When you think about inbound marketing, PPC isn't the first thing that pops into your head. That's because PPC is traditional advertising -- you know, that interruptive stuff you've become adept at blocking out -- except it takes place on the internet instead of a billboard on the side of the highway.
But that doesn't mean there's no place for PPC in an inbound marketing strategy. On the contrary, we believe many marketers are able to integrate a paid search strategy with their organic search strategy quite well. The problem is, too many marketers don't have the balance of paid vs. organic right, and they rely heavily or entirely on paid search to drive traffic and leads to their website -- instead of using tactics like business blogging, building their inbound link profile, and increasing social media activity.
So to help put the effectiveness of PPC in perspective, we've gathered the most common myths we hear from marketers every day about why they rely so heavily on paid search, and will do our best to explain why these common assumptions should be considered more critically if you want a healthy search strategy that drives traffic, leads, and customers.
Myth #1: The More You Spend on PPC, the Higher You Rank in SERPs
There has been a long-standing rumor that bidding on search terms can help you improve your organic search rankings for those terms, as well. But this is just that -- a rumor -- and Google has never made any such claim, nor has there ever been any concrete evidence of the practice to justify making this the basis of any marketer's organic search strategy.
Perhaps stories got crossed along the way, though. Because there is credence to the idea that if you rank in both the top organic spot and the top paid spot for a search term, your brand will enjoy a more authoritative position in the searcher's mind, increasing conversion rate from search result to web page. A Search Engine Land case study cited these effects when Honda experienced a 16% increase in brand affinity, a 42% increase in brand recall, and an 8% increase in purchase intent when ranking highly for both an organic and paid search term. Automakers that weren't in both spots, however, saw a 16% decrease in purchase intent. PPC.org also notes an increase in expected profits that range between 4.5% and 6.2% when a brand gets top placement for both organic and paid search.
But this savvy use of paid search is only effective when combined with an SEO strategy that gets you that top organic listing in the SERPs -- and PPC alone just plain can't do that.
Myth #2: Traffic and Leads Must Be Dependent on PPC
If you're relying heavily -- or solely -- on PPC to drive traffic to your site, then yes, your site traffic is dependent on paid search. But that doesn't mean it should be, especially when it's proven that companies who use inbound marketing tactics like blogging to improve their organic search rankings (a free tactic, by the way, except in terms of employee resources) generate 55% more site traffic than those who don't. Marketers relying on PPC for traffic generation must also contend with the fact that, according to PPC.org, only 23% of searchers click on paid ads -- leaving behind the bulk of searcher clicks for those in organic listings.
And if your website traffic is dependent on PPC, your lead generation will follow suit. But again, it shouldn't be that way if you're looking for a lower cost-per-lead. And what marketer isn't? Inbound marketing methods -- specifically blogging, social media, and SEO -- generate cheaper leads than paid search according to the 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report.
And lead generation isn't all about quantity -- it's about quality, too. Would you rather have 1,000 unqualified leads with the worth of $1 each attached to them, or 100 qualified leads with a worth of $100 each attached to them? The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report also reports a higher lead-to-customer close percentage for leads from SEO (15%) than leads from paid search (7%).
This isn't to say you should shut off your PPC overnight; changing the amount of resources you allocate to PPC will require ramp up time if you want to maintain a steady traffic and lead flow. But what we do recommend is progressively ramping up your inbound marketing efforts while simultaneously decreasing your PPC spend. Eventually, you will have created enough optimized content to get you found in search engines, created offers and landing pages that can convert visitors into leads, and generated the same amount of leads organically for less than it costs to generate them through paid search.
Myth #3: PPC Delivers Positive Results More Quickly Than SEO
PPC results do come quickly -- if you "turn on" your PPC, you'll get clicks quickly if you're bidding enough to get shown in the paid section of the search results. But how good are those results? You need to get the right clicks from qualified traffic, otherwise you're throwing money away on traffic and leads with a low visitor-to-lead conversion rate, low lead-to-customer conversion rate, and long sales cycle.
And while PPC may provide a few quick wins, boosting your organic search rankings is a much more sustainable, better lasting, scalable, credible, and cost-effective way to get found in search results.
Myth #4: PPC Is Just Easier to Measure and Manage Than SEO
Some marketers just starting out with PPC might think the bidding model is simple and straightforward, and measurement of the campaign will be easy -- just stay within the budget, and get as many clicks as you can for the keywords you're targeting ... right? Truly effective PPC managers actually spend countless hours monitoring campaign performance, poring over Excel spreadsheets, tweaking bid management platforms, updating bids, and other tasks that require a highly trained eye that you'll have to pay for, either through an internal hire or a PPC agency. SEO, on the other hand, can be measured with free tools like Google Analytics, or low cost tools like HubSpot software.
It's hard to break your dependence on something that has provided you with traffic and leads -- you're the one who has to stand up in front of your boss and Sales and vouch for these numbers each month. But if the quality level of leads and traffic generated from PPC is poor, your efforts and budget are wasted. If any of these myths sound familiar, ask yourself whether PPC is carrying an inordinate amount of weight in your marketing strategy, and consider how you can make the move toward search engine optimization, a more inbound-focused traffic and lead generation methodology.
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Image credit: RLHyde