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Survey: natural vs. PPC search

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Saturday January 9, 2010 )

Some interesting results on a survey carried out with ten big box retailers regarding their spend on PPC keywords and resulting traffic vs. traffic from free listings; i.e. natural or organic search.

The survey was carried out by Conductor and found that as a group, the top ten big-box retailers spends approximately $678,000 per day on 1,217,966 keywords.

The retailers surveyed also manage 188% more paid than natural keywords, yet 66% of their visits come from natural clicks.

One of the most active companies was Target, averaging around 23 million search visits per month, with 53% natural to 47% paid on a daily spend of $247,000.

Imagine managing a budget of 247k a day. Ouch. One of the challenges of such big numbers is there’s a lot of waste. Big companies tend to go for the drunken-cowboy-with-a-shotgun approach, purely because they can afford to do so. The little guy needs to be more of a sniper :)

That issue aside, it certainly goes to show the power of being highly ranked in Google for organic/natural search – which can cost nothing except for your time.

Don’t get me wrong, PPC can be very productive – sometimes you’ll find a better quality of visitor from a PPC ad campaign – but it does take careful monitoring and a stack of tweaking. You can burn through a lot of cash while doing so.

For the little guy with a limited budget, where PPC can be very fruitful is when you’ve squeezed what you can from organic search in terms of traffic, leads and sales. Even if you haven’t obtained the no.1 position on your chosen keywords, if you’re tired of banging your head up against a brick wall in attempting to attain it, the additional traffic from PPC can provide you with extra sales you may not have received.

Having said that; it’s not advisable just to dive in, buy a bunch of keywords and then just direct those folks to your home page. Set up very focused landing pages and ensure you implement tracking to see if that traffic is converting. Search engines such as Google provide the tracking free of charge.

However, treat your “free” rankings as you would your PPC ones – it certainly pays to keep a list of your target keywords and monitor those at least on a weekly basis. For one site I work with, I monitor around 60 keywords and phrases. Running through the list regularly allows me to pick up on changes I may otherwise miss and to work with those changes – either to make the most of a sudden jump or to take action where rankings have dropped.

Learn more about Pay Per Click advertising

Pick up some search engine optimization tips.


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