Does Organic SEO Make PPC Unnecessary?
I believe that Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad platforms are the leading form of paid advertising on the web today. The most popular and widely used is Google AdWords, which puts paid adverts at the top of search engine results. However, this has led some companies to question the value of PPC. If they have excellent organic SEO bringing their site to the top of relevant search results, does this not eliminate the need for paid search? And if so, does this mean PPC is a waste of money when an SEO campaign could be carried out more cheaply?
The Reasons for This Fear
Since paid adverts appear at the top of search results, organic SEO and paid search often seem to tread on each other’s toes. When somebody searches for a relevant keyword, a PPC advert will appear at the top of the page. The problem (or at least the perceived problem) is that websites with strong SEO often appear in standard search results just a couple of inches further down the page. If somebody clicks on the advert, which they see first, the company pays to get them onto the site. If they had scrolled down and clicked on the search result, they would have still ended up on the page without their click costing a penny.
Since this fear has been fairly widespread and entirely legitimate, research has been done to find out whether PPC really is rendered obsolete by strong SEO or whether it adds value. Fortunately, the results of this research have eased the minds of companies that have worked hard to maintain both SEO and PPC campaigns. It is clear that both PPC and SEO have their place, and both add value to an overall online marketing campaign. The best results are achieved by using the two tactics together.
The most extensive study into this matter was carried out by Google themselves. Google looked at more than 400 Adwords campaigns that had been put on pause to see how the end of paid search activity affected the results they were getting from Google queries. On average, 89% of all PPC clicks were not replaced by organic results when the campaign was paused, meaning that almost nine out of ten people who click on PPC ads would not have clicked through from organic search alone.
This figure includes searchs for which no organic result was present on the first page, so while it is impressive in general terms it may not apply to companies that rank extremely well through organic SEO on a wide range of relevant keywords. However, the study looked at this type of case as well, and established that even on searches where a company ranked number 1 in organic results, 50% of PPC traffic failed to be replaced by organic clicks, increasing sharply to 82% for companies that ranked 2-4.
At the same time, even with a strong PPC campaign many companies that also maintain strong organic SEO continue to attract large numbers of organic clicks – enough to make the effort and expense of an SEO campaign into a cost-effective online marketing activity. In other words, SEO and PPC both have their place and they work best when used together.