Battlefield Google: The Great War of SEO vs. SEM

I recently read the article “The War on Free Clicks” published by WordStream, which after reading invoked feelings of panic and fear that my chosen specialty in SEO would soon be obsolete, and that everything I believed to be true about search engine marketing was incorrect. Before you begin panicking just as I did, you should know that this isn’t how the story ends. Search engine optimization isn’t going anywhere, and in fact it’s more important than ever to rank organically (non-paid search results) as search engine optimization continues to expand.

The study reports that the sponsored results on Google made up for two-thirds of clicks for high intent commercial keyword searches. In other words, searchers that were ready to buy favored the paid ads versus the organic results. On the offense was the sponsored ads camp, taking over space on Google results pages with engaging ad copy and pushing organic listings below the fold. This invasion only added insult to injury after Google’s recent updates to control SEO spam and search privacy made it harder for honest companies to rank for organic listings.  In case you haven’t noticed, here’s proof that PPC invaded organic listing territory:


When I overcame my initial panic, I’ll admit that I started preparing for an epic battle, Braveheart style. Before things could go down, I did more research to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses, only to realize there is no battle after all. SEO and PPC are not, nor will ever be replacements for each other. They both have their places on search engine results pages, and can deliver impressive results when working together.

When it comes to the buyer’s cycle, organic (non-paid) and paid search marketing go hand in hand as they serve individuals best at different points in the search funnel and when used together, deliver a greater number of traffic, and thus conversions. Studies show that organic results have a better click through rate for searches that are informational, local, and almost ready to buy. So, organic listings best serve searchers that aren’t quite ready to buy but are actively looking. According to new research, 90% of searchers at this stage specifically click on organic listings, and 87% of those searches in the auto industry clicked on listings in the top 3 positions. Just imagine for a moment what that kind of website traffic could mean for your business.

PPC vs organic clicks

The key is to capture these visitors while they’re actively looking, so they’re more likely to buy from you than your competitor who ranks in the organic listings. Google released a study stating that 63% of new vehicle purchasers start their search with a particular brand in mind, yet only 20% actually buy the vehicle they first researched. Undoubtedly, auto shoppers are turning to multiple screens to research during their car shopping process, and dealerships with organic listings for these searches capture them early on. Additionally, while on the lot, 51% of non-brand loyal shoppers take pictures through mobile devices, 49% check reviews, and 44% search for comparisons. These people are really doing their homework, and if your business doesn’t appear in organic listings during their process it will severely cost you.

And if you think the deal is done the minute a customer rides off into the sunset in their shiny new car, you’re wrong. This is when brand loyalty (and the next sale) begins. SEO is incredibly important to your dealership before, during, and after customers are actively shopping for their next vehicle. And you better believe the dealers that appear in Google search results and assist the shopper during their research could be walking away with your customers. You see, it’s all about connecting with the customer in the moments that matter.

You can read the full article mentioned in this post on the WordStream Site: “The War on ‘Free’ Clicks” written by Larry Kim.


More Posts

DrivenIQ Podcast with Rob Mudd and Phil Sura

Albert Thompson with Digital Data Cafe chats with Rob Mudd and Phil Sura about who Mudd Advertising is, their plans for 2022, and Mudd’s new Omnichannel Advertising platform MuddVision. 

Send Us A Message