Organic and Paid Search: A Combined Approach

Many studies have been done on the value of paid versus organic search engine optimization. In September 2006, WebSideStory reported paid search was only a slightly more efficient 3.4% conversion rate for e-commerce when compared to 3.1% for organic. iProspect reported that about 60% of all users click organic versus 40% for paid. OneUpWeb concluded that users are up to six times more likely to click on the first few organic results as they are to choose any of the paid search results. What do all these stats tell us? Simply where to start, not what to rely on.

Every site, each business, and all audiences are different. The numbers change. The market changes. The audience changes. So, what’s are you to decide when asked which is better, SEO or PPC? The answer is “a combined approach.” Many factors should be considered. According to iProspect’s Search Engine User Attitudes Survey, Google users prefer organic results 72% of the time while Microsoft users prefer paid listings 71% of the time. You have the ability to target each engine accordingly. In general, SEO is better for long-term, high-end items likely to generate more sales over longer periods of time while PPC does well to target low-cost, high-turnover items. You have the opportunity to adjust based on your numbers. Analytics are the bridge that connects PPC and SEO. Focus on conversion, cost per lead, cost per visitor, and factor in cost per customer acquisition and their lifetime value.

Search professionals today are like Wall Street analysts navigating a cutthroat, competitive, and no holds barred investment world. You must diversify your keyword portfolio based on an analysis of search engine and site-specific stats. Optimizing for the critical, potentially life-saving advice online health seekers are looking for is quite different than for fast-paced, web-savvy shoppers navigating rich media, coupons, comparison engines, and themed merchandising from e-retailers. We are on the verge of an explosion in search as the big brands are just realizing the potential of the search marketing channel. Smaller companies will have to explore targeted and alternative methods as big budgets begin to saturate competitive keywords. Take advantage of the long tail and alternative pay-per-click search engines. Advertise to niche markets in vertical directories when possible.

For a truly competitive advantage, pay attention to the integration of organic and paid search. Know your numbers, and customize each campaign.