The Sneaky Guide to Using Paid Search and SEO Together

It might be a major cliche, but SEO and PPC are two equally important sides of a very valuable coin. Performing each of them independently of each other can yield results, but making them work together can provide  take your site’s traffic to a new level.

It’s a shame, then, that so many companies insist on focusing on one while ignoring the other, but at least that can be written off to a frugal business owner keeping a very close eye on his or her marketing budget.

What’s truly inexcusable is when a company IS focusing on both SEO and PPC, but for some reason decides to keep those efforts entirely separate. Some may even go so far as to hire two separate marketing agencies to handle each of them. These are the companies that are truly shooting themselves squarely in the foot.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Hey wait a minute, that’s how I handle my SEO and PPC,” well then read on, because we’re going to change the way you advertise.

Why Integrating SEO and PPC Campaigns is Ideal

One of the most baffling things I’ve come across as a marketer is this idea that advertisers have that they can stop spending money and paid ads once they’ve attained better organic rankings. This makes no sense. You’ve just gotten yourself into a position to double your search visibility, and now you want to take part of that away?

I understand the appeal of wanting to spend less money, and sure, maybe you can pull back your ad spend a bit (especially if seasonality is a factor), but this idea of PPC being a pathway to SEO can cause companies to miss out on some big opportunities. Why not make the two work together and dominate your competition on both fronts?

Plus, anyone who’s ever done SEO knows how fast things can change. One algorithm update can wipe out your organic traffic in a hurry, and fixing it can sometimes take months.

Paid ad visibility, on the other hand, won’t change, at least not that quickly (and usually only if you want it to). So having that paid search “safety net” already in place can save you both time and money that would otherwise be spent scrambling to recover lost organic traffic.

Best Practices in Integrating Paid Search and SEO

Making your PPC and SEO work in sync isn’t just a simple matter of assigning them both to the same person. There are some steps and strategies that can be employed which can help you achieve the best results possible.

Consider Aesthetic Positioning For PPC Ads –  Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of advertisers feel that higher organic listings for a certain keyword means that you can take your foot of the PPC pedal on that keyword. This is directly counter to the ultimate goal of maintaining prominence on SERPs, especially considering that the presence of paid ads has a direct impact on organic click through rates. This has become even more true over the last year or so, as paid ads have started taking over more and more space on SERPs.

Use PPC to Test New Organic Keywords – A lot of advertisers don’t realize that one of their most valuable SEO resources is actually their Adwords account. Even if you’ve already done thorough keyword research, there’s still valuable information that can be gained from a solid PPC campaign.

For example, maybe you’ve found a new organic keyword that you think could be valuable to your website. Instead of working for months to try and rank for it only to find that it’s not quite as viable as you thought, try creating a new landing page and then run  an “exact match” campaign and pointing traffic to it. If the results are positive, try experimenting with different phrases, landing pages, etc. and get even more data. Now you can base your organic campaign on something substantial instead of on a hunch.

Rely on Adwords to Gain Insights on What Converts – Queries are almost impossible to track in Google Analytics these days. You can take some guesses by matching up Webmaster Tool queries and Top Landing Page reports but you’ll be hard-pressed to learn how well each query performs organically. This is especially true when your analytics tracking isn’t working properly and you need some answers.

Looking at Adwords performance data can tell you which queries are worth optimizing more than others. Just keep in mind, that organically, you have less pressure to meet that CPA target since the traffic is free. Focus more on which keywords of similar nature drive the most revenue and optimize for those ones.

Identify Competitors Using PPC Reports – One of the more useful reports that Adwords can show you is your Auction Insights report, which shows how your performance compares to other advertisers who bid on the same keywords as you. If you sort it by “Overlap Rate,” (see below) you can see just how often you and each competitor are going after the same things.

This can have a major impact on your SEO campaigns as well, especially if you’re just finding these competitors for the first time. Take their URLs and plug them into a tool like SEMRush that can show you what their top organic keywords are. A lot of them will be similar to yours, but you may find that they’re getting traffic from some keywords you’ve never even considered before. Then you can plan your SEO campaigns accordingly.

Optimize Your Organic and Paid Ad Copies – We’ve already talked about testing new organic keyword with PPC campaigns, but you can also use your ad copy itself to help dictate some of your organic elements. Remember, title tags and meta descriptions are essentially the SEO versions of ad headings and copy, attempting to catch the searcher’s eye and entice them to click. So if one of your landing pages is getting a lod of love in your PPC campaigns but not organically, try editing the title tag and meta description to emulate the copy of the paid ad.

The inverse of this can also work. If you have a strong organic landing page that isn’t seeing much traction in your PPC campaigns, consider changing your ad copy to reflect the organic elements.

Consider Seasonality when Planning Your Campaigns – Seasonality is a major factor in both PPC and SEO campaigns, or any marketing campaign for that matter. Making your PPC and SEO data work together can help provide crucial insights for maximizing up times and minimizing damage from down times.

A major key to understanding seasonality is knowing when your relevant search terms are at their most popular, which is most easily accomplished using Google Trends. That data can then be used to plan your content strategy (blog posts, landing page content, etc) for your SEO campaign. You can then increase or dictate your ad spend for each keyword accordingly.

So What’s Next?

The most important takeaway from all this is remarkably simple: Don’t pigeonhole your data and strategies. Any time you’re looking at your Adwords campaigns, stop and think “Can this information help my SEO campaigns?” and vice versa.

About Dan Cromar

SEO Manager at Conversion Giant, with five years of experience in Internet Marketing. Specializing in SEO content creation, onsite optimization, and linkbuilding.