Balancing Your Paid & Organic Keywords

Google recently posted a study that showed 89 percent of paid search clicks were incremental. This got me thinking about a piece I wrote last year on how to balance paid and organic keyword lists. One of the data points in that article was the number of brands that had both a paid and organic listing for the same keyword.

Many things have changed in our little search world since that time. I thought it would be valuable to review that research to see what’s changed, but also identify a few things that needed a bit of a refresh. (Side note: Thank you to Julianne Zhang who was one of our many great interns this summer for helping compile this data!)

PPC/SEO Ratio: 2011 vs. 2010

In reviewing the same keywords year over year, there are a couple of interesting highlights.

  • While getting better, only one in five ads are owned by the same brand. Brands are getting better at aligning their paid and organic listings. An increase in content quality is the likely reason large brands have the ability to play a larger ownership role on the search results.
  • Financial services was the only vertical to decrease by 2 points. This vertical had the greatest amount of external events (surrounding the credit and financial markets), in addition to the larger rollout of Google’s comparison ad product for many financial services.
  • Technology had the largest increase – 12 points. A lagging vertical last year leaves only room for improvement. An increase in technology available and competition also increases the need to own the space.


How to Balance Your PPC/SEO Ratio

To position your brand correctly in the search results page you need to consider these things:

  1. Digital asset optimization: This didn’t make the list last year, but more than ever a variety of elements are appearing on the search results page, including news, videos, maps, and images. While these additional elements don’t necessarily bump out traditional text results from the first page, they do create an additional opportunity to appear on the first page, and a larger list of results for consumers to get through prior to seeing your ad in position 6.
  2. Social results: This year Google introduced both Google +1 button and the Google+ project. While these new product offerings have a long way to go to create critical mass, you can’t deny that social signals across Twitter, Facebook, and Google will play a larger role in where pages rank. This is a new element in quality score for paid search listings, and a supplement for inbound links in organic rankings.
  3. The classics still apply: Ultimately search engines are driven by keywords, and delivering a compelling experience that meets the consumers’ expectations. How you map your keywords, ad copy, and landing page is not only something that needs to be done for organic and paid search separately, but together. Can you align offers to take over the page, or have organic speak to your brand value prop and paid speak to a call to action?
  4. Search drives new customers: It’s important to do both paid and organic search to drive new customers in addition to sales. In reviewing our client’s attribution data it becomes clear that both paid and organic search results are very good for driving new customers in addition to being a very strong closing channel. About 40 percent of paid and organic search volume plays the role of introducer or influencer in a consumers purchase path.



Our best coordinated client saw these results from an improvement in search ownership:

  • For each organic position gained with SEO strategies, the client saw a 9 percent decrease in paid search cost per click. Quality score increased due to overall page relevancy improvements.
  • Organic rankings between 1 and 3 reduced paid search investment on the same keyword by more than 70 percent while maintaining performance.

Search plays a critical role in demand generation for any business, so why not have as many listings as possible on the page? Think carefully about how you coordinate your strategy. A collective PPC/SEO keyword strategy will have significant impact on your overall search performance.

Related reading

Search engine results: The ten year evolution
Five ways PPC customer support can help SMBs
#GoogleDoBetter The latest on internal issues at Google and Alphabet
Google Sandbox Is it still affecting new sites in 2019