Knowing what we now know about SEM, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that SEO is the way forward because organic traffic is “free” and passive.
This isn’t always the case. It depends on the keyword.
SEO sometimes works best. Other times, PPC works best. And sometimes, the best SEM strategy is to use SEO and PPC together.
Here’s a flowchart to help you decide between them:
How to decide between SEO, PPC, or both
Here are the three general rules:
SEO is best for informational keywords.
PPC is best for “hard to rank for” keywords.
PPC and SEO are best for ad-heavy keywords.
Let’s look at the reasons why.
SEO is the best SEM strategy for informational keywords
Keywords where people are looking to learn, not buy, are rarely good candidates for PPC.
This is because very few people will convert, so it’s hard to make a return on your investment.
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For example, take the keyword “how to eat more protein.” It gets 2.1K monthly searches and has a low average CPC of $1.40.
Average CPC for "how to eat more protein" via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
Although you could drive 100 clicks from this keyword for just $140, most of these people aren’t in the market for protein powder and are unlikely to buy. They just want to learn how to increase their protein intake.
How do we know? Look at the search results. They’re all blog posts.
The top-ranking results for "how to eat more protein" are all blog posts
But you might be wondering: If few of these searchers are likely to convert, what’s the point in using SEO to rank organically?
The answer is simple: The numbers are more likely to work, as SEO is often cheaper.
For example, there’s a post ranking in position #9 for this keyword that gets an estimated 566 monthly organic search visits. It has just one backlink and sits on a low-authority site with a Domain Rating (DR) of 41.