I've been working on search engine technology since the 1980s, so there wasn't anything about organic search (SEO) that I did not pick up fairly quickly. But paid search (PPC) was another thing entirely. At first, I was flabbergasted that anyone would even want to click on a paid search result, but after a while I had to admit that those results weren't that bad. I even click on them, too. But over the years, paid search has changed a lot. In fact, I am starting to think that PPC has changed so much that you are better off approaching PPC the same way that you approach SEO. Let me explain.

Organic search has always been about creating the right content to appear for the right keyword. You need to know which keywords are the ones your customers use—that's always been the same in paid search, too.

But in the old days, that's where the similarity ended. What you did to get Web pages into the organic search index was completely different than what you did to insert your paid search ad—and it still is. And you still need to make a bid for what you pay for each click.

Bing trying to challenge Google

Image by michperu via Flickr

A lot has changed, however. Time was that it didn't make much difference how often your ad was clicked—if you bid enough, you could still be number one. No more. It once made no difference what was on your paid search landing page. Now it matters.

So, the same things you think about in SEO now apply to PPC. If your ad is not clicked very often, it is lowered in the rankings. Google also applies a quality score to your landing page, which also lowers your rankings if your page doesn't match your ad closely enough.

It makes sense for you to think about your paid search ad and your paid search landing page in a similar manner to the way you think about your organic search snippet and landing page. Your ad can't just be a call to action—it must be something that compels a click. It must be the answer to the searcher's question.

Similarly, an organic search landing page focuses on reinforcing to the searcher that this is the right place. This page or deeper pages have the information required. Paid search pages would do well to follow the same rules. You can't treat the ad or the landing page as just another marketing message to deliver any way you want. Because now the search engines judge those messages and make it a critical part of where your ad is shown.

If you've figured out how to put the searcher first in organic search, you can apply that same lesson for paid search. That's far more likely to pay off than increasing your bids.

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May 12, 2011

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


hey Mike... I like you idea of putting the searcher first... I think this is very important in all kinds of marketing ares...

"Your ad can't just be a call to action—it must be something that compels a click."

Excellent point! Just having an ad isn't going to do much for your site. It has to outshine the organic results and get targeted users interested in your company and product.

I have to admit I always shied away from PPC but I tried it for the first time a few weeks ago and I was really surprised with the results. I actually got quite a lot of traffic even for the small 1 month campaign I did to build brand awareness.

Excellent point Mike! Thank you so much for sharing the information about PPC, it was really helpful.

Looking forward to reading more great context from you.


Jason Braud

It's a big surprise to me that so many PPC advertisers don't use proper landing pages. It's like doing SEO and don't care about the headline and title..

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Why you should treat PPC like SEO