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SEO & Paid Search: Why They Work Better Together

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Using SEO and paid search together creates a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that covers both long-term and immediate business goals. Learn how to leverage both in this handy guide.

Here, you’ll find:

  1. What is SEO?
  2. What is paid search?
  3. Why should I use SEO and paid search together?
  4. SEO vs. PPC: Which should you use more of?
  5. Pros & cons of SEO
  6. Pros & cons of PPC
  7. How to make SEO & PPC work together
  8. What’s a good mix for SEO and paid search traffic?

Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Rhythm and blues. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid search.

While each strategy can be effective on its own, pairing them together is one of the most effective ways to build a strong digital marketing foundation.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the pros and cons of both SEO and paid search – plus dive into the benefits of using them together (featuring incredible insights from HawkSEM’s director of marketing operations, Jenny Palmer).

paid search and seo together
Paid search marketing can give an SEO campaign the push it needs since the latter can take several months to show significant results. (Image: Unsplash)

What is SEO?​


SEO is the practice of enhancing your website to improve visibility when people use search engines to look for products or services related to your business.

By optimizing for relevant keywords, creating quality content, and ensuring your site is technically sound, SEO aims to increase organic (unpaid) traffic to your site.

What is paid search?​


Paid search, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is a digital marketing strategy where you pay a fee each time one of your ads is clicked.

Essentially, it’s a way of buying visits to your site, as opposed to earning those visits through organic methods like SEO. You bid on the perceived value of a click keeping in mind the keywords, platforms, and audience type you want to target. Paid search ads appear at the top or side of search engine results pages (SERPs) to gain more visibility and prominence than organic results.

rowing teamwork

Paid search and SEO complement one another, improve your bottom line, and help your overall program succeed. (Image: Unsplash)

Why should I use SEO and paid search together?​


Using SEO and paid search together creates a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that covers both long-term and immediate business goals.

SEO is a marathon, building organic visibility and credibility over time, which pays off with sustained traffic and reduced dependency on paid efforts. However, it can take months or even years of consistency to see significant results.

On the other hand, paid search is a sprint. It offers immediate visibility and targets specific audiences or keywords, making it ideal for promoting new products, sales, or testing market responses.

Combined, these strategies ensure a consistent online presence, enabling you to dominate both paid and organic search results.

Let’s say you have a company that is launching a new product. You can use paid search to quickly generate awareness and drive traffic to its product page. At the same time, you can optimize your product page for SEO to build organic rankings.

Over time, as the product page begins to rank organically, you can adjust its paid search spend, reallocating budget to other areas of your strategy or new product launches. This will help you efficiently manage your resources and maximize your return on investment (ROI).

This synergy not only enhances visibility but also builds brand credibility, as appearing in both paid and organic search results signals to potential customers that a brand is both prominent and authoritative in its field.

We spoke with Palmer about the benefits of using SEO and paid search together:​


“SEO can provide free traffic and revenue for years to come, but It takes time to gain those rankings and see that traffic volume build,” she says. “While you are working on growing your organic traffic, you can leverage paid search to bring in revenue in the short term.”

She adds, “You can also leverage paid search to ensure you are driving traffic for your most profitable keywords or new product launches.”

SEO vs. PPC: Which should you use more of?​


Every marketing strategy comes with its own set of advantages and challenges. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each approach can help you craft a comprehensive marketing plan that aligns seamlessly with your business goals.

“If you only focus on SEO, you will have a long period with lower revenue while building up your rankings – leaving money on the table and possibly straining your business,” says Palmer. “If you only focus on paid search, you could be overextending yourself financially and hurting the profitability of your business. A proper balance of SEO and paid search ensures you are planning for both short-term and long-term while maximizing your profitability.”

Pros & cons of SEO​

Pros:​

  • Cost-effective: Once established, SEO drives organic traffic to your web pages without the ongoing costs associated with ad spend. This makes it a financially sustainable strategy in the long term.
  • Brand awareness: High rankings on search engines like Google and Bing enhance brand visibility and credibility, making users more likely to trust and click on your site.
  • Long-term results: With consistent effort in technical SEO, link building, and content marketing, SEO offers long-lasting benefits, keeping your site visible and competitive.
  • Compounding returns: The efforts you put into SEO, such as building backlinks and optimizing web pages, tend to build on themselves over time, leading to increased visibility and traffic.

Cons:​

  • Time investment: Significant results from SEO efforts, such as achieving high rankings and building a robust backlink profile, can take months or even years.
  • Constant updates: Search engine algorithms are always evolving, requiring continuous adaptation and updates to your SEO strategy.
  • No guarantee of success: Despite best efforts in technical SEO and content optimization, high rankings can never be guaranteed due to the competitive nature of search algorithms.

Pros & cons of PPC​

Pros:​

  • Immediate visibility: PPC advertising offers instant visibility on search engines, making it ideal for promoting new products, services, or seasonal offers where you need immediate results.
  • Precise targeting: With PPC, you can target specific demographics, interests, and even behaviors, ensuring that your ad campaigns reach the intended audience.
  • Measurable results: Every aspect of search advertising, from cost per click (CPC) to conversion rate, is measurable, allowing for precise assessment of ad spend efficiency and ROI.
  • Brand exposure: Even if users don’t click on your ads, PPC helps increase brand awareness by placing your brand at the top of the SERP.

Cons:​

  • Costs can add up: Depending on the competitiveness of keywords, CPC can be high, making PPC an expensive strategy if not managed carefully.
  • Short-term impact: The visibility and traffic from PPC are contingent on ongoing ad spend. Once you pause or stop your campaigns, you lose that traffic.
  • Clicks don’t always convert: Not every click leads to a conversion, meaning ad spend doesn’t always result in direct revenue.
  • Learning curve: Successfully managing PPC campaigns requires understanding complex platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads, which can be daunting for newcomers.

How to make SEO & paid search work together​


Starting with clarity and cohesion is key. Consistency across your SEO and paid search efforts is crucial. If your ads don’t match the look, feel, and message of your website, visitors might get confused and leave. It’s essential to integrate these strategies to work together rather than in isolation.

The good news? By proactively making sure the paid and organic components of your search engine marketing work together, you can speed up your campaign optimization and boost ROI as a result.

Here are 8 ways to pair SEO and paid search together successfully.

1. Test new keywords


Keywords are pillars of both SEO and PPC strategies — they both fall under the search engine marketing (SEM) umbrella.

Using the same keywords across your SEO and Google Ads campaigns ensures consistency in your messaging. But when it’s time to explore new keywords, remember that integrating them into your SEO strategy demands significant effort and time, from crafting fresh content to updating existing materials.

Google Ads, however, offers a more immediate and flexible platform to test these new terms. You can make quick adjustments and gain insights into keyword performance without the heavy lifting required by traditional SEO updates. This approach ensures your campaigns remain dynamic and responsive to market trends.

Creating an ad with a new keyword and monitoring results can take less than a week. With SEO, it could take months to have enough data to glean real results.

As soon as you see how well a keyword is doing with paid search, you can decide whether it could work for your SEO campaigns and projects.

Pro tip: When selecting keywords for SEO and PPC efforts, be sure to keep search intent in mind. As HubSpot explains, you want to avoid keyword traps, or “words and phrases that sound good but have dual meanings or a mismatched intent.”

2. Retarget visitors


After a decent amount of time and effort put into your SEO strategy, you could see this work paying off by attracting more visitors to your website.

However, the average online conversion rate is 1.9%. That means 98.1% of visitors to your site are not converting on their first visit.

The last thing you want is to provide valuable content only to have potential clients use this knowledge to buy products elsewhere. To avoid this, you can take advantage of retargeting ads.

When a user leaves the website, you can inconspicuously attach a piece of code to anonymously track them. As these visitors go to other websites, your ads appear to guide them back to your landing pages. This increases your chances of converting the lead.

Pro tip: Retargeting is evolving with the eventual demise of third-party cookies (more on that below), making things like zero-party data and first-party data even more important.

3. Cross-analyze data


SEO and PPC tactics give you a variety of data to work with. This data is crucial because it can reveal what’s working and what’s not. From there, you can iterate and make updates accordingly.

You can analyze the same metrics from both campaign types, including but not limited to:

  • Time spent on site
  • Conversion rate
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Local conversions

By using this information and conducting A/B tests, you can figure out which keywords work best. And while it’s possible to analyze metrics for each campaign separately, doing it together can give you more valuable and detailed insights.

Due to new privacy laws — the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) being chief among them — third-party data will be heavily restricted. This leaves advertisers to rely more on consensual first-party data.

They’ll have to adapt to the resulting changes, such as ensuring they’re in compliance with all relevant applicable laws, collecting less data overall as users decline tracking, and making do with some less accurate behavioral modeling data that estimates conversions to compensate.

The good news: Coordinated SEO and PPC campaigns help ensure compliance across your entire website. Plus, sharing data can help fill in some of the gaps caused by collecting less data, the loss of third-party data, and the possible inaccuracies of the modeled conversions.

Pro tip: Universal Analytics stopped recording on July 1, 2023. The Google Analytics 4 (GA4) rollout to comply with Consent Mode requirements has already begun. That’s why it’s a good idea to go ahead and get familiar with the ins and outs of GA4.

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4. Dominate the SERP


Some companies are tempted to stop their paid search marketing campaigns once they achieve impressive organic rankings. But even if your website is proudly sitting on page 1 of the SERP, paid ads will always be higher up on the page, increasing your chances of visibility.

Let’s say your SEO and PPC efforts drive equal website traffic individually, 100 visitors each, and both use the same keywords. What would happen if you run them both simultaneously?

Many assume that when running in tandem, they’d still only produce 100 total visitors because they’re appearing for the same searches. However, studies on the subject don’t bear that out.

Search Engine Land looked at these studies and various cases. They found that, despite nothing about the SEO changing, when the PPC ads stopped, the SEO also underperformed.

This is a phenomenon they call “search incrementality,” which proves that the dual strategy of SEO and PPC working together is worth more than the sum of its parts.

When consumers see the same website on top of the SERP and in the ad, they tend to consider it credible. In this case, SEO and PPC complement each other perfectly, with SEO picking up where paid search left off.

Already overwhelmed? Don’t be! Our agency has meshed SEO and paid search efforts for businesses of all sizes — let’s talk about how we can make it happen for yours, too.

5. See faster results


Paid search marketing can give an SEO campaign the push it needs since the latter can take several months to show significant results.

You may already have a high-quality, well-structured website filled with valuable content. But things like domain authority, increased organic traffic, and strong social followings usually take a while to gain momentum.

Alternatively, search ads can bring more visitors to your website in less time than with SEO alone. This information allows you to tweak your SEO campaigns while improving the bounce rate and dwelling time to rank higher on Google search results.

6. Enhance SEO content through PPC ad copy


Tactics that work for your paid search marketing campaign can often work for SEO as well. The best part about PPC ads is that you can get the first results (even if it’s just analysis) quickly.

Once you see which PPC ads bring the most conversions, you get valuable information about what type of organic content, title tags, and meta descriptions to use for your website.

And with PPC ads, it’s easy to split-test your work. By testing several types of ad copy, you can determine what works for both the ad and your website.

7. Learn more about your target audience


Paid social media ads are another effective way to gain insight into the way your target audience feels, thinks, and acts. One great thing about social media advertising is the targeting options available on various platforms.

You can get hyper-specific about who you want to see your ads (like middle-aged luxury car owners who live in Chicago and love fishing, for example).

When you analyze data from these campaigns, you can discover new information about the target audience and use it for both your future PPC and SEO programs.

8. Optimize your budget


Using PPC and SEO together doesn’t just enhance your overall marketing efforts. It can also help you cut costs, generate additional revenue, and save time.

Leverage these in tandem by:

  • Cutting content creation costs by testing keywords with PPC ads
  • Generating revenue with PPC conversions while an SEO campaign gains momentum
  • Saving time on keyword research by using the same keywords for both campaigns
  • Speeding up your SEO campaign with PPC retargeting and lead generation efforts
  • Optimizing your landing pages with both SEO and PPC in mind

9. Staying up-to-date on algorithm changes


Staying ahead of search engine algorithm updates is crucial. These updates can significantly impact your performance for both paid search and SEO, often without warning. However, having both strategies on Google Ads and or Bing Ads offers a layer of protection against potential negative impacts.

When an algorithm update affects your site’s organic search performance, a robust paid search campaign can keep your traffic steady and your leads coming in. Conversely, if changes in the advertising landscape impact your paid search results, a strong SEO foundation ensures you still maintain visibility and attract organic traffic.

This dual-strategy approach mitigates risks associated with algorithm changes and provides a balanced marketing ecosystem. By adapting both your SEO and paid search strategies accordingly, you can safeguard your online presence and continue to drive results.

10. Technical SEO and web page optimization


Optimizing web pages through technical SEO can both boost your site’s organic search rankings and benefit your paid search efforts.

This includes:

  • Improving page speed
  • Ensuring mobile responsiveness
  • Securing your site with HTTPS

Such optimizations lead to a higher Quality Score, reducing your cost per click (CPC) and enhancing ad placement.

Moreover, optimized landing pages reduce bounce rates and increase user engagement, directly contributing to higher conversion rates.

Integrating SEO insights into your landing pages makes them more relevant to both paid and organic searches, creating a cohesive user journey from click to conversion.

What’s a good mix for SEO and paid search traffic?​


It can be difficult to know what a good mix is for SEO and paid search.

“While there is no magic number or percentage for paid and organic split, it is wise to assess whether you are extremely skewed in one direction or the other,” explains Palmer. “If 80% of your traffic is organic, you may be missing out on an opportunity to increase revenue through more paid search. If 80% of your traffic is paid search, you may be hurting your margins and need to work on your SEO strategy.”

Palmer suggests analyzing your marketing efficiency ratio (MER ) to assess if the percentage of your paid ad spend is profitable based on your business margins. “This will help you understand how much you can afford to spend on paid search without hurting your bottom line,” she says.

The takeaway


SEO and PPC coexist well, and they can enhance one another with results greater than the sum of their parts.

In this way, they complement one another, improve your bottom line, and help your overall program succeed.

This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2022.

The post SEO & Paid Search: Why They Work Better Together appeared first on HawkSEM.
 
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