Is there a Conflict between SEO and SEM at the Agency Level?

A post on the directory talks about the potential conflicts between SEO’s (optimizing for “organic” search results) and Paid Listing Ad (PPC) agencies. Although I don’t agree with everything in the post, it does a good job at explaining why it’s important to have an integrated SEO and Paid Listing campaign in order to maximize ROI from search marketing . 

Here’s the post –

A client, an ad agency was conducting a $100k per month pay per click campaign for their client which they received a generous commission fee on a percentage basis. That fee collected over months and months was a substantial form of revenue for the agency. Any competing form of online promotion could disrupt that flow of revenue. When SEO was brought into the picture, the agency put a small, insignificant amount of investment into the project. I took the project on knowing that this probably was not a completely sincere intention, yet the agency had other clients where the revenue source wouldn’t be affected. Lots of potential there for business, however I discovered that this situation can only lead to frustration.

Since SEO and the free ongoing traffic it generates will always be a threat, it is more likely to be degraded and hidden. An agency will protect their bread and butter. If the client can get their traffic and revenue for free, and avoid $3 to $12 per click and $1200 per conversion, they will rightfully cut the PPC spend. As ppc bid prices rise, the pressure to find alternatives will mount. And there is a lot of money going into adwords advertising. Every quarter, Google breaks new profit records. Businesses seem to be willing to pay the ante to play the game, but they’re not aware of how organic campaigns can generate better results. That information needs to be dispersed to web site owners.

Ad agencies will have to adjust to this new sphere. Bringing SEO in-house will not be the panacea. Ad agencies need to work with specialist SEO consultants honestly and directly. There is a way for the agency to make money from SEO services. It comes from acknowledging the value of our work to their clients and getting the clients to realize the value in SEO.

Most SEO providers experience this conflict in their client relations, yet SEO consultants must remain clearly on the side of creating quality organic listings. The traffic is higher potentially and it is low cost. One of my clients spends more than $20k per month and another almost that amount, on PPC spending and at this point, it generates the same volume of traffic as the organic sources. It makes sense that an SEO would want to divert that revenue into organic campaigns and optimization projects. Most clients too, would rightfully want that if they knew. This particular agency had enormous client relationship problems because the client knew they weren’t getting the best value. I’m not saying they were getting ripped off, since the PPC investment was working for them. Clearly, however, as their web site grew in the organic rankings, the PPC spend was threatened.

SEO Benefits
Online ad agencies struggle with this issue everyday. How do you generate the same profit from organic search engine optimization when it requires a lot more effort, expertise, and expense to produce high rankings and organic traffic? How do you sell the possible disruption on a web site to clients, in order to make it rank well? It’s a lot easier to throw up a brochure site with a few catch phrases and graphics and bid on some AdWords advertising.
Part of the problem can be solved by valuating search engine optimization services more highly. SEO is grossly underpriced. In my situation, clients are paying 4 times as much for PPC clickthroughs as for organic clickthroughs. Studies show that people click on organic listings in the results pages, even though the space given to text ads is almost pushing them off the screen. Text ads still aren’t precisely targeted either. Why should they be? If they’re poorly targeted, it creates more clicks and more revenue for the search engines.

Organic rankings don’t suffer that problem. If the person isn’t interested, you’re not out much.

Another solution is to create new web sites to cover specific facets of a product or service. This ensures funds will be invested in SEO, thus creating an opportunity for SEO to generate sales leads and revenue. Many companies stick to one web site when they should have 4 or 5. A single site is under tremendous pressure to perform. Putting all your eggs in one basket is not good risk management strategy since competitors will find it easier to beat your one site, and Google could alter its algorithm overnight resulting in a loss of half of your traffic. Not a likely scenario, but it does happen.

As web site advertisers learn more about the relative performance of PPC versus organic optimization, they will invest more in organic campaigns. There is still resistance to moving the funds to organic, but the cost pressures are inevitable and ad agencies will have to embrace SEO and treat it with respect. Due to client confidentiality agreements, performance from SEO is not often reported, therefore the general online business community won’t understand fully why SEO is so important not just from a cost perspective but in terms of quality of leads.

Get the word out that organic search engine optimization is the single best form of marketing available since it creates brand awareness and new customers and lets customers find your site in a natural, unforced way. But don’t think cheap. Think powerful.

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eVision is a full service online marketing company with PPC specialists and SEO’s. For most clients we run integrated online marketing campaigns including both SEO and paid listings. For more information about how we can help, see our online marketing overview