Are You Getting More Out Of Paid Search Than From SEO?

    August 25, 2013
    Chris Crum

As you’ve probably found out, getting your content seen in Google’s organic listings is not as easy as it used to be. It’s no wonder that businesses are getting more out of paid listings than they are organic search traffic.

is this the case for your business or do you get more out of organic SEO? Let us know in the comments.

Google has launched a new Paid & Organic report in AdWords aimed at helping businesses get more out of their paid and organic search campaigns by offering new comparison options.

“Previously, most search reports showed paid and organic performance separately, without any insights on user behavior when they overlap,” says AdWords product manager Dan Friedman. “The new paid & organic report is the first to let you see and compare your performance for a query when you have either an ad, an organic listing, or both appearing on the search results page.”

Google suggests using the report to discover potential keywords to add to your AdWords accounts by looking for queries where you only appear in organic search with no associated ads, as well as for optimizing your presence on high value queries and measuring changes to bids, budgets, or keywords and their impact across paid, organic and combined traffic.

Paid & Organic Report

Image: Google

Digital marketing firm IMPAQT was part of the beta testing, and says, “The paid & organic report has been incredibly useful in understanding the interaction between paid and organic search, and the overall synergy when they are working together. For one of our client’s key branded queries, we saw an 18% increase in CTR when paid and organic work together, as opposed to only having the organic listing.”

It’s worth noting that Google itself shared this quote.

To take advantage of the Paid & Organic report, you have to link your AdWords account to Webmaster Tools, and you have to be a verified owner or be granted access by one.

MarketLive has put out a report finding that its merchants saw “significant changes” in the mix of paid/organic traffic. Paid search visits made up about a third of total search engine visits (up from 26% the previous year), while revenue from paid search grew to 44% of total search engine visit revenue (up from 40% in 2012). Interestingly, search visit growth altogether slowed in the first six months of the year, but paid was up 30% while organic was down 3%.

Paid/Organic Search Traffic

Image: Marketlive

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of conversions, order size, new visits, bounce rate and pages per visit. As you can see, paid performs better across the board, except for new visits, which makes sense if you consider brand familiarity.

Marketlive: Paid vs. Organic

Image: Marketlive

The report delves into performance across verticals, device comparisons and more, if you want to check it out (registration required).

This is only one study, of course, but the signs are pointing to businesses getting more out of paid search than out of organic search. While Google’s new report feature could help both, it certainly seems geared toward using what you learn from your organic performance to put toward your paid campaigns. And again, Google certainly isn’t making things any easier for those trying to be found in organic results.

For one thing, Google results simply have a lot more types of results than they used to, and on many pages, that means less traditional organic results. For another thing, people are afraid to link out, and to have links pointing toward them, which surely can’t be a great thing for traditional SEO, considering that Google’s algorithm (while including over 200 signals) has historically placed a great deal of its confidence in legitimate linking.

Between webmaster paranoia, Google’s somewhat mixed messaging and ongoing “advice,” and its ever-changing algorithms, many businesses are finding out the hard way that relying too heavily on organic search is just detrimental. Paid search is less risky. It’s also how Google makes the bulk of its money.

The AdWords department lost some trust points this week, however, when an account manager’s accidental voice mail recording gained some attention. Basically, he expressed his distaste that the client had upgraded to Google’s Enhanced Campaigns without consulting him, that he would now have to pitch call extensions and site links. He also noted that he didn’t care about bridge pages or parked domains.

As Ginny Marvin at Search Engine Land writes, the implications of that are that AdWords account reps are paid to upsell new products/services that may or may not be in clients’ best interests, an account rep was willing to ignore a breach of Google’s own policies, and that AdWords account managers are “sales people first and foremost.”

Google indicated that this person was not an actual Google employee, but a contractor, and that they had already removed them from the AdWords team, but as Marvin points out, it’s unclear whether this is potentially a bigger issue or if this one person’s attitude is just a rare case. Either way, it hasn’t been great for advertiser perception.

But what are you gonna do?

Obviously, when it comes to paid and organic search, the idea is to get them to work together. It’s not necessarily an “either or” situation, but there is always a question of how to balance your resources.

Do you get better performance from paid search or organic SEO? Let us know in the comments.