Thursday, September 21, 2006

PPC Dominance, Organic Dominance - Enviable Position or Point of Confusion?

Can you be so good at PPC that it hurts your organic traffic? Can you be too good at optimizing your site to get enough clicks on your paid ads? Which is better, someone clicking on your paid ad or finding your site in the natural rankings? These are the questions I've been pondering over recently, and they are important questions to consider once your search campaign reaches a developed state - that is, if you have optimized both your presence Pay-Per-Click wise and organically to the point that you are floating in the top 1-3 for each. While accomplishing that sort of presence is a feat all in its own, a new set of questions arise atop the mountain.

In reality, there are benefits to be had both when your site brings in a visitor from the paid ads as well as organically. A visitor from PPC will be taken directly to a specific landing page, a landing page where you can manipulate the various aspects of your site to test and improve conversions. The user data collected from paid visitors is much more useful as far as improving your site for no other reason than the limitless opportunity you have to change the landing pages. You are, however, paying directly for each and every visitor. While I won't sit here and call organic traffic "free" like some people try to claim, an established organic campaign (top 3, 2 pages indexing) is much cheaper per visitor than even the best PPC campaigns. So every time a visitor makes their way to your site via the organic listing as opposed to your PPC ad, you're making more money. Each avenue of obtaining traffic, therefore, has its benefits over the other, so once you've optimized both to the point that the only person you are competing with is yourself, what's one to do?

Anyone reading this blog is undoubtedly too knowledgeable in the world of search to be able to understand how the average person conducts thier searches on Google or Yahoo. Most of them wouldn't know that those "Sponsored Links" are paid ads and the ones beneath them are the organic listings. I'm sure that some are more inclined to click on the ad "up in the blue" instead of those below. Some are the other way around. For me, then, the discussion is more of an analytical / theoretical one with respect to how to handle the situation of top placement in both PPC and organically for the same site. Scale back PPC? That would probably save some money. Of course people would be just as likely to click on whomever assumed the top position in the paid listings, so you'd lose too much by going this route. This would also hurt your overall Adwords or Overture campaign over time given that it would allow the competition to enjoy a higher CTR and goes against the whole point of driving CPC down by building up a rapport with Google or Overture. Scale back your organic campaign possibly then? Whether not this is even doable is up for debate given the nature of how pages are ranked, but losing organic rankings is never a good idea for any business model. Like PPC, it is also something that must be earned, must be established over time, and it is of course a source of "free" (at least cheap) traffic. Multi-million dollar businesses are made solely on organic rankings - why mess with it? Truly, scaling back either seems foolish.

So it looks like once you achieve the enviable position of top placement both PPC-wise and organically, the only thing that you can continue to work on is driving down the CPC of your paid ad and to work at solidfying your organic position (maybe even re-organize your site navigation to increase the likelihood of some snippet links). Perhaps devoting some attention to generating higher profits from the visitor once they have arrived to your site is another thing to begin focusing on. And while you would probably always desire for a searcher to choose to click on your organic listing as opposed to your paid ads money-wise, there are many irreplaceable benefits that a solid PPC campaign bring to any business so you might as well sit back and let people find their way to your site however they may so choose. Keep an eye on your competition, continue to strengthen both campaigns, and stop letting your mind wander about how to screw up a good situation.


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