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PPC vs SEO: Can't We All Just Get Along

First it was the Montagues and Capulets.

Montague and Capulet family crests

Then came East Coast-West Coast hip hop.

Tupac vs. Biggie

But what is the biggest rivalry of this generation? Many in the digital space would argue organic search (SEO) vs paid search (PPC). But are they really rivals?

Why Can't We Be Friends?

I have long heard debates over where digital marketing efforts should be focused. Should you focus all of your efforts on paid search or SEO? Should you focus on some combination of the two? There are obviously other marketing strategies that should roll up into your digital strategy, but paid and organic are the two that really directly affect search results. So they are a big part of the conversation (and for good reason.)

These two strategies have often been portrayed as having no bearing on each other. But like many relationships that go off track, the two parties may have more in common than they think and if they act like two civilized mature adults, they can come up with a solution that benefits everyone. Acting like an unbiased Presidential debate mediator, I'm not going to focus on which strategy is better. I want to focus on how SEO and PPC can work together to enhance the overall results. As we have learned from previous rivalries, if we don't work together the results can be fatal.

We've All Got Something in Common

Let's start by looking at a common goal of both products: conversions. Within Google Analytics, it is fairly simple to analyze conversion data by each medium. For either PPC or SEO, one tends to look at conversions within each medium and then optimize efforts accordingly. Wouldn't it be beneficial to see what searches are converting for one medium and translate that to the other medium? Maybe one side of the team had an idea which they tested and found to have worked, but never shared that idea with the other part of the team. As a result, an opportunity was missed and results were not where they could have been. 

Pulling a conversion report by medium is fairly simplistic, but I do have a couple of pointers that have improved efficiency when pulling and attempting to apply these lists to either Paid Search or SEO.

  1. Filter out branded traffic. We know in general branded traffic will convert very well as users are seeking out your website so they are likely to convert. If PPC provides SEO with a keyword list of top 10 converting keywords and 9 of them are branded, the list likely won't have much value to SEO. But if you find those non-branded keywords that are converting, SEO can ensure those keywords and variations are added to your keyword list.
  2. Use a suitable date range. In general, I default to a 3 month period to give it enough data to work off of. The following should all be considered when coming up with a date range of data:
    • Make sure that a sufficient number of non-branded conversions have occurred. A list which has only 1 conversion won't have a lot of value in determining future focus.
    • Try to make sure that the list is apples to apples. If PPC sets up a shoe campaign in August and a sock campaign in September, then pulls conversion data for the past three months, it might very well be that the shoe campaign has more conversions simply due to time.  If PPC passed this list of converting terms on to SEO it would be very misleading.

Hopefully your PPC and SEO specialists can work together to improve your overall SEM performance. Having a team dedicated to your overall goals (not just a single service) will serve you better in the long run and ensure you are getting the results you need.

As Romeo (second generation Montague) and 'Lil Romeo (second generation West Coast) probably both said at various points: "Make conversions, not war."



  • SEO

  • Paid Media

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About the author

Tom Kelly

Tom has worked in digital marketing since he started his career over a decade ago, working across the project and account side of the business.