It’s not an either-or, but a blend of SEO and PPC strategies that will yield the best outcomes for overall performance argues Tug’s Nick Beck.

As the world’s fastest-growing internet market, APAC is becoming a huge test market for global platforms. The recent digital boom sparked by the global lockdown has only increased opportunities in APAC, with regional appetite for online media in overdrive. But when it comes to using and developing new solutions, APAC marketers have traditionally been behind in their approach compared to their peers in the US and UK, and many are still unsure which strategy they should be following to harness the increase in activity.

With web traffic spiking as never before, the obvious route is search advertising; especially given that nearly 60% of consumers in APAC are now also browsing and buying more online. But there’s an ongoing debate about whether the greatest outcomes lie with search engine optimisation (SEO) or pay per click (PPC).

A key part of the problem is that there’s no clear winner. SEO delivers big gains for relatively small investment; driving higher click-through rates (CTRs) and long-term brand awareness. But its organic nature means results take longer and may not be enough to beat leading digital marketplaces on certain keywords. On the flip side, PPC offers a faster way to get in front of target audiences and fuel interaction, with the downsides of potentially high costs for larger campaigns and lead generation that comes to an end when spending stops.

Instead of trying to split the difference, the most effective solution for marketers is to leave the SEO versus PPC mindset behind and use a blend of both. While amalgamation can be challenging, the outcomes are more than worthwhile; with the two methods offsetting each other’s drawbacks and generating higher overall performance.

There are several steps marketers can take to make unification easier:

1. Removing silos to unveil hidden insight

Simple as it sounds, the best road to boosting shared search strength starts with breaking down barriers. Because SEO and PPC have always been seen as separate elements of search, operations typically run in isolation; and that means essential information about how consumers behave and respond to certain techniques isn’t shared across teams.

For marketers, this not only limits wider understanding of search activity but also makes it difficult to identify where efforts should be focused to capture maximum eyeballs and outshine competitors; particularly when it comes to opting for SEO or PPC. Using the two approaches as effectively as possible therefore calls for a different, more cooperative tack.

By building closer ties between departments and encouraging them to exchange learnings, marketers can unlock crucial insights that drive faster and smarter decisions for both sides of search. For example, regular updates around the most successful PPC keywords and ad copy can significantly enhance SEO targeting; with insight into engagement, conversions, and site visits also helping to pinpoint what works for specific audiences, and what doesn’t. Meanwhile, knowing where SEO has performed well — especially when optimised for PPC quality scores — will also provide valuable information for steering future PPC efforts.

2. Achieving that ‘all-knowing’ feeling

Opening the lines of communication is one thing but ensuring continuous information flow is another. So, it follows that stage two is harnessing automated technology that can connect data from SEO and PPC campaigns via one holistic dashboard. The added benefit being that, in addition to enabling smooth collaboration, integrated data will pave the way for consistent increases in search precision and performance.

With a complete view of overall search efforts, marketers can better spot when to dial up or reduce spend for optimised returns. What’s more, they’ll also have insight into relevant Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS), and which opportunities best align with their current needs and objectives. That is, as long as they choose their platform wisely.

No matter how advanced they might be, platforms won’t deliver much value if users can’t access the data they need. As a result, technology must be picked for its accuracy and accessibility, alongside orchestration ability. In particular, prioritising user-friendly visualisation makes a sizeable difference to everyday efficiency: by allowing users to easily locate consolidated search insight, simple visuals can fuel rapid response; be that leveraging new SERPS, adjusting to changing traffic patterns, or utilising keywords with high conversion rates.

3. Keeping the best of human expertise

Last up is the importance of remembering that technology doesn’t necessarily have all the answers. Artificially intelligent platforms (AI) bring many advantages; giving marketers greater ability to organise data and put it to effective use. In fact, the most sophisticated can even analyse SEO campaigns across multiple markets, sectors and categories, and trigger alerts that inform PPC teams of competitor bids in real-time. But marketers mustn’t make the mistake of assuming that smart functionality is enough to guarantee results on its own.

Ultimately, technology should always be supported by people. This is especially true in areas such as search where machines can overlook the nuances human brains notice. For instance, an algorithm programmed to identify the fastest way to drive clicks might put forward a generic ad, whereas experienced search experts may recognise that serving a different creative will be more likely to spark personal resonance and build lasting loyalty. By combining AI-powered technology with continuous manual reviews, marketers can make sure campaigns stay on the right track.

With SEO and PPC long-considered mutually exclusive, it’s not hard to see why marketers are still weighing up the pros and cons. But this misguided perception is holding them back from vast collective rewards. Together, these two complementary aspects of search can harness a range of queries from the top of the funnel right down to the long tail.

It’s time for marketers to move on from thinking in silos and start using the optimal blend of SEO and PPC.