When we talk about driving growth with search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC), we are talking about ways to get to the top of search engine results and out-tracking the competition and getting ahead of advertisers, gaining both organic and paid search engine traffic.
For healthcare marketers, this really matters. According to a recent report published by The Telegraph, around 7% of daily Google searches are related to health. In a world of 3.5 billion searches per day around the world, that’s about 2.45 million health-related searches per day. It makes sense when you start to look at the many reasons someone might “hit the Googles” with a health-related question.
While SEO and PPC serve the same goal – to get your business to the top of the search engines and get people to your website – each digital specialization has different means of getting there. Naturally, this can create some confusion for those looking to start new or updated digital marketing efforts. So we’ve set out to answer some of the frequently asked questions we receive about the relationship between SEO and PPC:
- What’s the difference between SEO and PPC? Where do they overlap and where are they distinct?
- Which one is better and where should I start investing my marketing budget?
- Will SEO or PPC get me results faster? Which strategy is better for the long term?
- Which search engine tactic is easier to implement in-house? And which search engine tactic is better to leave to the digital marketing pros?
A Quick Breakdown of SEO Versus PPC
If we weren’t taking any guesses on our readers, here’s a quick rundown of what SEO and PPC really are:
Search engine optimization (SEO) consists of various strategies, tactics, and best practices that help websites and web pages rank highly on search engine results pages (SERPs). We’ve already mentioned how many people conduct health-related searches using engines like Google and Bing. How do search engines decide what content to return for these searches?
Based on many factors including search language, site authority, etc., search engine algorithms explore the web’s reach to decide what content to put on the first page. of the search results a person sees when they search for a given term. Oh, and why are we called “organic” search traffic? Because it is an “organic” search engine marketing strategy (unlike PPC).
Payperclick (PPC) is a search engine advertising model where you pay each time a user clicks on an ad. Ads are tailored to appear in search engine results when specific audiences use a particular search language. Companies running campaigns will only pay when a user actually clicks on the ad and visits the website. You don’t have to pay to just show ads.
What they pay depends on the competition for specific search terms – high-volume terms often have a higher cost-per-click. In the screenshot below, you can see a sample PPC ad. Although the search results appeared “natural”, Marketo bid on the search term “local PPC ads” as shown in this first search result.
Where SEO and PPC Overlap
At a basic level, SEO and PPC overlap in organic search results and paid search ads appear on SERPs, often one after another. Both share the same goal of driving traffic to a particular website or landing page. And both revolve around pretty much the languages people use to find content.
Search intent is another important consideration that is taken into account a lot in SEO and PPC strategies. Both strategies can be deployed to fulfill a specific purpose (in this case, a person searching Google for more information or even booking a vasectomy) to maximize return on investment.
Simply put, the ranking of your content for certain keywords is not affected by PPC. However, both types of search results (organic and PPC) appear on the same page, meaning their relationship and interaction are not entirely mutually exclusive.
Where SEO and PPC Differ
Simply put, SEO is “free to join” while PPC is “pay to play”. While most businesses at least invest money in optimized content or even third-party SEO services, how those efforts are reflected in search results is absolutely vital. To put it that way, SEO is “free”.
However, a comprehensive SEO strategy often requires investments in content creation, continuous optimization, and regular performance monitoring. What we like to tell our clients is that SEO is a long game, it can take six months to a year to produce consistent results. On the other hand,
PPC ads can be used to get immediate results. After all, as soon as your ad appears, you can start attracting potential customers. With a relatively small budget and a basic understanding of audience targeting and keywords, you can start driving PPC traffic for featured keywords with relative ease.
In this way, PPC ads are like special passes to amusement parks that allow “club members” to skip the lines. However, driving PPC conversions – people who not only click on your landing page but also sign up for consultations, book surgery, and more. – is something that cannot be bought. Your understanding of your target buyers, the copy they will respond to, and your landing page is what determines whether or not they convert.
When It’s Better to Rely on a Robust SEO Strategy
Honestly, SEO is always important to keep in mind. Even for businesses without a true SEO strategy, a consistent understanding and application of SEO best practices can help keep web properties visible and in good standing on the SERPs. . Here’s where we recommend focusing your energy:
- Simple, well-organized site structure
- On-page optimization, including headings, interlinking, and metadata, for every web page and subpage
- Passing scores for site speed and usability
- More comprehensive SEO strategies are commonly deployed by companies that need one or more of the following:
- Sustained traffic and leads from organic search engine traffic
- To build brand visibility or reputation as an industry leader or expert
Again, it can take six to twelve months to see the results of the most aggressive SEO strategies. However, getting to the top of the keyword rankings is much easier once you’ve gained traction. Why? Because by then you will have built the authority type of site and content that has a lot of SEO juice.
This type of sustained organic search traffic can be especially effective when you have a long sales cycle where buyers are researching the internet extensively.
When You Should Consider Investing in PPC
Often, the target keywords are so competitive that it will take too long to get to the top through purely “organic” strategies. To get to the top in highly competitive keyword categories when you can’t get there naturally, why not buy your way to the top?
This is often the reason why companies turn to PPC. At least initially, businesses that want an immediate traffic boost can put PPC campaigns to good use. This is especially common for companies looking to promote:
- Time-sensitive promotions, discounts, and sales
- New products and services
- New practice locations
However, a key benefit of PPC advertising is its ability to reach a highly targeted audience or niche. By using services like Google Ads you can be very specific about what demographics you want to target, the demographics you know will convert to deliver a higher ROI on those campaigns.
For competitive keywords, PPC ads can get your medical practice to the top of the search engine results page more quickly than SEO.
How SEO and PPC Can Be Used Together
A more comprehensive strategy that includes both SEO and PPC can be very effective. In these settings, a certain symbiosis occurs between the two areas, usually in three separate areas:
- Deriving actionable keyword insights: You can use keyword research and other individual campaign metrics to optimize the overall strategy. While you may be able to target some high-volume keywords for your PPC campaigns, this research may reveal long-tail and low-volume keywords that are more suitable for a sustainable SEO campaign. .
- Enhance brand reputation and exposure: Many brands are leveraging both SEO and PPC to capture the market on certain search terms. Branded search terms come to mind. You can imagine why a brand like Coke Zero might want to make sure they’re the only soft drink manufacturer that shows up on the water for this group of branded search terms. The combination of SEO and PPC is a great way to increase brand visibility and improve your brand awareness, while ensuring that competitors are not paying to show ads on the internet. Branded keywords that you should own.
- Use PPC campaign insights to inform content strategy: Most PPC checks the copy and messaging that you use for your ads. This is an opportunity to identify effective ad texts and create additional content to support these campaigns. This information can be used to optimize content with the right keywords, including page content, meta description, and more. Evaluating the performance of your content and SEO strategy takes time, and the impact of changes may not be known for a while. Using a PPC ad campaign to test text or keywords can help you get to this information faster.
Tufts Medical Center uses both PPC ads and SEO-optimized content to dominate the first page of Google.
What Works Best Will Depend on Your Goals
SEO and PPC can be very effective marketing strategies. This is especially true in the world of healthcare marketing, where rich audience targeting and well-optimized content can deliver serious end results. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. While the majority of the organizations we work with employ a combination of SEO and PPC, there are many where the only one makes business sense.
That’s why it’s important to first understand how each tactic works – the basic definitions and the most relevant use cases – before you hate either. . From there, you can develop the kind of sustainable strategy that can achieve both short-term and long-term business goals. Of course, whichever combination of SEO and PPC you pursue, the most successful campaigns will be the ones that you continually review, re-evaluate, and optimize for.
Because, despite everything, SEO and PPC are still moving targets. Both are constantly evolving and are always subject to algorithm updates from the gods of Google.