PPC or Natural? It May Sound Obvious, But The Right Answer Is Both

Ask the average website owner their feelings on PPC, and you’re likely to get a negative reaction. They’ll tell you that there is no long-term return on investment (there can be), no lasting value (there is), and besides, no one clicks on the sponsored links anyway, and the clicks that you DO get are fraud-ridden (actually, 30% of Internet searchers use the sponsored results, and less than 3% of clicks are fraudulent). Natural SEO, they’ll say, is the area to invest in, as you’ll get long-term benefit, a potentially high ROI, lasting value, and perhaps most importantly, free clicks. This argument is partially true, but is flawed on a fundamental level. Natural SEO, while obviously important and worthy of devoting resources to, cannot exist in a vacuum. Among other reasons, natural rankings don’t last forever- As quickly as you gained the # 1 spot on Google is as quick as you can lose it unless you are constantly adding new content. So what’s the best SEM strategy? This may sound obvious, but advertisers and SEM professionals who take a holistic approach that blends both PPC and SEO often achieve the best results.

For starters, according to MarketingSherpa and Google, an advertiser who has the top listing in organic search will get 20 clicks per 1000 impressions, while an advertiser who has the top listing in paid search will get 10 clicks per 1000 impressions. One would assume, then, that having both the top paid listing and the top organic listing would get the advertiser 30 clicks per 1000 impressions, but this figure is severely under inflated- Having the top listing in both organic and paid search gets the advertiser 60 clicks per thousand impressions, an exponential increase over having either top position alone (Source: MarketingSherpa, IT Marketing Metrics Guide, May 2004). So from a volume standpoint, investing in both paid search and organic search clearly pays. But volume doesn’t tell the full story. Consider these other reasons for not abandoning a paid search campaign after you’ve achieved top natural ranking:

  • Branding-If you don’t bid on your own name, your major keywords, and some long-tail phrases, your competition will. What could be worse than having a searcher who is ready to buy your product enter a query and then see a listing for your nearest competitors, who is advertising a special price?
  • Searcher Habits-In many instances, the top two paid positions appear on the left side of the screen, making them look like natural listings. As a result, many searchers may mistakenly click on a paid result, thinking it is a natural result. Also, some searchers are inevitably going to type a URL into their search bar, rather than in the address bar, so any prudent advertiser would want to be able to capitalize on traffic that is rightfully theirs.
  • The rules of statistics-Quite simply, if a website has a top-10 ranking in the natural SERPs and is also bidding for a top-7 position in the sponsored results for the same keywords, the advertiser is occupying more real estate on the screen, and as a result, has a higher probability of getting a click. A good strategy could be to tweak one’s bids so that the regardless of where a searcher scrolls on a page, a listing is visible. This increased visibility also increases the odds of getting a click. Such a strategy could also reinforce a firm’s branding objectives.

To say that paid search simply doesn’t “pay” anymore is simply a fallacy. When advertisers take a holistic approach that optimizes their paid search campaigns and leverages the power of their natural rankings, a more effective Internet marketing campaign is created.


Posted in adCenter, Google, Pay Per Click Finance, Uncategorized, Yahoo
2 comments on “PPC or Natural? It May Sound Obvious, But The Right Answer Is Both
  1. Jon says:

    This is always a touchy subject, and I have discovered easily enrages the the search community when you side with one side or the other. Take a look at what Dave Pasternack at Did-it has done.


  2. Jeff James says:

    I agree with you both.

    On one hand, natural is compelling due to the how quickly substantial rank will cover the cost of in-house implementation or agency fee. On another hand, given how Google is beginning to personalize search results, SEO becomes less certain and position may have to be viewed as Avg Position…more in new post.

    Paid search however should remain fairly fixed, and your position will continue to be based on your bid taken in conjunction with your quality score; only loosely on search habits. Depending on the nature of you business, the lifecycle of the product, and the profit margins along with the level of optimization and convertaibility your web-site has, it may or mayn’t be sensible to pursue both.


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