I was recently asked the question, "What is the connection between SEO and PPC?". The client asking was a little confused because SEO is supposed to be about getting organic rankings and PPC is supposed to be part of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and so paid rankings.
I had mentioned that we could use PPC to improve his organic rankings and it left him puzzled. So how does it work?
Back to basics
Stop to think for a moment. Google wants the websites it displays in its' top ten organic results for any given keywords to be the right ones. That means useful sites where internet users can find what they are looking for.
So Google's endless journey is to find the best ten websites in the world about "keyword X". And the best ten last year might not be the same as the best ten today.
The moment it starts to fail in this role users will try Bing or Yahoo or any of the other search engines out there. If they get more success with Bing there is a chance they will stay with Bing and Google's domination of internet search will decrease - along with advertising revenue, etc.
Perhaps your site or page is the next Google #1
So you've got a page that you want to rank for "Keyword X" and you can do link building, social bookmarking, etc. But if your page is genuinely good users will do this for you - if only they knew about it ...
Here is where PPC comes in. You create a campaign to get those users in and in your PPC settings you target Keyword X.
PPC creates links
Immediately this gives Google an insight into what users make of your page. If they love it then all the messing around with link building will be done by them. They will tweet it, post it on their Facebook page, talk about it on LindedIn, blog about it, and so on and so on into infinity.
It's important at this stage to keep on top of Google Analytics so you can refine your page if it is not performing well - especially with regards to bounce rate and average time on site.
It's also important that you are ready to swallow a bitter pill if it happens ... that users don't like your page. This is one of the hardest things for webmasters and authors to face but no matter how much your content is "just great" it is internet users who are the judge.
Let's for the moment however, assume things go well.
Google's reaction to your PPC campaign
Now Google, through its' own data, can see if users, after clicking your advert, respond positively. Bounce is one of the key indicators (but not the be all and end all), emerging links created by users is also a factor.
The question for Google is a simple one: Are users behaving more positively to your site than the ones in its organic top ten. If the answer is yes then you're in and no need to keep the PPC campaign going.
Remember Google has little choice in this situation - it would love for you to keep paying click after click but at the same time it has to ensure its' organic top ten as the best it could possibly be to avoid internet users slipping off to other search engines.
What to do when PPC fails
Using PPC to get your page into the organic results rarely fails, unless the page really is unpopular. But many webmasters feel it fails if they end up on page 3 or similar.
Keep positive. You now know that your page is not the best, but it is a long way off being the worst. You know where you are so you can also plan where you need to go - better content, different ideas to get users to stay around, clearer calls to action, etc.
Use these, along with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, to monitor improvements (or otherwise) in user behaviour such as the click through rate, bounce rate and time spent on the page. If these all move in the right direction then so will your rankings.