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Picture this, you've optimised your website and now rank in the top ten for all your major keywords, and first for several. Organic search engine optimisation (SEO) has really paid off.

So what now? Should you pack in the pay-per-click (PPC) adverts? After all, you probably only got them to increase visibility while you boosted the site's natural optimisation, didn’t you?

Well, it might not be the best move to ditch them just because the onsite optimisation worked. Here are a few reasons why - although it's a contentious area of SEO, so let me know if you disagree.
 
Why hand your competitors space?
 
Thanks to the internet, companies of every size and in every location can try to attract customers. This means that the competition online is vast, no matter what your business.
 
If you rank first for a really industry-relevant term then the chances are that your competitors will be aiming to rank for it too.
 
So, by buying space in the search results, you cut down on their visibility and ensure all the searchers are seeing you, not them.
 
Protect your name
 
At SEOptimise, we buy advertising space on searches for our own name.
 
Of course, we rank first for our name (and if you don't, then you really really need to examine your online marketing strategy!) but competitors can now buy advertising space above searches for our name too!
 
Since it should be clear from your own PPC campaign that a certain percentage of searchers will click on an advert rather than your site, why are you willing to lose those potential clients?
 
Buy the space, fill the results page and make the most of the resulting traffic. This has been proven to increase overall clickthrough rates when both organic and paid search results are listed together for the same site.
 
Risk not, want not
 
For many major online firms, a top ranking brings them in an extraordinary amount of day-to-day business.
 
If your company relies on its high rank, then you risk losing business if your ranking dips for a period, whether because of a competitor's SEO activities or a change in the search engine's algorithm.
 
By routinely using PPC marketing, you ensure you are always visible.
 
Enjoy greater authority

 
By buying PPC and having the top rank, you show potential clients that you really mean business.
 
Placing yourself in front of them more repeatedly will raise their awareness of you and can strengthen their impression that you are a market leader.
 
What have you got to lose?

 
At the end of the day, if a searcher clicks on your organic listing then you have not had to pay a penny for your extra visibility.
 
If they click on your advert, then they could equally have clicked on a competitor's advert, so you have helped yourself and prevented your rival from gaining.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 27 July, 2009 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

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Corporate identity design

Thanks a lot for the details.I got to know about PPC sometime back.Competition online is really vast and we always have to be ready for the challenge.very helpful post.Would ove to implement these points and see the result.

about 7 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

I guess it depends on what "major keywords" and what products / target markets you're talking about.

How about your brand name(s)? That's often asked - should we bid on our own brand name if we rank top for it on natural search?

Some best practice and case studies would suggest yes, you should. And some of your points above play to this. 

However, I've never quite bought this argument. I talked to one large publisher recently who said that it they paid for clicks on searches for their name it would cost them £120k a month (almost £1.5m a year). Surely that money can be better spent elsewhere e.g. on content for the site? 

If someone is searching for your brand then there's a fair chance they are actually looking for your site, and will find it via the natural search results, even if they click on a competitor's brand-bidding PPC efforts first.

about 7 years ago

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Edwin Hayward

Surely people searching specifically for your brand, rather than something generic ("Nike" not "sports shoes") are the most valuable potential customers you can ever hope to address!

After all, you've done the hard part and spent the millions/billions it took to get them to remember and seek out your brand over other competing brands - so why turn your back on the opportunity to very easily increase your interaction with people who are already looking for YOU?

Several studies have demonstrated that PPC ads reinforce organic listings, and vice versa. It's reassuring to people to see the company they're looking for is "top" of everything - and remember too that a substantial minority of web searchers don't really understand - or care - about the distinction between paid ads and organic search results.

Plus when it comes to bidding on your brand, there are likely to be fewer or no competing bidders so the cost per click is minimal for the extra traffic. For instance, Nike is the only advertiser bidding on "Nike" on Google UK, but 104 advertisers are fighting over "sports shoes"!

about 7 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

@Edwin - yes, these are the arguments I've heard before but, assuming you're ranking top on natural results for your brand, I'm still not sure I'd want to pay for the clicks.

In all the actual test result data I've seen, cutting out the PPC ad for a brand search, where the brand ranks top for natural search, has meant almost no loss of traffic to the brand's site. 

There is a caveat to this which is where the brand name itself is a generic term and/or has misspellings that come up a lot. 

So do you really think we should be bidding on "Econsultancy"?

about 7 years ago

Matt Whelan

Matt Whelan, Paid Search & Display Director at Guava

@jaamit - Obviously, testing it for each individual case is advised, but generally I find a well placed PPC ad continues to perform even when the client ranks #1 naturally, and that for non-branded, non-navigational searches the traffic is actually fairly mutually exclusive.

We need to remember that the average user isn't always aware of the difference between sponsored listings and organic listings, and that some people have complete blindness to one or the other.

Additionally, by having a PPC ad in the landscape you are also able to take advantage of the flexibility and turn-around speed of PPC ad copy to publicise a limited-time offer, respond to a competitor's advert, or test the CTR of some new copy without making any changes to your site.

about 7 years ago

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Mark Johnson

It is definitely worth testing, as Jaamit rightly points out every company is different. I think if your company is lucky enough to have no competitors on its brand names then potentially it might be worth only appearing naturally.

However, I think that when it comes to appearing on the non brand/generic terms, 2 ads is always better than 1. Firstly you are taking the opportunity away for a competitor to gain market share on key terms, build up their Quality Score more quickly, thus lowering their CPCs and being able to remain on page 1 for the term.

Secondly, as Kevin points out, relying just on your natural rank remaining where it is could prove a risky strategy. (especially with the current UK SERPs!)

Finally, if a conversion were to come from the last click being a natural one, do companies have in place good enough tracking solutions to monitor conversion attribution? are you able to see the whole buying cycle and spend money on the right channels? if you can only monitor last click attribution, how will you know if appearing on page 1 for certain PPC generics drives brand conversions?

about 7 years ago

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Edwin Hayward

Let's phrase it a different way...

Would you prefer to have the top listing out of 10 (and have 9 other sites that all "compete" with yours that a visitor could click on)? That's 10% of the results that refer to your business.

Or would you prefer to have the top 2 listings out of 11 (that's effectively what a searcher will see with 1 ad above the organic results)? That's 18.2% of results that refer to your business - a 90% improvement.

The math will no doubt vary from company to company, but I'd be willing to bet that 1 pound spent "buying" that last click from people who are already aware of AND have just searched for your brand is worth 100 pounds or more of "branding" ad spend in other media.

Here's the real puzzle: for those people to be searching for your brand AT ALL you must have spent a boatload of money on branding. So why suddenly slam the purse strings shut when faced with the best traffic you could possiby buy?

about 7 years ago

Matt Whelan

Matt Whelan, Paid Search & Display Director at Guava

@Ashley - no you shouldn't be bidding on econsultancy, but if you were an ecommerce website and had a direct competitor bidding against your brand, would you think differently? :)

about 7 years ago

Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons, UK Managing Director at BlueGlass

I would agree with Edwin that branded queries containing the term Nike are as likely to be extremely valuable in terms of converting into a sale.

Brand terms are likely to attract users towards the end of the buying cycle. So if Adidas can justify bidding on these keywords to take business away from Nike, surely Nike can also justify bidding on their own brand to close the sale? Plus these keywords are likely to have a far higher quality score and lower cost-per-click for the actual brand than it's competitors, so in many cases it may not be too costly to protect brand queries either.

It also depends largely on the competition for your branded keywords on AdWords. In the case of Econsultancy, as Ashley mentioned, I've just done a search and there are no PPC ads listed.

This would need testing in more detail, but with no competitor ads displayed and a #1 organic listing for Econsultancy I think it's safe to assume that users will find the Econsultancy site. In this case the searcher is likely to be clicking on an ad when they would have clicked the organic listing anyway (if it hadn't been there). But if there are competitor ads listed it might not be worth that risk.

about 7 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

@Matt / Kevin - for ecommerce sites, I think it depends on what you sell. If you sell something that is essentially a commidity (e.g. books, CDs etc.) then I can see that doing bidding on a rival's name might help you steal sales.

However, for most businesses, I think that competitors bidding your brand name are just wasting money. Again, it depends on the cost per click and the value of any sale (e.g. in financial services the tolerated CPAs are very high), but in most cases the conversion rates on someone clicking through to arrive at a site that probably isn't the one they thought it would be, are low and therefore ROI is low / negative.

In a lot of cases of bidding on competitor's names I think the bidder is doing it for ego reasons but will be getting a negative ROI - and in a lot of cases they won't even know that. Or won't care.

You search guys will know better than me but my perception, following the furore of Google opening up brand bidding in the UK, is that actually it has all settled down in most areas because it just isn't economic to bid on someone else's brand?

about 7 years ago

Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

Obviously clicks/conversions are the end goal - but what about the effect of exposures as an 'assist?

Over the lifetime of these browsers 20 searches and clicks for Reebok could also be 20 exposures for Nike - at some point resulting in an aquisition

Just a thought.

about 7 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

@rob - yes, that is a point I hadn't fully considered that could be valuable for some brands and products/services. Not least because you wouldn't actually pay for those views of course.

about 7 years ago

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Anonymous

I agree witht the majority opinion that PPC ad's fully compliment organic listings where competition for keywords, brand or product specific, are such that it makes comercial sense to do so.

We work with a leading fashion brand where they trationally operated as a wholesaler with no direct customer realtionship. The exponential growth of the web almost forced a shift in their business model to becoming a retailer, so the challenge here is that yes they rank for their brand terms, however the first results page offered 12 opportunties to click on retailers, price comparisons, ebay etc... for their product specific keywords (and generic brand terms)

As kevin says, searchers can barely discern what makes a sponsored link or a organic link therefore in order to reclaim brand space and control the message (which PPC ads offer greater flexibility) PPC became the main traffic and revenue gernerator for the site, despite holding top positions for 90% of brand keyword. It also offered a promotinal sign post for offers, sales, products, etc... something that is not easily executed through organic listings. 

If there's no competitors on your brand, or product based terms then it makes no sense to pay for traffic that you would get organically - that's just common sense!

about 7 years ago

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Andrea Moro

I don't agree with you in two points.

"competitors can now bu advertising space above searches for our name too!"

It's true, they can, but if you registered your brand name, you are in safe and this behavior can be legally prosecuted in most states/countries.

Second point. Also if you reached top ten for most keywords there would be probably some long-term or adjacent terms for which it's not safe invest time in SEO, so why waste the chance and don't invest a bunch of money?

Until these low traffic keys don't costs you more than your time in SEO, it's always a worth keep a 5-10% of global budget for PPC.

about 7 years ago

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Steve Farquhar, Senior Consultant at Marketing Databasics

The cost of new customer acquisition is an important marketing KPI to have in place for helping to drive business profitability. Therefore I tend to think that the answer to this question can only be made clear when new customer acquisition cost is calculated against each of the marketing media across online and offline channels - TV, Press, PPC, Organic, affiliates etc. Getting this acquisition cost within acceptable limits and meeting commercial targets is what keeps people in jobs and pays bonuses!

In order to calculate my cost of new customer acquisition I need to look at what PPC monies I have spent month on month and how many new customers I have acquired via that specific media over the period. Does it compare well with other online and offline media? Has it met my commercial targets? If so I'm quite happy.

Then there's the question of the monetary value of the customers from each media - what if PPC responders are actually very low value whilst customers from targeted prospect emails or particular affiliates are very high value? perhaps I need to weight my spend accordingly. Then of course there's the question of how the source was attributed in the first place....

about 7 years ago

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Alan Charlesworth

Excellent debate in which everyone is right. And wrong. 

Although the Internet has added to the 'science' aspect [metrics etc], marketing always was, and always will be, an art where there is no single 'right' answer for every situation/market/product/brand.

almost 7 years ago

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Andrew Marshall, SEM Manager at s1

Brand bidding on PPC is a waste of money if you don't use it right! If you have a static site that doesn't change very often then there's not much you can shout about using your PPC. This, I hope, is not the case with most of your websites.

When I use PPC brand bidding i'll be telling people about a 50% off sale, a new range of shoes, a free bluetooth headset with all phones or free trial period. In many cases this can be quicker and cheaper than adding a banner to your home page. The quicker you have that message out there the quicker you will start getting sales....

almost 7 years ago

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Littlemisswedding

I have spoken to a few people that are under the impression that if you run PPC campaigns  it might affect natural search positioning.  If the search engines see that you have the budget to advertise with them then is it in their interest to give you lower rankings in the natural search.  Apparently this happened to a number of retailers a couple of years ago just before Christmas and they were forced to increase PPC spend in order to sell the volumes that they needed because of the drop in natural rankings.

I wouldn't have thought that this was the case but I am interested to know if anyone has seen or heard of such things happening.  Personally I believe if you can get good rankings through SEO, and traffic to your site through online PR etc then spending on PPC is an added extra cost.  Though for new brands in a competitive industry such as finance and gambling I have seen it work very well for short term volume at a good CPA

almost 7 years ago

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Suzanne Locke

Someone at Google told me it was worth buying the PPC even if you were at the top of the rankings because it would reinforce your brand message and that research had shown this gave a stronger likelihood of someone clicking.

But a) they didn't have the research to hand and b) they would say that, wouldn't they?! Would be interested if anyone does know of any such research.

Personally I think people know this is an advertising slot these days and you could better spend that money on other marketing or content since you're already at the top of the page (and personally I look at organic results rather than PPC).

almost 7 years ago

Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

The answer to this can be found in your analytics if you have set it up and understand the data that it produces. Unfortunately this means there is no straight answer to this question other than “it is different for every client”.

Check your analytics and if you still don’t know feel free to drop me a line.

almost 7 years ago

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AceFlex

The Internet surfers trust the organic SEO more than PPC, and therefore tend to visit or buy from a vendor that has higher natural listing in the major search engines. And companies like Google does a really good job creating relevant listing to help us select most appropriate information. Anybody can pay for the top listing, but does it really mean a product or service is good? And, a marketing budget can be spent much more wisely anyway.

almost 7 years ago

Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

@AceFlex - SEO does not work as a type of advertising, it is essentially brand building/awareness.

PPC has a role as a direct click to convert function but also as a display assistance to a later conversion.

A consumer does not search "trainers sport" and expect the results to be a ranking of sports shoes with the best highest.

almost 7 years ago

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Daniel

To be honest i wouldnt bother. i would save your money and bide your time. if your ranking organicly and you start to slip then spend your money on a couple of high ranking links to give you a permanant weapon to use.

about 6 years ago

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Andy

Hi

If I run a ppc campaign as well as ranking in the top 10 for a keyword does this in anyway harm my organic listing from the point of view that visitors may click my ppc ad more than my organic listing and therefore google might push my organic listing further down because it does not get as many clicks as my competitors organic result and is perhaps seen as not relevant due to low clicks etc?

Andy

almost 6 years ago

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