A lot of people write about the difference between SEO and PPC, and how pay per click advertising can come in to strategically boost traffic. When a previous SEO’s efforts have run amok because of shady tactics, PPC can keep a business running while Penguin and Panda recovery efforts are advanced. Nonetheless, the two strategies are often framed in opposition, as if PPC vs. SEO were a championship fight with an ultimate winner.
Metrics driven agencies have long realized that the ideal client is knowledgeable about the importance of both SEO and PPC. Clients who are open to trying a hybrid strategy to build traffic over time can often move faster than their competitors on the web. But linking PPC and SEO together can also create great things on the agency’s side as well. Recently I have been talking a lot about breaking down silos, and fully integrating teamwork across departments. Having your PPC team do keyword research and build natural language terms without having your SEO team gain from that knowledge is simply a waste of time.
Beyond the no-brainer combination of the two channels, there is a more complex relationship between PPC and SEO, one that Google is reluctant to confirm or deny. There is supposedly no connection between a paid AdWords placement and Google’s organic rankings—admitting otherwise would be like saying the game of search engine results is rigged. However, I recently experienced a case where it appears that there is a deeper synergy.
A travel industry client created a fully-fledged booking site that was part of a larger portfolio of brands. Though other sites in the portfolio were indexed and had historically performed well in organic search, this particular brand had not been launched. It hadn’t been announced to the public in any way. There were no inbound links or sitemap, though crawling was allowed in robots.txt. I launched PPC campaigns to a specific targeted audience in mid-August, which continued throughout the fall. PPC remained the only promotion of the site, with no efforts made to announce or publicize the brand. The booking site existed as a PPC microsite as the parent company focused most of their attention on other brands.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
On October 23, Google crawled the site, indexing 135 pages. Thereafter the site began ranking for brand terms, as well as other relevant competitive terms. The only source of traffic at that point was PPC, and direct returning visitors.
I saw the organic traffic begin and thought little of it. Someone must have linked to the site, submitted a sitemap, or shared it on social somewhere—but no. After a lot of digging, I found only a single, no-followed link to the site which was an image credit from a low credibility, low traffic blog.
The only other information relating to the brand terms or site URL that was indexed were on scraper sites like SpyFu which aggregated PPC campaign data but did not link back. So while the full URL was mentioned in the text on the page, there was no actual link returning to the site. It could be that the booking site was crawled after citations scraped from PPC ads appeared on indexed sites, but it is impossible to tell if that is the case.
In the months that followed, organic search traffic increased, as visitors returning to complete bookings started clicking on organic results for brand terms. Competitive non-brand search terms and long-tail keywords also gained impressions and rose in placement, still with no external links. The only measure of relevancy Google could glean other than AdWords-driven Google Analytics data was contextual references.
Top 3 Takeaways
- If you are driving traffic to a PPC landing page, make sure it is tagged for noindex, nofollow or there remains a possibility that it will become indexed. This is doubly true if your landing pages are on an indexed domain with non-PPC content which could automatically add your pages to a sitemap.
- This case could be a serious indication that the importance of citations is on the rise. Even if PPC was not the factor that caused the crawl, the citations from over 20 AdWords competitive keyword research sites were indexed.
- If you are launching a new site and want to gain traction fast, it may be advantageous to run PPC to accelerate the process, to compliment SEO as well as the increased visits.
Have you had similar experiences with PPC-only sites in the past? Let us know in the comments!