I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard conspiracy theorists and those wearing the tin foil hats say, "Google must be undermining my SEO because I don't do PPC." Or, they somehow think PPC helps with SEO.
In today's column, I hope to separate myth from reality and help you understand how PPC and SEO can work together.
PPC Helps SEO
With PPC, you can quickly test keywords. You can probably get a good sample size of impressions/clicks/leads within a week or so. That helps you determine whether you want to spend the time/energy to try and achieve an organic ranking for those keywords and keyword phrases.
PPC campaigns help you determine which keywords are of greatest value: ones that lead to larger sales or tend to drive higher quality leads, for example. Mind you, it could have been the great ad creative you wrote, or the structure of your landing page that had an impact on the conversion rates. These are two things you won't necessarily control when it comes time to get a page to rank organically. The search engines could decide to rank a different page, or you may have had to add a little more content to the page being optimized organically.
With PPC, you may also find you'll get people to link to you. Perhaps someone was doing some research and decided to add you to their Del.icio.us account. Perhaps it was a blogger wanting to find some Web sites to cite for a given post.
Aside from these two areas, I'd be hard pressed to say "PPC helps with SEO." The search engines have two separate algorithms for paid search and natural search.
SEO and Quality Score Helps PPC
Now, here's where it gets a little interesting. If you don't believe me, let's see what Google has to say about Quality Score:
Quality Score for Google and the search network is a dynamic metric assigned to each of your keywords. It's calculated using a variety of factors and measures how relevant your keyword is to your ad group and to a user's search query. The higher a keyword's Quality Score, the lower its minimum bid and the better its ad position.
The components of Quality Score vary depending on whether it's calculating minimum bid or ad position:
Quality Score for minimum bid is determined by a keyword's CTR on Google, the relevance of the keyword to its ad group, your landing page quality, your account's historical performance, and other relevance factors.
Quality Score for ad position is determined by a keyword's CTR on Google, the relevance of the keyword and ad to the search term, your account's historical performance, and other relevance factors.
SEO and Landing Page Quality Helps PPC
Having a Web site properly optimized -- organically -- will help your Quality Score and will lead to a lower CPC. Google doesn't just rank their PPC advertisers in the order of their bid prices. They want to rank these placements in the best manner for them to make the most money (Google isn't a nonprofit organization). So, they're not interested in ranking an advertiser's placement if their ad is never clicked. They want to rank the advertiser's placement that will be clicked, even if that means that another advertiser's bid is lower.
It could be that the other advertiser has an organically optimized Web site, and they actually have a page that (through meta tags, title, content, headers, and other factors) is relevant to the search term for the ad the visitor clicked on.
Bottom line: PPC is great. SEO is better. Doing both is best.
For all of you out there who have stuck with the "PPC only" programs, perhaps this is the ammunition that you need to go back to corporate decision-makers to help them understand yet another reason they should be considering SEO. Yeah, it can be a pain to implement. Yes, you'll need to get your IT team involved and actually put content on your pages.
In the end, you'll set yourself up for some great organic traffic and help make your PPC efforts even more effective and efficient.