How SEO and Google Ads can work together
While there are key fundamental differences between Google Ad campaigns and SEO, it would be foolish to keep them separate from each other. Unfortunately, we see this happen frequently and see first hand the opportunities missed when these two related services aren’t used together.
Here, we explain the differences between the two and discuss why it’s crucial they work closely together.
What is Google Ads and SEO?
Firstly, it is important to establish what both PPC and SEO are, and how they differ from each other.
Google Ads is a pay-per-click (PPC) form of advertising and refers to the ‘sponsored’ results at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) and the wider Google Display network. You pay, on an auction basis, to have your ads display here. Then you only pay when a user clicks on your ad, hence ‘pay-per-click’. When setting up your Google Ads campaign you input a list of keywords, which when users search for them, trigger your ads to show.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) pertains only to the ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ results in the SERPs. Your site is ‘chosen’ by Google to be displayed. Its position in the SERPs is dependent on a wide range of factors. Learning the basics of SEO stands you in good stead for getting your brand ahead in the SERPs. You are not charged when a user clicks your website in the organic part of the SERPs.
Speed of results
One of the key differences in terms of results, is how quickly each campaign can send traffic to your site. With Google Ads, traffic can send users to your site almost immediately, whereas SEO is renowned for taking much longer to yield returns. With Google Ads, you have to pay for every single user that visits the site, and as soon as the campaign is stopped so does the traffic. Conversely with SEO, once a site is ranking well organically, not only is the click through rate (CTR) typically higher, but a site tends to hold its position, and therefore traffic volume, much more steadily.
How to use SEO and Google Ads together
Despite being completely different in their execution, Google Ads and SEO very much operate in the same realm, and so there is data that can be shared between them, which ultimately ends up being mutually beneficial.
Google Ads can be the perfect testing ground for a future SEO campaign. The perfect example of this is when the services a client provides are ambiguous in nature, which we often see with SAAS businesses. The services and software provided by SAAS businesses are usually totally bespoke, and while there may internal terms used by the team, these do not necessarily reflect what users may be searching for online. In this case, how do you determine which terms to target through an SEO campaign?
Due to the speed in which Google Ads can return data, it serves as the perfect testing ground for such situations. By setting up several campaigns targeting several sets of keywords, and then seeing which return the best results, we can then tell which terms users engage with the most, before starting a more in-depth, long-term SEO campaign.
Quality score can positively affect both SEO and Google Ads. Quality score is a hypothetical score, which is meant to give you a rough idea of how well your campaign compares with competitor campaigns. There are various factors that affect quality score, but two factors are how well the landing page relates to the trigger keyword, and also how users interact with the landing page. Presumably, Google uses similar metrics to track user behaviour from a paid perspective as it will from an organic perspective. So, if the quality score is low for any given keyword, we know the landing page will need work, which should then also positively affect the organic rankings.
One way in which SEO can lend itself to PPC is through keywords. As mentioned previously, when setting up a Google Ads campaign you assign ‘trigger’ keywords to each ad, ad group and campaign. Dependent on the settings you assign to these trigger keywords, Google can be quite narrow in the keywords it allows the ads to show for. This means you may struggle to find any new opportunities and could be inadvertently limiting yourself.
However, with organic, while you may be targeting a very specific term, Google may also rank your site for close variations. For example, if targeting ‘blue shoes’, you may also rank for ‘large blue shoes’, ‘small blue shoes’, ‘shiny blue shoes’, ‘blue leather shoes’ etc. These may turn out to be valid terms that are worth targeting through Google Ads that you would have no knowledge of without looking at the SEO campaign.
Google real estate
There are times when, despite the best efforts of SEO, Google Ads is vital for traffic. This is because of what is known as the SERP real estate. This relates to the layout of the first page of Google. This front page evolves and changes over time as Google tries to improve the user experience. However, what tends to happen is that more features get added and the organic results get pushed further and further down the page, until the first organic result is well below the fold. This means that despite the best efforts of any SEO, you may still miss out on traffic to paid results.
Advantages of using an agency
All of the above is why we feel it best to use a single agency for both PPC and SEO. If separate agencies are used, or an in-house person is handling one or the other, there isn’t the clear, frequent communication in place to be taken advantage of. It is not a simple process of communication between people, and opportunities may be missed.
From another perspective, there is cost to consider. When working with an agency you have access to an entire team of experts for what would likely be less than the salary of two individuals with less experience and knowledge.
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Written by Ewan Burkinshaw
Digital marketing manager Ewan is behind all SEO strategy and works tirelessly to help clients achieve significant organic growth.