Q&A: The Reality of Organic and Paid Search

Mar 06, 2018


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Grayson Kemper is senior content developer for Clutch, a B2B research and reviews firm based in Washington, DC. Clutch and Ignite Visibility published a joint research report titled "How Organic and Paid Search Inform SEO Strategy." The report examines trends and the state of SEO among U.S. businesses in 2018. I interviewed Kemper about the report’s findings and what it means for the future of SEO marketing.

Q: Your research found that only 19% of businesses that invest in SEO focus on paid search. Can you explain why this is, and what impact it has on the results of their SEO strategies?

A: Company size and revenue, I think, are big factors here. Smaller businesses are likely to have smaller marketing budgets, thus are more apt to invest in organic SEO efforts, particularly in-house.

Paid search is an effective search marketing technique, no doubt, but it has a built-in cost, which likely pushes a good deal of these smaller businesses away from investing in a comprehensive paid strategy.

Q: How should paid search figure into SEO strategies?

A: Ideally, paid search should be part of every overall search engine marketing strategy, along with SEO. Paid search campaigns not only provide brand exposure through search, but can also provide a great deal of insight into how an organic SEO strategy should be formulated.

For example, if you notice that one keyword is performing particularly well in a paid search campaign (increased traffic, conversions), you can tailor your organic efforts to mirror that success.

Q: You say 94% of businesses that invest in SEO also invest in social media--and that more companies will prioritize social media marketing (20%) than any other SEO service over the next 12 months. Do you think Facebook's announcement about its algorithm changes will impact this strategy?

A: This is an excellent question. I think the answer has to be yes. If users do not want to see branded posts, they essentially don’t have to now. Even before the announcement, achieving meaningful organic exposure on Facebook was incredibly challenging.

While social media will still be relevant to SEO in terms of the potential a post has to appear on search results, every business should critically analyze Facebook’s algorithm changes and adjust accordingly. This may mean shifting focus away from Facebook toward Twitter and Linkedin.

Regardless, it’s certainly something that any company that considers social media marketing as part of their digital marketing or SEO strategy needs to be aware of.

Q: Were there any other findings from the study that stood out to you?

A: One thing that stuck out to me, in particular, is the degree to which companies are responding to shifting consumer buying behavior.

Consumers now are increasingly doing brand research via mobile and are more informed than ever about products and services they are considering purchasing. They read company blogs, peruse social media, and even take user experience of a company’s website into consideration before converting on a purchase.

I think it’s encouraging to see that many businesses recognize these consumer habits, and are in turn investing in SEO-specific efforts like creating content and mobile search optimization.

Q: Can you tell us what, in your opinion, a well-rounded SEO strategy should look like?

A: A well-rounded SEO strategy, in my opinion, is very holistic. It involves a combination of paid search and organic SEO services. In addition, it involves a well-educated in-house team and an expert partner, if you can afford it.

Your in-house team is the key here. Even if they don’t possess any in-depth technical knowledge on how to implement SEO best practices, understanding what those best practices allows them to have intelligent discussions about how to approach SEO, whether it be through investing in SEO software, experimenting with a paid search campaign via AdWords, or bringing on an expert partner.

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