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Paid and Natural Search – Complimentary Mediums

I was recently asked the following question by a client: “If we are appearing in the Natural Search Engine Results, why should we we also be paying to appear in the Paid Search results for the same term?” In short, if they’re getting the clicks for free, why should they be paying for them as well?

However, I don’t think the answer is really that simple, as a truly effective search engine marketing campaign is not about Paid vs. Natural, rather its about understanding what makes each medium strong thereby playing to and understanding those strengths.

However for the sake of the issue at hand, my task was to explain the value of maintaining a paid search presence in the wake of appearing naturally as well. So below, is what I believe is strong case for why you should continue to go with a Paid Presence for terms that you also may be appearing naturally for.

    • Message Control
      With Paid Search, you have the ability to definitively control the message that is being communicated to the searcher on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). What I mean by this is that the message and copy that accompanies a Natural Result can be pulled from your meta data or page content. However, unless you have taken time to carefully craft you meta data, very often the message that is displayed is not a very solid marketing statement.Therefore, one must remember that even natural results have a click-through rate and while you might have a great position, if the accompanying description does not make sense, a user may look over it. Therefore, this is where a Paid Search result can supplement this problem, as you can easily craft a tight and cohesive message that says what you, NOT the search engine, want it to say.
    • Destination Control
      With Paid Search, you also have the ability to decide where you want to direct the user. However, the destination for a Natural Result for the same term is determined by the Search Engine’s algorithm, and while the engines are pretty smart when it comes to determining relevancy, their vision does not always match-up with yours.Therefore, with paid search you can decide exactly where the user will go and what they will see. Of course it must be relevant, but YOU have the ability to determine this.


    • Change Control
      With paid search, you also have the ability to change both your messaging and your destination, whenever you want to. Therefore, if you want change how your site is associated with a certain term; you can do this on both a Messaging and Destination level… all at a moment’s notice.However, with Natural SEO, your associated message and destination is pretty much fixed and does not necessarily change all that often. While you can update the description, you must wait until the page in question gets re-indexed and you are still relegated to the same destination, as that page is where the search engine has determined the most relevant content resides.


  • Dominating Page Real Estate
    Having both a paid and natural presence also enables you to maintain a more dominant presence on the Search Engine Result Page, which ensures that you will get maximum traction.Below is a heat map, which shows how and where people look at search results. As you will see there is huge amount of traction with both the paid and natural results. Therefore, if you are not in the paid results you are not necessarily garnering all of the available opportunity on the Search Engine Result Page.

Please do note that while it may sound like I am trying to discount the natural results, that is not the case at all. Natural results most always drive more traffic and getting top positions is the true benchmark of success when it comes to any SEO program. However, what I am trying to illustrate is the value that Paid Search results do have, even when you are also appearing naturally for the same term, as paid search offers a level of flexibility and control that you cannot get from Natural SEO.

In the end, this is not a case of one versus the other, but about illustrating how having a fully integrated SEM and SEO program can ensure that you can take advantage of all that is being afforded to you in the search environment and driving the optimal user experience for all facets of the page.

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