Search dominates the modern zeitgeist.
If you want to look up information on a topic, you search for it.
If you want to buy a specific product, you search for it.
If you’re facing a tough problem and you don’t know where to start, you search for it.
So it’s no wonder why search marketing and advertising have come to be the dominant strategies utilized by businesses to improve visibility, authority, traffic, and conversions.
Now, depending on who you ask, you might get one of two different answers for the best way to approach search marketing.
Some will insist that search engine optimization (SEO) is the best strategy.
Others will say it’s pay per click (PPC) advertising.
But the truth is, both of these strategies have incredible potential. And if you use them together in the right ways, you can see even better results.
What exactly are the differences between these two strategies? How can you optimize your approach to each? And how can you use them together to even greater effect?
Before we delve into specific strategies and tactics you can use to harness the full potential of both SEO and PPC ads, let’s talk about the basics of these marketing and advertising campaigns.
SEO Is all about increasing your organic rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). Google and other search engines use a variety of ranking factors to determine which web pages to rank for a certain query and how to order them. If you can learn how to manipulate these ranking factors, you can increase your rankings, thereby making your webpages more visible in organic searches and attracting more traffic in the process.
Some of the most common tactics for this include developing robust onsite content, improving technical factors like loading time and site security, and building offsite links. It’s a long-term strategy that takes many months, and sometimes years to fully develop.
With PPC, you’ll use Google Ads and similar platforms to bid on and ultimately place advertisements above the fold in SERPs. There are also PPC ads on other platforms, like social media sites, but for now, we’re going to focus exclusively on search engine PPC ads.
You can control almost every variable in this process, choosing which keywords you want to display for, the audiences you want to target, and how much you’re willing to spend on this campaign. However, the cost of this strategy goes up based on competition, so if you’re competing with many big businesses, this can get expensive fast.
That said, PPC ad management is one of the most reliable ways to generate traffic, since you’re only paying for the people who actually click on your ad.
So how can SEO and PPC work together?
There are a few different ways to look at this.
For starters, we should understand that both SEO and PPC have strengths and weaknesses. Many of these strengths and weaknesses are complementary, meaning that if we use these strategies together closely enough, they can cancel out each other’s weaknesses and play to each other’s strengths.
We can also see these strategies as individually optimized for different types of SERP coverage. Only by utilizing both will you be able to maximize your visibility in search engine results.
However, we should also address a common misconception here: SEO and PPC don’t work directly together by feeding off each other. It’s tempting to think that paying for ads for a specific keyword could increase your likelihood of ranking for that organic keyword, but this is not the case. Paid search ads don’t have any effect on your domain authority or your ranking potential, and ranking highly in search engines organically isn’t going to benefit your PPC campaign directly.
Now let’s take a look at the specific ways you can use organic search ranking and paid search ads together.
Always start by keeping a consistent brand voice. If you don’t have a voice already created for your brand, now is the time to create one. Too often, companies sharply segment their SEO and PPC teams, resulting in a fractured voice that users find confusing and disorienting. But you have to remember, your prospects and customers are going to be encountering your brand in multiple different contexts. If you want to build their familiarity and trust, all your ads and search rankings need to embody the same values and personality.
Don’t allow your marketing teams to become siloed. Instead, share information across departmental barriers. Both your SEO and PPC teams will be collecting valuable information, such as traffic rates, behavioral patterns, demographic interests, and engagement rates. For example, you may learn that one specific keyword fetches a much higher conversion rate than another; you can then incorporate this keyword into organic content for your SEO campaign. But this type of maneuver is only possible if all your departments and all your team members are openly sharing information with each other.
Instead of thinking about your SEO and PPC goals as separate, start thinking about them as two branched paths toward the same end destination: SERP domination. Advertisements give you the opportunity to achieve more visibility than organic rankings In some contexts, but you’ll also have organic ranking opportunities where keywords are too expensive to justify a bid. If you harness the full potential of both, you can get more SERP coverage and make your brand visible to even more people.
Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect digital marketing strategy. SEO is extremely cost effective, but it’s also sluggish and time intensive. PPC, by contrast, is fast and reliable, but it’s also more expensive. To get the most value out of both strategies, you’ll need to play to their individual strengths, while minimizing weaknesses. One common manifestation of this is focusing on PPC ads while developing authority for specific organic keywords; you can start taking advantage of traffic streams immediately, while slowly building up your onsite optimization.
Search related strategies only work if you truly understand your audience. You need to understand who you’re targeting, what their values are, what their goals are, and even how they think, at least to an extent. If you blindly optimize or bid for keywords based on your own intuitions, you’re going to fail. You’re also going to fail if you attempt to cater to a generic, universal audience. More on that in our next point.
At least in the beginning, focus on targeting niche audiences, rather than general audiences. Optimizing content and advertisements for young men in college is far superior to optimizing content and advertisements for everyone in the country. There are several reasons for this. First, you’ll face less competition, which is advantageous in both SEO and PPC; you’ll pay less money for ads and you’ll be able to climb rankings faster. Second, you’ll achieve more relevance, meaning you’ll be more successful attracting people to your website and converting them.
What level of awareness is exhibited by your target audience?
How does that level of awareness change throughout the buyer journey?
For example, your customer may start out not even having awareness that they have a problem. At some point, they’ll be aware that a problem exists, but they won’t have awareness of the solutions available for it.
Gradually, they’ll work through the later stages, eventually becoming aware of products like yours, then your specific product, then your brand.
Throughout this by your journey, you’ll find “hidden” keywords and phrases that reveal the searcher’s intent, like “slow air leak” or “why nobody is applying for a job.” Capitalize on these to improve your relevance and avoid the competition.
Local optimization is ideal for reducing competition and appealing to specific audiences. Even if your company operates on a national level, it can be helpful to target some local terms. This is true for both SEO and PPC; local ads are cheaper than national ads, and you can optimize your website faster for local terms than national ones. Use localized landing pages and other localized content to fully capture the local audiences you target.
Keep your finger on the pulse. Don’t assume that your target audience is going to continue following the same trends and exhibiting the same behavioral patterns indefinitely. One of the best ways to do this, in addition to measuring and analyzing traffic on your site, is to analyze search trends. Which terms are rising in popularity? Which ones are falling? How is user intent evolving?
When targeting specific keywords for SEO or PPC, most marketers rightfully target words that are high in volume and low in competition, maximizing the number of people who will see the advertisement or onsite content piece while minimizing the number of competitors aggressively appealing to it. This is usually a good strategy, allowing you to improve cost effectiveness and avoid wasting time period however, you should avoid “keyword traps” that looked good on paper, but won’t lend much value to your business. These keywords may be high in volume and low in competition, but they aren’t relevant to your central business or your target demographics.
One of the shortfalls of SEO it’s the amount of time it takes to generate momentum for a website. Even if you invest heavily, writing tons of valuable content and building new links every week, you may not see initial ranking progress for several weeks or months. It’s going to take even longer to achieve a steady stream of heavy traffic. One of the best ways to close the gap here is to invest in PPC ads as a shortcut for immediate visibility; as long as you’re willing to pay for them, you can start generating traffic right now.
The flip side of this is that PPC ads are ephemeral; as soon as you stop paying for them, they disappear. If you want to have a more lasting impact, you need to establish pages of your website as intrenched, powerful content centerpieces. SEO is far better for this purpose. Use SEO to optimize pages of your website for evergreen keywords you expect to be relevant and valuable for the foreseeable future.
Competitors can be brutal, paying to rank for your branded keywords or completely taking over a niche you thought was exclusively yours. These aggressive maneuvers are easy to spot, but only if you’re paying attention to recent changes in relevant SERPs. Accordingly, you should employ ongoing competitor monitoring, taking notice of any major activity and responding accordingly.
Oftentimes, marketers and advertisers get lost in the idea of improving brand visibility and generating more traffic. But what do you do with that traffic once it hits your website? You’ll need to provide a powerful first impression and maximize user attention and interest to get more value out of each of these strategies. Fortunately, you can double dip with some of your assets, using them for both your SEO and PPC campaigns. One of the best examples of this is unique landing pages, which you can create for specific types of visitors and audience segments. Funnel all relevant traffic from organic searches and paid ads to landing pages that are relevant for the searcher.
Google is the first name that comes to mind when most people think about SEO or PPC. But Google isn’t the only option for paid advertisements, nor is it the only search engine people use regularly. Bing, DuckDuckGo, Facebook, and YouTube are other search engines, platforms, and media outlets worth considering as part of your strategy. Google gets all the attention because it’s by far the most popular search engine, but that also means it attracts the most competitors. Don’t be afraid to branch out.
People generally respond much better to visual content than written content, so include visuals whenever you can. This is one area where PPC ads are favorable; you can add images to an ad to make it pop. It’s also possible to optimize pages of your website with images and videos, but it can be tricky to make sure they become visible in SERPs.
You may be interested in SEO to improve the visibility of your brand and boost consumer awareness. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you want to milk as much value out of the strategy as possible, you should optimize SEO for clickthrough rates. In other words, you should see your SEO strategy as only being truly valuable if people are clicking on your webpage and visiting it. Optimize for keywords that align with user search intent and improve your titles and descriptions to attract more traffic. This isn’t usually a problem with PPC ads, since you won’t be paying for people who don’t click your links.
There’s significant room for experimentation in optimizing paid search. You have control over all the variables, you can conduct AB tests quite easily, and you can delve into reporting and analytics to figure out exactly how your ads performed. This makes the PPC ad world a perfect testing ground for headlines, keyword selection, descriptions, and audience positioning. Take full advantage of this and learn lessons about your competitive environment if you want to make the most of both PPC and SEO.
SEO success is highly dependent on your ability to create excellent content and get people to pay attention to that content. But even if you’re an excellent writer, it can be hard to get your work noticed. PPC ads could be the perfect jump start, giving you a guaranteed stream of traffic and introducing hundreds, or even thousands of people to your latest work. From there, you’ll likely find it easier to attract links and inspire more user engagement.
PPC ad extensions are useful, additional pieces of information associated with the ads you place. They could serve to educate, direct, or inspire your target audience, providing details like the location of your business, opportunities to place a call directly, and more. Take full advantage of these; it’s a prime opportunity to immediately engage with prospective customers, rather than merely sending them to your website.
Automate whatever you can. Both SEO and PPC ads require at least some manual effort and human attention, but there’s much you can systematically implement to run in the background. These are both demanding strategies that could potentially monopolize your time, so employ shortcuts and time savers like automation whenever you can.
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