Pop quiz: Which is better for B2B lead generation?
A) Pay per click search advertising
B) Search engine optimization
And the answer is…
PPC and SEO both have their strengths and weaknesses, and you can use them independently. But when you combine them, they’re far more effective. Especially if you’re ready to graduate from just getting more leads to getting the high-quality leads that actually turn into revenue.
Let’s review the basic pros and cons of PPC and SEO, then talk about using them together.
The Pros and Cons of PPC and SEO
The pros of pay per click advertising
- You can ramp it up fast.
Need results fast? Then you’ll like PPC. If your company is agile and you’re not too much of a perfectionist, it’s possible to get a simple pay per click campaign up in one day. We wouldn’t recommend that, but if you already had a list of keywords and you already had landing pages, you could write a few ads quickly, set up campaign tracking and launch the campaign in one work day. Normally, though, it takes about a week to launch a campaign and then at least another two or three weeks to optimize it.
- You can control the spend.
Adjusting spend may affect how much traffic you get, but if you really want to run your campaigns on just $100 a day, that’s possible. Or, if you’ve got budget, you can run them at $100,000 per day. This can be helpful if your company doesn’t have a steady cashflow, if your budget gets stolen, or if you suddenly get a boost in your ad spend budget.
- You can test ad copy.
Which means you can test your messaging. That’s a super power. It lets you optimize your landing pages, optimize the title and meta description tags on your website’s pages, know which content to create, and more.
- You can see which keywords your ads are showing up for, and which keywords convert (or not).
This is especially valuable information if you want to increase the quality of your leads. So don’t just look at the first conversion event – track your new prospects as far along in their buyer’s journey as you can.
If you can figure out which keywords are producing sales qualified leads and demos and other revenue generating actions, that’s precious information. It allows you to confidently bid far more for those super high-value keywords. You might even be able to out-bid your competitors if haven’t realized those particular keywords are gold.
That’s not all that you can do with this conversion data. You can also use it to fuel your content creation, do an SEO content audit, or prioritize landing page creation and optimization.
- Pay per click ads help with branding and visibility.
It’s nice to be near the top of the page. Especially now that rich answers and other search features have pushed the organic listings down. Even if people don’t click on your ads, they’ve still seen them.
- Some say paid clicks convert better than organic clicks.
This is generally true, but it depends on the keyword, the landing page, and the search intent. And being that we’re talking specifically about lead generation, rather than ecommerce, I’d have to say that paid clicks generally, but not always, convert better than organic clicks.
The cons of pay per click advertising
- It’s expensive.
Really expensive. This is an ongoing, significant problem with paid clicks. Especially because they tend to get more expensive over time. Paid traffic is a major overhead cost.
- If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can lose your shirt.
Paid traffic continues to get more complex all the time. There are about a dozen different ad types, fierce competition, and no refunds. Do not give an intern a sizable ppc budget and just see if they can figure things out.
The benefits of organic search
- It’s “free”.
You don’t ever pay for organic clicks with money. You pay for them with time. And great content. And some SEO skills.
- It pays off over the long haul.
If you do quality search engine optimization with high-quality, evergreen content that serves your audience and has good on-page SEO, your work will give you returns for a long time. Even three, maybe five years after you’ve optimized your site, you’ll still be reaping incremental benefits from your work… if you do things right.
- Once you’ve got established rankings, your competitors will have to work pretty hard to catch up to your search result listings.
- According to our survey of how B2B marketers are doing lead generation, search engine optimization beats “paid search or online advertising” for tactical effectiveness in lead generation.
The drawbacks of organic search
- It takes a long time to see results.
Like at least three to six months.
- The algorithms change.
And not always in your favor. Sometimes, really not in your favor.
- We can’t see which keywords searchers use as easily as we used to.
And now, let’s look at how all these strengths and weaknesses play out when you combine the two search tactics.
5 benefits of using pay per click and search engine optimization together
- You get to see all the keyword data.
Using just SEO or PPC will give you only partial vision of what’s really going on with the keywords your audience uses to find your site. Having all this information means you can:
- Create more detailed negative keyword lists. This can save you a lot of money over time.
- Know which keywords convert, and which don’t. Use this information to inform your content creation efforts, but also to help you prioritize how you develop and optimize landing pages. It can also help you sort out which keywords generate leads, and which keywords generate high-quality leads.
- You’ll get new ideas for keywords to use in your sales copy – and in your ads, and your ad groups.
- If you’ve got site search enabled on your website, you’ll have another way to boost both your SEO and your PPC work.
- You’ll have ample information if you want to map your keywords to the buyer’s journey, and then map those keywords to specific landing pages.
- You can own more real estate in the search results.
It’s nice to appear on the first page of search results. It’s even nicer to appear twice.
Appearing twice means you’ll crowd out your competitors’ listings, but it also gives your brand a significant boost. If someone sees your company in both the ads and in the organic listings, it makes you company seem more omnipresent, and thus slightly more authoritative and trustworthy. Sometimes, 1 + 1 = 3.
- You can use ad copy tests to optimize your content.
Once you know what works or doesn’t work in your ppc campaigns, you can use that information to optimize title tags, meta description tags, landing pages, blog posts, and basically all the copy on your website.
Start with optimizing your site’s title tags and meta description tags. These SERP elements basically serve as ad copy, and it’s time we started treating them like that. People click or don’t click on our organic listings in part because of how well those descriptions are written.
All of the parts of your organic search listings can be tested – and improved – by strategically testing ad copy.
This is actually one of the secret ways to massively increase your organic search traffic. Without adding any extra content, or doing any link building, or changing anything but the title and meta description tags. If you can increase the click-through rate on your search listings, you can get far more free traffic. Testing ad copy lets you do that.
For a guided tour of search engine results pages and elements, see Kristen Vaughn’s new post, “SERP Features in 2019: The Complete Guide.”
- You can ramp up your B2B lead generation fast with pay per click, then slowly shift over to organic traffic after your SEO work has had time to take effect.
This is an ideal way to use the strength of PPC and a “weakness’ of SEO to your advantage. PPC campaigns can be turned on relatively quickly, but SEO work takes months to see results.
So turn on your pay per click campaigns first and optimize them. Then use what you’ve learned from your pay per click work to optimize your website for organic search.
Your SEO efforts will be far more effective, and, in time, when the search engines start to send free traffic, you can decide whether to scale back the ppc spending if you want. Or you can continue to use ppc to further develop your website and to keep bringing in more high-quality leads.
- If you set up retargeting, you can show ads to whoever has visited your website.
Here’s one way that your SEO work and your website can amplify your pay per click campaigns. Retargeting is one of the most effective advertising tactics, in part because once people have come to a website, if they come back again, they’re far more likely to convert. All you need to do is to nudge them back to your site.
Retargeting ads do exactly that. And they’re especially effective if you want to get more higher quality leads.
So leverage your existing website traffic and reclaim a ton of otherwise lost leads: Add a couple of strategic retargeting campaigns to your ppc account. You can do this whether people came in via paid or organic clicks.
It’s not surprising that SEO and PPC complement each other so well. Really, they’re just two sides of the same coin: Search. Whether you do paid search or organic search marketing, the same fundamental principles apply:
- Know your audience.
- Know which keywords they use to find what you offer.
- Understand the intent behind their searches so you can filter out people who aren’t likely to buy and focus your ad spend on the most high-quality prospects.
- Serve up content valuable enough that your ideal prospects will give you their information for it.
- Measure their behavior after the initial conversion so you can continue to build and optimize your content to get even better results, and so you can continue to increase the quality of your leads, minimize the length of the sales cycle, and target the prospects most likely to be loyal, high-value customers.