5 Reasons to Diversify Your Search Strategy with PPC Advertising


Yesterday we published the results of a study showing how sponsored advertisements on Google (PPC ads) are taking over territory previously reserved for organic listings, AKA “free clicks.” This is both good news and bad news for marketers. On the plus side, Google continues to roll out more and better types of search advertising to help marketers target their customers. On the negative side, you (obviously) have to pay for those clicks.

But the fact is, organic clicks aren’t really “free” either – gone are the days when it was relatively easy to rank on the first page in Google for your target keywords. Given the increasing costs and complications involved with SEO, it’s important to diversify your marketing channels. You can’t rely on organic search alone for traffic and leads – you never know when the next big algorithm update is going to murder your rankings.

Here are five reasons to shift some of the time and budget you spend on SEO to PPC.

#1: For Commercial Queries, Paid Clicks Outnumber Organic Clicks By Nearly 2 to 1

Organic clicks still account for more clicks overall in the search results – but different types of keywords have different value to businesses. For search queries that show high commercial intent – i.e., they indicate that the person searching wants to purchase something – more and more of the page (85% of above-the-fold pixels!) is devoted to sponsored listings. The organic results for transactional keywords like “best email software” or “waterproof digital camera” are mostly pushed below the fold. The top 3 ad spots for a commercial query take 41% of the clicks, and the Product Ad Listings take another 20%. Overall, sponsored results account for 65% of clicks on these keywords, compared to 35% for organic results.

#2: Google’s Sponsored Ad Formats Keep Getting Better

You have minimal control over how your organic search listings appear in Google. (For example, they’ve recently started applying new titles, when they think they can serve up a better one than the title you put on the page.) But you have lots of attractive choices when it comes to ad types. Here are just a few of the ad options that Google now offers:

  • Mega Site Links: This huge ad format offers up to 10 additional places to click, greatly increasing your chances of presenting a relevant link.
  • Remarketing: Remarketing or retargeting allows you to track site visitors with a cookie and chase them around the Web, displaying relevant banner ads until they click and convert.
  • Social Ad Extensions: With social extensions you can display who has +1'd your site, lending credibility and potential name recognition – it also makes your ad look less like an ad (see below).

#3: About Half Your Audience Can’t Tell the Difference Between Paid and Organic Search

A lot of people think that “nobody clicks on Google ads.” And it’s true that eye tracking studies suggest most people ignore the sponsored ads in the right column. However, one study showed that about half of people don’t recognize the ads above the search results as ads – in other words, they couldn’t tell the difference between the organic and paid results.

Ads Above Search Results

If users don’t know your ad is an ad, they can’t be suspicious of its intent – and why should they be, if it gives them what they want? Secure one of those coveted positions above the organic results for a commercial query, you’ll take the lion’s share of clicks without sacrificing trust with users.

#4: SEO Is a Full-Time Job – Or Several Full-Time Jobs

As the number of sites competing for rankings has sky-rocketed, Google’s algorithms have gotten more and more complex, and it’s become much harder to achieve – and maintain – high rankings in the organic results. Where in the past businesses could get away with hiring a single SEO point person (usually a pretty junior position), now it often requires a full team to develop and execute on an SEO strategy (a content writer, a link builder, etc.). We believe that PPC – once your campaigns are set up and running – requires significantly less time to manage. According to Perry Marshall, author of The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, “if you focus on the areas that bring the most traffic, I find that once you find a rhythm, you can really do this with a few minutes a day, at most a few hours a week, and that’s with a large campaign with a $10,000+ spend per month.”

#5: Algorithm Updates Don’t Affect Your PPC

Google’s rolling algorithm updates ensure that SEO gets harder and more confusing over time. The Panda and Penguin updates in particular have addressed the kind of “optimizations” that have tended to work for site owners and marketers in the past. The only way to find out if Google thinks your SEO techniques are over the line (AKA “over-optimization”) is to take a hit on rankings, and then scramble to figure out – and fix – what you’ve been doing wrong. Google does suspend AdWords accounts on occasion, sometimes without clear reason, but in PPC you’re much less likely to experience major flux or drop-offs in rankings and traffics due to changes on Google’s end.

These are all good reasons to re-allocate some of your marketing budget to PPC, if you’ve been depending on SEO for traffic and lead generation. We would never advocate giving up on SEO – you won’t hear us saying “SEO is dead” anytime soon. But strive for a balance between your search marketing channels, and you can minimize the damage incurred as SEO gets incrementally harder.

In case you missed it, here’s our infographic on the War on Free Clicks again (click to enlarge).

War on Free Clicks

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Tom Andrews
Jul 18, 2012

Always try and encourage my clients to try and split SEO + PPC spend roughly 50/50.However find different niches can perform well for SEO but not PPC and vice versa and for some topics cost of PPC per click is very high and less cost effective.

Elisa Gabbert
Jul 18, 2012

Very true. A while back we wrote about some of the kinds of businesses that should be using PPC: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/01/25/what-types-of-business-use-ppc

Richard Kraneis
Jul 19, 2012

Elisa,As always, I learn something from WordStream (and you).I especially liked your link to http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/01/25/what-types-of-business-use-ppc for the types of businesses that should be using PPC.I'm sending your link to my wife's lawfirm in a few minutes.  I'm encouraging them to use Google PPC to promote their firm.Thanks for teaching me something today, as always.Richard Kraneis 

Elisa Gabbert
Jul 19, 2012

PPC works great for law firms! The CPC's tend to be high, but the returns are so high when you bring on a single new client, you still achieve good ROI.

Innovative Ad Solutions LLC
Jul 24, 2012

I agree that PPC can be a beneficial part of an online marketing plan but I strongly feel you should master SEO and organic results first. Then if you can afford PPC give adwords a shot. Google will help you design your first online marketing ad which is very helpful for first timers.

Aug 24, 2012

It's obvious that google get paid when marketers use PPC. Anything they can do to further monetise these listing will be done- hence the never ending algorythm changes that seldom do too well.It's a joke but whats even funnier is the majority of users don't even know its a paid ad they are clicking. 

Dec 12, 2012

Google’s rolling algorithm updates ensure that SEO gets harder and more confusing over time.There is no doubt about thats

May 05, 2013

I think using Google adwords as part of the keyword research phase will help out test the most converting keywords and then we can use them as part of our organic keywords for SEO. You're right though people usually have no idea about the difference between the organic and paid results, they tend to click on whatever is more attractive to them regarding the offer in the title or description. 

Spook Seo
Dec 05, 2013

Hi Elisa!After reading the 5 reasons to diversify our search strategy with a PPC Adverstising, I guess I need to re-allocate some of my marketing budget to PPC. I have actually been depending on SEO for traffic and lead generation. But I guess I need to strive for a balance between my search marketing channels so I can minimize the damage incurred as SEO gets incrementally harder.

Jun 07, 2016

Well points are written over here. Actually, PPC is evergreen method for any online marketers but it is little bit difficult for beginners. If you compare it SEO then I can say that SEO is free method and time-consuming but may provide you targeted traffic free of cost while in PPC you have lost some bucks first.

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