Blogging for Organic Visibility vs PPC Campaigns

Dec 7, 2009   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Uncategorized  //  No Comments

Acording to James Lamberti of comScore, AOL gets the highest percentage of paid clicks at 24%, followed by Google at 13%, Yahoo at 11%, and MSN at 8%.

I have always advised clients to balance their organic search strategies with PPC campaigns. I never had any data on the subject and I hadn’treally given much thought to the question of balance until recently.

My general advice on this subject reveals my hunch that the sum of reaching the two parts of search results (organic and paid) is greater than top visibility in either section separately. I believe that some folks are more inclined to select


PPC ads because they see the same domain represented in high organic positioning and vice-versa. Perhaps this increases trust or it’s just a Blink-like reaction. I haven’t found much research on this subject, but I’ll bet it’s important. I’ve also seen data (in passing) that indicate organic results are 80% more likely to attract a click than PPC ads; this is a generalization of course – there are many search engines and many PPC systems. If this is even slightly the case, anyone that performs an ROI calculation for PPC versus blogging/long-tail organic results is likely to be missing this very important factor.

Imagine you were trying to decide where to spend your online marketing budget – do you spend 100% of it on a PPC campaign (arguably predictable, more measurable, and guaranteed) or do you balance it with alternative SEO expenditures to create organic results. Marketing decisions rarely involve a choice between just two methods so my assertions are far from advanced or scientific. However, each approach provides search engine visibility that appeal to [ostensibly] two different types of users; those that are more inclined to select PPC links or those that are inclined to trust organic links.

One mistake that we often make when making decisions based on data is failing to see the hidden side of that data; Levitt and Dubner provided insight into these common mistakes in the book Freakonomics (The Hidden Side of Everything). I suspect there are some hidden elements in the analysis at hand – one that interests me most is the known attraction advantage that organic results have over AdWords and other PPC link systems.

One thing seems clear though – the attraction advantage is real and clearly weighted in the organic column. Acording to James Lamberti of comScore, AOL gets the highest percentage of paid clicks at 24%, followed by Google at 13%, Yahoo at 11%, and MSN at 8%. From this basic data, a high ranking for any given query in Google is worth roughly four times that of a visible AdWord link for the same query. Stated another way –

You have to show four PPC links to create click-through opportunities equal to one organic ranking.

But is this really true? There are easily ten organic things that users can choose from when your content appears in a high organic SERP. How many PPC ads might be visible? This is not easily determined, but it’s safe to say that popular terms (i.e., short-tail terms) are likely to have dozens of companies competing for dominance in the right column. On the other hand, long-tail terms elicit very little activity in the right column. So at the very least, we have a couple of fuzzy issues to consider. But imagine that we could safely say there’s a balance – generally there are as many organic options as there are PPC options for any given search result. If true, the impact of this when determining how you spend your marketing budget is pretty straight forward – you’re well advised to spend dollars on both strategies.

Imagine though you could create tens of thousands of unique key phrases that rank organically high. Could you achieve the same in a PPC campaing? Probably not, and if you could, what would be the true cost of such a plan? Blogs tend to create tremendous visibility in the long-tail by helping authors focus on specific subjects for each post. Indeed, they are one of the best solutions to creating organic visbility. And for every way that your blog posts can be found (and are found), they are roughly four times more valuable than PPC equivalents.

At the heart of this rant is the question – “How do I determine the right balance?“. I suspect there are some clever mathematics gurus that could tell me the answer.


Leave a comment