In many ways, it makes sense to treat paid and organic search as two completely separate beasts. For example:
- Both PPC and SEO require their own set of expertise and have their own KPIs
- PPC yields more short-term/immediate results, while SEO is a long-term strategy (it takes time to rank organically)
- SEO allows you to build long-term equity because your rankings do not depend on whether you’re bidding on keywords and impressions
- User who click on paid listings are not necessarily the same users who click on organic ones
The list can go on, but the point is that it’s easy/tempting to want to treat the two channels as distinct. However, because both PPC and SEO target users through the same medium (i.e. search engines), the two can be coordinated to support each other and maximize results. Specifically, PPC efforts can be used to enrich and inform your SEO strategy.
Using PPC to Choose SEO Keywords
When most marketers tackle SEO, there are generally two sets of keywords they target: the “low hanging fruit” and the high volume keywords.
Low Hanging Fruit: These tend to be (1) medium- to long-tail keywords (i.e. search terms) that are (2) less competitive, and that (3) the brand already ranks for. Because they’re less competitive and because the brand might already rank on them, it’s possible to get to the first page (or position #1) relatively quickly with less of an investment.
High Volume Keywords: These are the holy grail of keywords in any industry. They get the most searches and, as a result, are the most competitive. So optimizing for them requires a more long-term strategy and investment.
The Catch: Because SEO tends to be a longer-term strategy, one of the biggest risks of investing in a keyword is that you can’t be sure that it will convert. In other words, you can invest 3 months (for “low hanging fruit”) or a year (for high volume keywords) investing in a ranking at the top of the SERPs only to find out that a keyword doesn’t convert well enough to justify the investment.
Using PPC for SEO Keywords: Within a relatively short period of time, your paid search campaign can start yielding results and data on how different keywords convert. From here, you can identify a number of medium-tail keywords that convert above average. Since they’re less competitive than the short-tail, it will require less of an investment to rank well for them, and since you already have some conversion data on them, you’ll be reducing the risks of your SEO investment.
Syncing PPC and SEO Efforts
Of course, all this being said, paid and organic search users tend to be in different mindsets. So you can never be sure that a paid search keyword is going to convert the same as an organic one (and vice versa). For this reason, it’s important that there’s a feedback loop between your SEO and PPC teams/suppliers.
If both PPC and SEO are in-house, then the SEO team should be taking the lead by (1) querying the PPC team for high conversion medium-tail keywords, (2) monitoring the organic traffic performance on those keywords, and then (3) going back to the PPC team for additional keyword insight and recommendations.
If either or both PPC and SEO are outsourced, then whoever oversees your SEO supplier should take the lead on (1) putting SEO in contact with PPC and (2) following up that the two are communicating and keywords are being selected/targeted by SEO.
At the end of the day, syncing PPC and SEO efforts is about coordinating two sets of resources that are targeting users through the same channel. What it comes down to, then, is making sure that both resources are communicating goals and sharing data on how different keywords are performing. With that in place, both resources will be in a better position to identify new opportunities and set S.M.A.R.T. keyword goals.