When that reality was, though, was a matter of extreme debate ~ Iliad & Odyssey

The idea of Paid Search and SEO being one, has been debated for years. Paid search is pay per click (PPC) traffic that is not free. You have to pay a cost dictated by Amazon, Microsoft Ads, Google, Oath. SEO is free search engine optimized organic traffic, think Yahoo, Google and Bing here in the states. Referencing Wikipedia, “Webmasters and content providers began optimizing websites for search engines in the mid-1990’s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early web”. Following close behind, Wikipedia states, “there are several sites that claim to be the first ppc model on the web, with many appearing in the mid-1990s”. 

Debates surrounding organic search and paid have been going on since the 90s, this is clear. What is not clear is just how indistinguishable the two are. Google, launched in 1998, AdWords (now google ads) in 2000, how did this impact how advertisers’ market worldwide? Native advertising has been defined into 6 formats by the IAB, as a form of paid advertising, placed there to be indistinguishable from the content on the page, why? Content is king, disrupted more recently with fake news. Seamless cross channel amplification here in 2018, now includes voice, AI, search bots and in-market cross channel segments.

My Question To You

What is the difference between referral, ppc, display, organic, direct, and social? Is it personalization? A quick Google search states, and I quote, “Personalization is a means of meeting the customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction”.

Organic and Paid Search As One

Mitch Larson industry expert and friend at a top global agency told me more recently that, “I am having a hard time not thinking about organic and paid search as one. Not having an integrated strategy here has been a pain point for me”. A year and some change ago, I felt the same, reinforced after coming back from PPC Hero’s Austin conference and seeing Frederick Valley’s presentation.  (He asked Alexa to optimize all of his advertising accounts, Alexa with a smile, reported back with what she had already done). Since this conversation occurred between Mitch and I, Google went ahead and did some crazy things.

Some of the Crazy Things:

  • Smart bidding with conversion action sets at the campaign-level
  • Local shopping campaigns & gallery ads
  • Google patented search behavior
  • Google patented user intent
  • Search has adjusted from answering questions to answering Intent
  • Cross account optimization and a new U.I.
  • Expanded on variations across match types
life insurance paid search

Consider The Crazy

Things you want to consider that I agree with, per Mitch, “is companies large and small have departments working in a silos”, these departments do not have skill sets that cross disciplines. From my experience across matrix organizations you would be hard pressed to get them all in a room together on a regular basis. Furthermore, to add salt to a wound, large brands have been and continue defend brand with paid search. Knowing that you have to defend your brand, or a brand is a good target for customers. You have to make adjustments to your bids because a: as a brand your competition is out bidding your bad ads or b: you as a non-brand business are not as relevant even with a good ad. Either way driving up cost incrementally. The good news is that brands recognize a user experience is channel agnostic, when intent is in play, I need to defend my brand. The bad news is that a generic search for say life insurance sampled above, this time thanks to HealthIq.com and Getethos.Com, is the reason why bids continue to increase. Add on universal Attribution Woes, were brands like Farmers are close to solving for the walled garden, yet so far away from a comprehensive marketing strategy that aids in the bidding decision.

Advertisers Have No Answer

Still we open the door per Mitch’s questions, “Why are paid search marketers bidding on keywords that we are ranking very well for? and Can you quantify the results that having an ad in place where organic dominates decreases or increases your ability to convert?”. 

Back to my debate with Mitch, I said, “if strategy is no longer about building an ad, or paying for a keyword in a key wordless world”, Amazon is trying to bring back to life by the way, “that we should start to think of paid and organic as one.”   This is my opinion; and surely all methods of organic do apply to paid search across all channels. Data points from smartinsights.com suggest, “in 2017 46.8% of the global population accessed the internet and by 2021 this figure is projected to grow to 53.7%.” This is important for one reason alone, the data does not distinguish between paid activity and or organic, just an individual generic search itself, from accessing the web (It does not distinguish how the search occurred). Further supporting the idea that we should move away from distinguishing paid advertising and organic, SEMrush, “found that the number of direct websites visits to your site positively impact our organic SERPs position.” The math suggests from Martech.Zone that 39% of all global traffic, 35% from organic and 4% is from paid search. Leaving 61% of users going directly to a site, when one interacts online. Keep in mind there is very little public data about voice search. All this stated here means that the focus clearly has to be on quality.

The engines reward our sites at the end of the day based on quality. Quality theoretically is driven by user’s engagement with your site, direct traffic likely being a significant factor, less all other things like content, bounce rate, pages per session or interactions in general. Interestingly enough why is it that paid search focuses so much on content curation and how that is delivered. Isn’t this the idea of organic? BethKanter.Org defines content curation as, “the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves, sifting sorting, arranging, and publishing information.”

seo and paid search query

Finally, thanks to the Farmers digital team for the sample. If you are not paying attention, or an advertiser having never seen Google Ads. You will click through the first thing you see which is an ad. The engines in parity partnership have been moving at an inconspicuous speed to make both Microsoft ads and Google Ads as indistinguishable to organic listings. 

In conclusion we can talk about a key-wordless future, voice, mobile, AI, bots, dynamic, native, responsive, css, html, flat, responsive ways for a user to interact with your advertising. Each goes a mile deep and requires a unique skill set, how about we stay a mile wide as an industry and start to focus our strategy on what is advertising generally. This starts with the consumer, turns into a query “paid or organic”, and ends with the consumer.