If you’re an SEO, it’s easy to discount the role of PPC in overall online marketing strategy. When most other types of online marketing succeed, they improve search engine optimization: content increases backlinks, usability increases conversion rate and makes our search traffic more profitable, and social media and email marketing both increase user engagement. But if PPC succeeds, you had to pay Google to send visitors to your site, which feels like an SEO failure.
After working for months to secure a top spot on a search engine results page and losing the click to the PPC team’s ad they wrote and targeted in under an hour, SEOs can feel like the straight-laced athletes losing the race to the herculean competitor that we know is doping. “They might be winning now,” we think jealously, “but SEO is long term. SEO will win in the end.”
And that’s true, to an extent. SEO is long term: you’re never going to get immediate results. With PPC, you absolutely can. But that’s what makes them great together: they have opposing strengths and can fill in for each other.
At Distilled, we started as SEOs, but we’re moving towards becoming all around online marketing consultants. Often, PPC is a part of the optimal online marketing strategy for our clients.
SEO can be a big black box to some marketing managers, so you may find someone coming to you asking for dramatic traffic increases within a couple of months from SEO alone. The overachiever inside of you will think that with some good content and lucky outreach, it’s possible, but let’s be honest: PPC will give you a reliable flow of traffic for a predicable amount of money. Don’t get me wrong, every website needs a good SEO strategy as well, but be realistic and admit that sometimes you need to pay for qualified traffic.
You can also get PPC quick wins in response to timely events. If you’re an online retailer who sells fans, you probably won’t spend the time to target “Seattle heat” for SEO. When a heat wave hits the rainy city, you won’t have time to build the page, get backlinks, wait for Google to realize its value and organically rank it well. The only way you can get traffic for a new keyword quickly is to pay for it.
On that same note, if there are keywords that you’ll never be able to rank for, PPC can get you there. At my previous job, we were marketing the University of Washington’s online Master of Aerospace Engineering. We could rank well for “online aerospace engineering” or “professional master’s in aerospace engineering,” but we could never rank above the entrenched main department websites of UW and other schools. With Google AdWords, we could run our ad for the search query “aerospace engineering” – a term so broad that it increased awareness for our program. We would never have gotten that traffic through any other form of online marketing.
Sales campaigns targeted to existing customers are often far more successful than broad campaigns – they can have conversion rates up to 70%. If someone visits your site, you already know they’re interested in your product, so proactively reaching out to them will usually yield a greater return on investment than passively waiting for them to search for your site.
For those of you who cringe at the thought of retargeting: you don’t have to smack your previous visitors over the head with your products the way some businesses do. Google AdWords lets you cap the number of times someone sees your ads each day. In your retargeting campaign, go to Settings, and towards the bottom, under Advanced Settings, open Ad Delivery:
You can change frequency capping to a certain number of ad views per day, week, or month. If you know the majority of your traffic converts within 5 days from first setting foot on your site, you can set retargeting banners to show for only 5 days.
Plus, with new retargeting options, you can specifically target visitors who haven’t converted yet. AdWords allows you to exclude these people from seeing your retargeting ads if they’ve been to a certain part of your site, like the /thank-you page. That will ensure that your marketing budget isn’t wasted on visitors who already found what they were looking for.
Let’s be honest, how much real estate would you rather own, just the top result once:
Or would you rather own the top result twice?
If you or your client have a lot of budget available, PPC is the most reliable return on investment of any online marketing strategy. You won’t be charged unless you get traffic, period. And if you run a clear advertisement to a relevant audience, there’s a good chance that traffic will be legitimately interested in converting.
That’s right – used strategically, PPC can actually help your SEO strategy. Google AdWords has an amazing number of tools that help you come up with new keywords to try. You’re probably already using Google AdWords Search Keyword Tool, but if you’re actively running PPC campaigns, you can see what specific search terms are getting clicks and conversions through the Keyword Tab and the Keyword Details (select SEARCH TERMS: All). You can find the same data in Google Analytics under Advertising > AdWords > Matched Search Queries. If you’re running broad or phrase match keywords, you’ll be surprised at how many variations of the keywords you chose are bringing in valuable traffic.
Once you’ve found a keyword you’re interested in targeting, whether it’s through AdWords tools or your own research, it’s also much less resource-intensive to test a keyword’s opportunity traffic and conversion rate through PPC than SEO. Just run the ad with the page title you’d use for the natural search result, send visitors to a landing page that is either an existing page on the site or a simple landing page. Collect data for a month, or until that keyword brings in 100 visits, whichever comes first. If a month passes and you don’t have 100 visits, the keyword probably isn’t popular enough for you to target organically. If it has, compare the profit from conversions to the cost to organically target that keyword. Now you have much more solid research to convince your client or boss whether you should spend the time and effort to organically target that keyword.
The trick with PPC is that it’s insanely easy to set up but fairly difficult to get a good ROI. I can’t tell you how many clients have told us, “We tried Google AdWords, but it didn’t work for us.” When we look at their history, we see they set up a poorly configured campaign, ran it for a month, and shut it down. You’re not going to get good results in a month – even for experts, it takes some time to respond to AdWords’ results, tweak settings, and get traffic up and cost down.