Team Enablement

Paid and Organic Search Practices Shouldn’t Be Housed Together, So Stop Trying to Force It!

Our guest post is , the Head of Organic Search for Deluxe, E-Business.

For as long as I can remember, there’s been a constant push to consolidate paid and organic search practices.  And at a high-level, the logic makes sense.  Both paid and organic search have similar expectations:

  • Driving traffic and conversion from search engine results pages
  • Ensuring efficiencies are met across the keyword spectrum

However, I completely disagree with the notion that organic and paid search should be grouped together as a department.  Now before I start explaining myself, let me just say that I can’t stress enough the importance of paid and organic search working together to maximize ROI.  However, I could make the argument that all departments should be working together in this manner, so in an ideal world, there would be no silos of practice housing.

The reason why I feel strongly about not consolidating paid and organic search is simple: Paid search is advertising and organic search is not.

The reason why I feel strongly about not consolidating paid and organic search is simple—paid search is advertising and organic search isn’t.  Sure, SEO done correctly should result in a positive marketing effect, but so should user-experience and good creative.

Whether you’re on the client or agency side of the business, I believe there is an appropriate structure that can maximize your paid and organic search efficiencies.  SEO should be a stand-alone service that provides strategic direction to all areas of the organization.  And PPC should be combined with other media services (e.g., affiliate, display, retargeting) to ensure that media efforts, budget and spend are synergized.

ppc + seo
Given the organizational model shown above, responsibility for driving traffic and revenue from the organic search channel becomes a shared responsibility across practices areas.  This increases optimization accountability across creative, tech, U/X, I/A, and content strategy thus making each practice a stakeholder in the level of implementation recommended by the SEO team.

However[…] I can’t stress enough the importance of paid and organic search working together to maximize ROI

This means that the DNA of your organization will change in such a way that SEO will naturally be infused within each process and project.  And you shouldn’t hear the dreaded, “I’m sorry we don’t have the budget or time for that.”
Finally, Google and Bing continue to move towards the semantic model.  In the not-too-distant future, organic search will be about informing search engines how your products, services, and information relate to each other and the world.  This is why it’s important that you’re operationalized in a way that future proofs your ability to be agile.
Sure, you will continue to see many agencies and some client-side centers of excellence conform to the popular thought that organic and paid search practices should be consolidated.  However, they will find themselves regularly constrained by lack of budget and buy-in within the enterprise.  Organizations that will succeed will be the ones who take the road less traveled and adopt a model that allows both practices to flourish.

And to all the readers of this article, may you, your business and success live long and prosper.

Please note: All guest posts are the opinion of the author and may not be reflective of the views of Conductor.

7 Responses to Paid and Organic Search Practices Shouldn’t Be Housed Together, So Stop Trying to Force It!

  1. Adam Dince says:

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks for the feedback :). I tried to respond your message but for some reason the comment box was cutting off. I agree with you and didn’t mean to oversimplify PPC at all.

    However, in my experience, PPC seems to be a much better fit within media. Where as SEO doesn’t. it would be great to have all departments/practices under one umbrella and kudos to those of you who are doing it.


  2. Christopher Regan says:

    Thank you, but I think here you’re stretching a bit…before the holidays….Or, don’t thin your usually thick gravy?

  3. Ryan Jons says:

    100% disagree.

    Same research. Same medium. Same audience. Same format. Same product. Same metrics. Same competitors. Same goal. Also work way better when coordinated and looked at as a whole rather than 2 silos.

    If you’re treating paid search like it’s a TV or radio buy, you’re fundamentally doing it wrong to start with.

    • Adam Dince says:

      You are responding as though I said that PPC and SEO shouldn’t work together. And that’s not what I said. I said that they should be coordinated (e.g., share data, keywords, etc…).

      That doesn’t mean they should be housed together. I’ve worked in both full-service digital agencies and enterprise clients, and I’ve seen this work out swimmingly first hand.

      • Ryan Jones says:

        so I’ve worked at large agencies where SEO & PPC were done in the same place, and where they’ve been done differently. I’ve had a number of experiences with several large vendors and big name agencies.

        what I’ve found is, everybody talks about synergy but the company divides prevent it from happening. different agencies/vendors means they’re evaluated individually by the client, never together. When that happens, there’s always incentives to not work together.

        Hypothetical: data says don’t bid on a certain term because paid is heavily cannibalizing SEO. Paid realizes that term has a huge conversion rate (perhaps the term is or something) The data says if we remove the ad, we’ll get the same traffic. (maybe nobody else is advertising and SEO ranks 1,2, and 3) But the paid agency is measured on conversion rates, and removing it will only help SEO while lowering the overall paid conversion rate. They’ll get less money from the client.

        Guess what decision many companies will make?

        Under same roof, when agency billing isn’t as big a factor, different decision gets made.

        I’ve seen this type of decision making in several large agencies that i won’t name.

        • Adam Dince says:


          I’ve experienced that too. You’re getting in to a whole other discussion of sword fighting :). Synergy stops once the SOW is signed and the invoices start going out. Even when you have both SEO & PPC as one department. The fault is on agency leadership looking to maximize revenue and not looking out for what’s best for the client.

          You also bring up another interesting topic of cannibalization theories.


    • I think Adam has covered off the important point between PPC and SEO in his comment – they are related.

      But for much that is the same there are also huge differences. Different mechanisms for success. Different ways of measuring ROI (the metrics are not the same – where’s the bid price in organic). Necessarily different approaches to testing. And massively different skill sets required for the two.

      Particularly when it comes to keyword research and ad copy effectiveness (especially headlines, which can be tested in paid search and carried over to titles in organic search) there’s many connections. And – ironically in the context of this discussion – an ongoing and baffling failure of SEO and PPC not sharing important data. Just because because they are “housed together” doesn’t mean that they work that closeness to to their mutual benefit.

      But, really, at the end of the day – and especially in enterprise environments – PPC is about bid management, direct ROI calculations and bean counting in general, and this is what is shares with display advertising and affiliate marketing.