This is a guest blog post by Dan Stevens. He is a search engine marketing blog manager at KeywordShack.com, an advanced keyword research tool for search engine optimization and pay-per-click professionals.
I have always claimed that the number of perspectives on search engine marketing and related processes is determined largely by the number of practitioners.
That is to say that each and every one of us professionals in the field of search engine marketing likes to think of himself as a unique observer with an original take. There is truth in it, of course, but there seems to be a basic assumption we all accept, that provides the foundation for SEM as a marketing sub-field.
There seems to be a general agreement on SEM being a complex combination of SEO and PPC to varying degrees of focus on each of the above, depending largely on the set of goals set for the campaign.
SEM is a hybrid creature, as strange as they come if you ask me. It is the continuous combination of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with Pay-Per-Click campaigning (PPC) with a constantly shifting focus between the two nodes depending largely on required results, budgeting and personal preference (which I like to call “educated guesswork” from time to time).
What the two processes have in common is that the successful results of each are manifested in high SERP placement. The differences lie in the method of achieving the above. I will not go into the intricate details of proper SEO and PPC set up, but I will briefly mention some of the major differences between the two.
PPC campaigns, depending on extensiveness and set-up, tend to generate higher amount of traffic in relatively short periods of time when compared to SEO optimization efforts, and they require higher budgets respectively (because in a PPC campaign you pay for every click on your adverisement, the higher the traffic generated and the more you pay). That is one reason why SEO is considered a long time investment with long time results when compared to PPC.
That does not necessarily make it the preferable option, but when our initial budgeting is limited it is a point worth keeping in mind especially when a properly optimized through SEO high ranking pages have proved themselves as a better click magnet, attracting more traffic than a high ranking, well positioned PPC advertisement.
I believe that the proper combination between the two will create the right hybrid campaign. What makes it right is its flexibility in cases like budget cuts; when most of your efforts go into PPC and paid advert placement, an unexpected budget redistribution will surely grant you a first hand experience as to what putting all your eggs in one basket means. A parallel SEO effort will serve to minimize the negative effects in such cases, and in general should prove itself valuable in terms of ROI.
Another example of the usefulness of this hybrid approach might be a Google algorithm update – while you’re busy adjusting your SEO characteristics accordingly, your PPC campaign retains a satisfactory degree of traction even though your SERP ranking is not at its best.
Normally, when I describe my take on the matter I find myself having to discuss the significance of keyword research for each. It is a common misconception, in my opinion, that keyword research is far more important in PPC than in SEO. Many believe that because it is possible to bid for practically any keyword in PPC (depending on how much you can pay per click, of course) researching for the queries with highest search traction is far more important than doing the same for SEO purposes.
There is no doubt that proper keyword targeting crucial in PPC, in more than selecting the most popular queries (for one might want to focus on converting queries and even compile a whole list of relevant queries for that purpose), but keyword research for SEO is the first, and perhaps the most significant step on the path to successful optimization.
It is only by seriously approaching both marketing methods one can hope to achieve high SERP ranking with a top PPC advert placement (for the same site) to boot. Moreover, the required keyword research differs between PPC and SEO. While the former calls for a straightforward “query traction/conversion chances vs cost” approach, the latter demands the utilization of more creative keyword research methods.
Whatever the case may be, my bottom line is combination and effort distribution. SEM is all about making different marketing methods work towards a common goal, and not about choosing the right one to focus on. Feel free to disagree with me – it is what we’re here for.