Running into the billions every day, search offers huge opportunities for marketers looking to seize consumer attention, gain the biggest share of traffic, and boost website performance. With users now spending 59 hours online per week, it’s never been more important for marketers to have the right search strategies in place to capture consumer attention before rival brands do and inspire audiences to take action. 

Realising this ambition can be tricky, which is where search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) come in. Both are terms marketers have heard of, but not all can explain.

Here, we’ll be diving into what the terms actually mean and why the smartest choice is not to pick one method over the other, but to adopt a blend of both strategies –  using a smart combination of data, media, content, and technology.

SEO versus PPC: what’s the difference?

While both strategies have the same core goal of bolstering website effectiveness, these approaches are on different sides of the search coin, with distinct ways of meeting that objective. 

SEO is focused on attracting higher traffic to a specific website by ensuring each element is tuned for optimal visibility when users search for related terms or phrases. With PPC, however, the main focus is actively pushing users to sites through targeted advertising. Paid ad placements hosted by search engines and online platforms aim to encourage clicks that lead to visits, ideally followed by interaction and, better still, actions such as purchases.

Is there a better option?

In short, no. But it’s important to note that both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses.   

For instance, the key advantage of PPC is speedy outcomes: allowing marketers to begin enhancing visibility and reach almost instantly. The issue, however, is that impact only comes with serving ads, which means results fade quickly when campaigns stop — and depending on their scale, the cost can be sizable. 

In contrast, SEO plays more of a long game. It can offer sustained benefits and even higher uplift on measures, such as click-through rates (CTRs) for a smaller initial output. But because programmes develop organically, they take time to yield returns and success isn’t guaranteed, especially if marketers are targeting popular keywords dominated by major online players.

Better together: unification yield the best results

SEO and PPC therefore work best as partners. Although they have independent value, putting them together is a double win, driving greater performance and cancelling out each other’s downsides. For instance, PPC fills the gap left by SEO’s slow-burning impact, while the lasting and cost-efficient effect of content optimisation will ensure a consistently strong site ranking.

Of course, most marketers will be aware that combined search tactics amplify the likelihood of success and allow more adaptation — something that’s a particularly vital factor in today’s variable climate. But many remain uncertain about what best practice looks like for PPC and SEO synchronisation and, specifically, how it can be achieved.

In broad terms, ensuring well-balanced harmony requires clear visualisation of search activity that helps marketers to determine what kind of optimisation is needed. Improving collaboration at a practical level, however, typically involves covering two central pillars: 

Joined-up intelligence 

Just as disjointed management makes for ineffective wider advertising, running SEO and PPC separately limits efficiency by creating siloed pools of intelligence and experience. Eliminating barriers between teams can therefore be a small yet vital step. By allowing both to benefit from richer audience segments and tactical insights, it opens the door to harnessing these collective learnings to lower costs per acquisition (CPAs) and bolster conversions. 

For instance, updates from PPC teams about high-performing keywords can be crucial for SEO teams when crafting site content and meta descriptions. Working in tandem can also stretch budgets further and avoid duplication, with incremental gains in organic keyword positions signalling when it’s time to reduce PPC campaigns focused on the same terms and redistribute spend.

Unifying tech and people power

Similarly, connecting data enables smoother operations. Embracing technologies that can consolidate data across sources — and campaigns — and translate it into a holistic dashboard will provide a unified base of understanding, facilitating more informed decision-making. 

For instance, with a holistic overview of how search efforts are performing against KPIs and competitors, it’s easy to spot where PPC or SEO strategies need refinement. Marketing leaders can then use this information to adjust PPC campaigns accordingly – such as reducing spend when rankings are high, or dialling-up investment if it looks like the benefits from PPC could exceed current SEO gains. 

While PPC and SEO are both familiar strategies, there is still an element of mystery remaining. Taking a closer look at what these terms mean, and the opportunities they bring, highlights the smartest strategies are those that use both in tandem. Key for marketers moving forwards is to remember it’s a mix of integrated data, technology, and people power that delivers effective search impact.