PPC vs. SEO: Apply the mantra!

, , , , , ,

Short post from me today, and many of you will be very tired of reading about this subject. If that’s you, feel free to move on to other posts. You won’t hurt my feelings.

However, there is still a large number of small business owners and marketing folks who persist in the notion that if you rank top-10 organically for a keyword (sometimes even top-20 or 30), that you shouldn’t bid for it with your PPC campaign. The reason is that you don’t want to cannibalize sales from SEO, which makes complete sense.

Except when that doesn’t happen.

Far too many times, people assume that if you’re running PPC and SEO concurrently for a given keyword, PPC is surely gobbling up sales that they would otherwise be getting “for free”. It could be happening, but how do you know? ‘Cuz you better KNOW. In this age of ultra-online-trackability-for-free (thank you again, Google Analytics), why would you assume anything with your business on the line?

Let go of the assumptions, mostly propogated by SEO-philes and SEO-only agencies looking to pad their numbers (you bet I went there).

You have to apply the mantra of online marketing–TEST IT.

A few questions to help you find out what’s really happening:

Have you tested both scenarios (SEO only, SEO and PPC together) long enough to get statistically significant results?

You can’t run both for a week (unless you get a whole heapin’ heck-a-bunch of traffic to your site) and expect to KNOW if PPC is robbing from SEO. You have to test each scenario until your pile of data is bulky enough to be conclusive. Make sure, however, that you’re not testing through seasonal highs and lows that might skew your results.

Are the conversion gains from PPC+SEO noticeably above your SEO-only totals? Are they within your efficiency thresholds?

If you answered ‘yes’ to both of those questions, you should keep running PPC. Even if PPC appears to take a small slice of your conversions from your SEO efforts, who’s going to argue with more overall profitable conversions?

Are your competitors bidding on your high-ranking SEO keywords?

You’re not doing this search thing in a vacuum. Your competitors are trying to make you homeless and they’ll happily accept you not bidding on your SEO sacred-cow keywords so they can skim more PPC conversions for themselves at a lower cost. Something to think about…

It’s all about the data!

I’ll forego the discussion on conversions that result in recurring revenue. Suffice it to say that if customers re-up with no further acquisition cost, this should never have been an issue in the first place.

And let’s not get into the opportunity you have with PPC campaigns to generate more focused content for a landing page that would convert better than just some deep link on your website.

For now, let’s stick to the simple truth that we can all afford to live by–When you can track it, always test it. Always.



I have experienced ppc customers that converted once and came back over and over again to make more purchases. Every time they come back via bookmark, direct navigation or the email list they signed up for means the first click becomes even more valuable.

Also SEO doesn’t afford you the control over testing that ppc can. PPC efforts can be changed quickly and data gathering starts right away vs. SEO which is a long term process.

Dan Garfield

Ben, I think you see the same kind of loyalty with SEO. The whole point of this post seems to be that they both have value.

Comments are closed.