formats viewing them simply as different channels under the internet umbrella.

While there are exceptions, I typically recommend campaigns for both PPC and SEO to all of my clients.  There are benefits to be found exclusively in each to help the client reach almost any web-based goals.  However, that does not mean that I take the same strategy with both methodologies.  There are some fundamental differences that need to be observed with how each works and who is being targeted that affect how I go about tackling those systems.

For search engine optimization, the over-simplified strategy is to optimize the on-site content so that Google & Bing (and other engines to a lesser degree) will rank the site for terms that customers may be searching.  This includes specific product, service, and category pages – as well as peripheral terms that may be related to that content.  I am often willing to take a “shotgun” approach to SEO by tackling as many phrases that will rank as possible.  Even if this brings in some irrelevant traffic with a lower conversion rate, the raw number of conversions should increase as some users are searching along these lines.  There is no added cost per user beyond the time spent to create the ranking content.  For example, if I want to bring in users who are searching for steel containment tanks, I would like to rank high for the phrase “steel tanks.”  Now, this might also bring many users who are searching for army tanks, but so long as some of the users are searching for holding tanks, I would likely see a positive return on investment.  The tactics taken to achieve good organic results are discussed extensively in a number of SEO related articles on this blog.

For PPC, the strategy needs to be much more targeted.  Each visitor who arrives via PPC costs the provider just a little bit extra.  If PPC ads bring in large quantities of irrelevant/low converting users, this will likely result in a poor return on investment.  Using the previous example, I do not want to target the broad phrase “steel tanks” for PPC ads as they are expensive and a bit of a crapshoot as to how relevant the incoming traffic will be.  Compared to the shotgun for SEO, I want to use more of a sniper rival for PPC.  ROI on PPC can be terrific, but it will always be highest for the most relevant users.  I will want to use phrase (e.g. “steel storage tanks”), exact (e.g. [steel containment tanks]), and negative match (e.g. steel tanks –army) terms to best filter where my ads are shown.  That is not to say that you need to limit volume, only focus on that which is most likely to convert and work from there.  The Beacon blog contains a number of posts to discuss best practices in creating ads and the types of phrases that are most worthy of focus.

While I hate the word “synergy” (it is often used in situations where it is completely unachievable – i.e. business mergers), there is something to be said for PPC and SEO feeding off of each other.  They help create exposure and enhance the user experience to the point where they produce better results together than the sums of what either could achieve alone.  Just take heed to ensure that you are using a strategy specifically tailored for that aspect of web marketing as opposed to just sectioning out the same strategy across different channels.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    While I am certainly an advocate for implementing a comprehensive online strategy that *includes* SEO, the heat map example used above clearly shows a bias towards SEO. The majority of the time, SERP’s will place the top 3 PPC ads right in the “hot-zone” represented above, top-left portion of the page. In addition, the previous comments of a more detailed report that includes the ultimate result of these clicks is what any business owner interested in profit margins should be concerned with.