Understanding How PPC Affects SEO

Pay per click

There’s a lot of debate about how an organization should use organic keyword marketing versus PPC marketing. There seem to be two (and possibly three) distinct opinions about what should and shouldn’t be done in regard to these different types of marketing. The first position is that pay- per-click programs can hurt organic keyword programs. 
According to supporters of this position, PPC programs damage organic rankings because the act of paying for a listing automatically reduces the rank of your organic keyword efforts. Those who subscribe to this theory believe that there is no place for PPC programs.

Another position in this argument is that PPC has no effect at all on SEO. It’s a tough concept to swallow, because one would naturally assume that any organization paying for a specific rank in search returns would automatically push organic keyword returns into a lower slot (which supports the first theory). Those who follow this theory believe that there is no need to invest in PPC because you can achieve the same results with organic keywords, though it takes much longer for those results to become apparent.

The most widely held belief, however, is that a combination of PPC and organic keywords is the best approach. This theory would seem to have a lot of validity. According to some researchers, pay-per-click programs tend to be much more effective when an organization also has organic keywords that rank in the same area as the PPC ranks. For example, if you’ve bid on a keyword that’s consistently placed number two or three in search engine returns and you have organic keywords that fall in the next few slots, you’re likely to enjoy better conversion numbers than either organic keywords or PPC programs can deliver on their own.
It’s important to note here that all search engines make a distinction between PPC and organic SEO. PPC doesn’t help your organic rankings. Only those activities such as tagging your web site properly, using keyword placement properly, and including great content on your site will help you on the organic side. PPC is a search marketing strategy.

Before You PPC

search engine optimization
Before you even begin to use a PPC program, you should consider some basics. A very important point to keep in mind is that just because you’re paying for placement or advertising space associated with your keywords, you’re not necessarily going to get the best results with all the keywords or phrases that you choose. 

With PPC services, you must test, test, and test some more. Begin small, with a minimum number of keywords, to see how the search engine you’ve selected performs in terms of the amount of traffic it delivers and how well that traffic converts into paying customers.

An essential part of your testing is having a method in place that enables you to track your return on investment. For example, if your goal is to bring new subscribers to your newsletter, you’ll want to track conversions, perhaps by directing the visitors funneled to your site by your PPC link to a subscription page set up just for them. You can then monitor how many clicks actually result in a goal conversion (in this case, a new subscription). This helps you to quickly track your return on investment and to determine how much you’re paying for each new subscriber.

Before investing in a PPC service, you may want to review a few different services to determine which is the best one for you. When doing your preliminary research, take the time to ask the following questions:

  • How many searches are conducted each month through the search engine for which you’re considering a PPC program?
  • Does the search engine have major partners or affiliates that could contribute to the volume of traffic you’re likely to receive through the PPC program
  • How many searches are generated each month by those partners and affiliates?  What exactly are the terms of service for search partners or affiliates?
  • How does the search engine or PPC program prevent fraudulent activity? 
  • How difficult is it to file a report about fraudulent activity and how quickly is the issue
  • addressed (and by whom)? 
  • What recourse do you have if fraudulent activity is discovered?
  • Do you have control over where your listing does appear? For example, can you choose not to have your listing appear in search results for other countries where your site is not relevant? Can you choose to have your listing withheld from affiliate searches?

When you’re looking at different PPC programs, look for those that have strict guidelines about how sites appear in listings, how partners and affiliates calculate visits, and how fraud is handled. These are important issues, because in each case you could be stuck paying for clicks that didn’t actually happen. Be sure to monitor any service that you decide to use to ensure that your PPC advertisements are working properly and seem to be targeted well. 

It often takes a lot of testing, monitoring, and redirection to find a PPC program that works well for you. Don’t be discouraged or surprised if you find that you must try several different programs or many different keywords before you find the right combination. Through a system of trial and error and diligent effort, you’ll find that PPC programs can help build your site traffic and goal conversions faster than you could with organic SEO alone.

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