Beyond Keywords: 2 Steps for Balancing SEO and PPC

When marketers ask about how to achieve search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) synergy, they are often pointed to studies like the 2011 Google research “Incremental Clicks Impact of Search Advertising,” which demonstrates that keywords shared between SEO and PPC produce larger results than either channel could produce independently (the common “1+1=3″ analogy).
But in reality, balancing SEO and PPC is so much more than bidding and optimizing for the same keywords and getting incremental clicks. There are many advantages that are equally if not more important than increased clicks—such as sharing strategy, testing insights, and the time and cost efficiencies of integrated reporting and communications.

Let’s start by examining how to maximize keyword visibility and produce a more common form of “synergy,” and then dive into how testing and optimization strategies between SEO and PPC can produce synergy beyond that of just sharing keywords.

Maximizing Keyword Visibility
Appearing in both the paid and organic search engine results of a given keyword is the most obvious goal of coordinating SEO and PPC together, as appearing in both results will increase your clicks more than either channel would independently, as well as reduce the likelihood that a high-value click goes to your competitor instead. When devising a keyword strategy to maximize joint SEO and PPC visibility, it is usually beneficial to break the shared keyword strategy into two primary components: branded keywords and non-branded keywords.

A branded keyword strategy will typically focus on trying to appear always-on in both SEO and PPC. Paid search clicks on branded terms are generally inexpensive, convert well, and are important terms to appear for so you can control messaging and reduce the risk that the click goes to an affiliate, review site or other third-party asset.

In SEO, you typically rank No. 1 for your brand 95 percent of the time, but PPC data is very useful for determining the extra 5 percent of the time where you may not be ranking well for a branded keyword variant and need to produce new content or repurpose existing content to outrank the competition. For instance, you probably rank well for your own brand name, but you may not rank well for “Brand-Name + Reviews” or “Brand-Name + Phone Number” or “Brand-Name + City/Zip Code.”

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