Why You Should Combine Your PPC & SEO Strategies

By | October 14, 2010
Jason Tabeling | Oct 14, 2010 | 2 Comments

Studies show that organic search receives as much as 70 percent of total clicks from search results. But having both a paid and an organic listing has proven to increase the amount of total traffic by as much as 66 percent and influence a consumer’s purchase consideration by as much as 8 percent.

This provides a significant lesson for both users and advertisers.

A recent Rosetta study found that only 17 percent of advertisers take advantage of the synergies between paid and organic search results.

The retail industry has the greatest percentage (25 percent) of advertisers that are effectively coordinating paid and organic search results, followed by financial services at 21 percent, travel at 16 percent, technology at 13 percent, and health care at 3 percent.

PPC/SEO Ratios in Verticals

But it’s surprising that more advertisers, overall, aren’t doing a sufficient job of balancing their search strategies.

Advertisers can develop a search strategy that effectively coordinates paid and organic listings. The value of paid and organic listings to any advertiser is derived from testing, analytics, and a holistic strategy. This strategy can be applied in these categories:


Understanding the interdependencies and relationships between search listings is critical to properly valuing the listings and setting the strategy. Consider the possibility that your paid listing is driving a higher amount of first time visitors, and your organic listing is the last click prior to a sale. You may never know this unless you closely monitor your attribution patterns.

For example, one of our financial services clients sees 3 percent of their traffic hitting multiple sources of traffic, and .25 percent hitting three sources of traffic. These consumers give important information to the brand marketers about media consumption and habits that can be optimized and harvested.

The better your ability to see the common paths that consumers take to achieve the desired action, the better informed your keyword and optimization decisions will be.

Paid & Organic Search Overlap


The copy that is displayed in the search results page can be keyword-rich or sales- or brand-focused. The appropriate message should be tested and defined by achieving the largest increase in incremental traffic and sales.

Copy can be used to identify the consumers that are right for your company’s offering. Leveraging various messages in the paid and organic listings that speak to each of these audience segments will prove effective.

For example, Road Runner Sports ranks well for [running shoes].

Running Shoes

Their organic listing focuses on breadth of selection.

Organic Listing

Their paid listing contains rating information, as well as a focus on their guarantee offer.

Paid Listing

These ads are differentiated, and speak to different consumer segments who have different values when shopping online for shoes. The best combination of copy, features, or benefits can be discovered through A/B testing paid search ads.

Position Strategy

You should always strive to achieve the number one position with your organic listing.

Where your paid listing ranks, however, can vary depending on your targeted goals. Understanding attribution, and the highest incremental sales and traffic volume, allows you to determine your ideal paid listing position.

You may not always have the necessary budget to fully fund all targeted keywords via paid search. When this is the case, a strong organic ranking can help align and inform the paid keyword selection.

For example, CreditCards.com has the number one organic listing for the very competitive term [credit cards]. This provides them with the ability to leverage that listing by not over-paying for the number one listing in the paid results.

Instead, they rank fourth in the paid search results, or number one on the right rail. This is strategically good planning as they have two very prominent listings on the page without having to overpay for the paid result.

Credit Cards SERP
click to enlarge

Keyword Selection

The primary consideration when aligning paid and organic efforts should be keywords and their associated competition and costs. It may not always be financially possible to buy paid search ads given a limited budget, or depending on your ROI goals. Also, the amount of competition for any given keyword makes the effort to rank organically that much more difficult and resource intensive.

For example, the keyword [money market account] has 78.8 million listings, compared to 45.3 million listings for [12 month money market account] — a 42 percent decrease in the number of competitors.

Money market account

12 month money market account

Search volume for tail terms is certainly aligned to the number of pages indexed; however, an advertiser could get ranked well for five to 10 tail terms before hitting a home run on the head term.

The same can be said for the different competition between the keywords [3 piece suit] and [gray 3 piece suit]. Consumers in this situation are more definitive in what they are looking for, and therefore advertisers can be more prescriptive in their offering, landing page, and content.

3 piece suit

Gray 3 piece suit


Only a few brands truly take advantage of combined strategies across paid and organic search. Advertisers should think of how consumers interact with their search efforts, including ad copy and keywords.

Consider writing messages that speak to various consumer mindsets, and increase your ability to win their business given your value proposition.

Search is rapidly growing and changing. Maximizing all the factors that contribute to success is critical to keeping up and winning the game.

Join us for SES Chicago 2010, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place October 18-22! The conference offers 70+ sessions on topics including PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more.