The SEO team suggest something that’s pretty controversial for organic search specialists: PPC (pay-per-click) has a place in SEO strategy.
What is the most basic reason for SEOs to use PPC?
For specialists in online marketing, and by proxy for anyone who comes to them for help, the most important reason for always running, at the very least, one PPC campaign is that without spending a bit of money with Google Ads, the most valuable tool in an SEO’s kit – Google’s Keyword Planner – is essentially useless. In days gone by, Keyword Planner spat out relatively specific search volumes for search terms free of charge, and it was possible to give some proper insight into what browsers search for. If there isn’t a Google Ads campaign set up now, all it is possible to see is just vague, broad-stroke ranges of search volumes such as ‘0-10,000’ or ‘100,000 to 1,000,000’, which are about as much use as a chocolate teapot.
In short, running PPC campaigns enable SEOs to more accurately tell what browsers are searching for, back up content suggestions and even tell what time of year browsers are most interested in a topic. Pretty handy.
Google likes businesses using PPC, duh
As of May 2018, Google is worth somewhere in the region of $740 billion which, it would be fair to say, is quite a lot of money. The vast majority of that comes from one place – Google Ads (once known as Google AdWords and amounting to half of the online advertising duopoly, but that’s another story). Almost every time you Google something, you’ll probably see something that looks like this:
It might not be blindingly obvious, but those Google results have been paid for and therefore count as ads. It’s a bit convoluted to say why this is important for your SEO strategy, and Google denies that it’s the case outright, but it’s a fair bet that if a SEO or PPC manager, or your company, are paying thousands of pounds for those adverts, there’s going to be some indirect effect on your organic results.
What’s trickiest to avoid is competing with yourself for terms that you’ve already got wrapped up organically. PPC should be used as a way to target additional terms or to create added coverage in the search engine results pages (SERPs), which will indirectly positively enhance your SEO. This comes in two main ways: added coverage in the SERPs means people are more likely to click on your organic results; and that same exposure also increases the chances of additional links that you might not have received otherwise.
PPC ads are the first thing anyone sees in Google
What is noticeable, however, when Googling things, is that the ads are the first thing in the search results. Without fail, if there’s an ad to be shown, it’ll be at the top of the page, bumping everything else further down below the fold – even new features it’s testing – in order to justify CPCs and keep those advertising dollars rolling in. Plus, SEOs just love a challenge.
If a client wants their name, content or event front and centre on Google’s first page – and let’s face it, who doesn’t – there’s only one way to absolutely guarantee this in the short term: PPC ads.
PPC gives insight into commercial keywords
While Keyword Planner will, more or less, give SEOs a good idea of how many people are searching for something every month, it will also give an indication of the average cost-per-click for that term, which can be extremely handy for understanding user intent. This is particularly relevant to marketers as it sheds light on the commercial intent behind keywords (thus giving you a hit list of priority keywords to target) and – arguably more importantly as SEOs – means it is possible to demonstrate to clients the real value that can be saved through the success of organic content.
As a quick example, the Top of the Page Bid (High Range) for the previous example of ‘newspaper subscriptions’ is £6, meaning that there’s a good chance that The Times is paying up to £6 every time someone clicks on the result, which can add up very quickly. Ranking in position 1 organically, it can be said, equates to real, tangible savings to the client’s budget.
A/B testing keywords to see which are more successful
The great thing about PPC ads is once they’re set up, it’s really easy to test variants, meaning it is possible to establish fairly quickly which keywords and phrases browsers engage with better. Using this data, you can then find out which keywords and phrases are going to better serve your metrics without having to wait around for your article to first accrue the all important Page Authority and climb up Google’s ranks.
To sum up
SEO and PPC are like Simon & Garfunkel; no one really knows what Art Garfunkel is doing now, but they’re pretty sure that they did their best work together. Seriously, though, PPC can offer some excellent, rapid insights into search and user intent, and is a great way to demonstrate actual monetary value to a client. This makes it the perfect, attributable complement to SEO’s longer-term, slow-burn and high-organic-value nature.