Mar 5 2020
Opal Gamble

Friend or Frenemy: the Synergy Between SEO and PPC


When it comes to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) programs, the question of the synergy between SEO and PPC eventually comes into play. Does it matter? Do the two interact or influence each other? Which should you prioritize?

Here's everything you need to know about the relationship between SEO and PPC.

What is SEO and PPC?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of getting traffic from the organic (unpaid) search results on search engines.

For example, let’s say that Sammy is selling winter hats online. Sammy’s store page uses the term “wool toque”—it’s a Canadian thing—which is indexed by search engine spiders and brought up in search engine results. See the BLUE box in Figure 1 for examples of organic results.

PPC, or Pay-Per-Click, is a type of paid search engine marketing in which advertisers pay a fee each time a prospect clicks their ad. Think of it as buying visits to a website.

For example, Sammy’s sales campaign includes paid advertising on search engines for the keyword “wool toque.” Sammy pays a fee, based on bidding, every time a prospect clicks one of the ads. See the RED box in Figure 1 for examples of PPC results.

The difference between SEO and PPC in Google search results

Does SEO help PPC?

Absolutely! SEO helps the performance of your PPC campaigns by improving your website; SEO optimizes the technical aspects of your site as well as the language. A good SEO campaign raises the authority of your domain, garners ever-important backlinks, and makes your on-site experience as frictionless as possible for prospects. SEO helps remove barriers blocking your customers from converting.

Raising the profile and authority of your website, as well as the experience, usually decreases your ads’ CPC and lowers your overall CPA. SEO campaigns often yield improved results in PPC campaigns, but it is far from guaranteed.  

Does PPC help SEO?

Paid search does not directly help SEO. Which is to say, PPC campaigns are not an organic ranking factor. 

However, indirectly, there may be some SEO benefits to PPC campaigns. For example: it’s common for users to click on an organic result after seeing a PPC ad, because the organic result is considered more authentic. This results in a better CTR for organic traffic.

Likewise, customers may become aware of a brand through viewing, but not clicking, paid advertising. They then convert later through an organic search result when ready to buy.

How do SEO and PPC work together?

Peanut butter and jelly. Green eggs and ham. SEO and PPC. They all go together. But how do SEO and PPC work together? In a word: authority.

If you can get the holy search engine grail of a paid ad AND organic position on page one, they reinforce each other in the mind of your prospective customer. There’s a “wait, where have I seen this before?” moment for the customer.

SEO and PPC working together in Google search results

A page 1 organic search result indicates to searchers that the page is highly relevant, which makes it easier to trust that it’s what they were looking for.

SEO and PPC for the one-two punch!

How does keyword research differ between PPC and SEO?

Keyword data indicates how your target market uses search to find information, which should inform both your SEO and PPC campaigns to become more targeted and to align your brand message between the two channels. 

How does brand factor into PPC and SEO?

Writing in the language of your prospects is a key to success in both organic and paid campaigns: instead of finding a new way to describe your products and services, find established ways that people already understand.

For example, let’s say that Sammy is selling winter hats online. Sammy’s brand clarity has distilled down to the term “wool toque”—it’s a Canadian thing—which is a specific style of hat.

This is where keyword research comes into play: by looking at key metrics like search volume and competition, Sammy can decide which keywords will bring the right traffic to the store and where there is an opportunity to compete from a SEO and PPC standpoint. Aligning everything is a two-step process:

  1. Use SEO to ensure that the website page targets the right keyword phrase
  2. Optimize the PPC ad copy and keyword bidding for the right keyword phrase

The optimum formula is Brand Clarity + SEO + PPC = search engine success.

Bottom Line

If you’re struggling with where to start, remember that keyword research informs SEO and PPC, streamlining the process. You should be reinforcing your brand messaging with your keywords, and both SEO and PPC will help.

Though it may seem like a pipedream to have the time and resources to spend on both SEO and PPC, the synergy between the two practices warrants the investment—especially when you factor bottom line improvements like CPC into the mix.