Is PPC Replacing SEO

When people talk about SEO, they mean Google most of the time. Yes, other search engines exist, and people do want to optimize on YouTube, Amazon, and no one turns down high rankings on Bing. But Google is the core of the game for SEO.

And Google at this point mostly drives to Google, things like Google Maps, Knowledge Box, and AMP (Yes AMP is going to hopefully die a little bit) but most Google searches seem to be driving to Google.

As Google has changed so have the goals of SEOs. Link building is still important, but SEOs are now spending much more focus on local map listings, and code optimization to be featured in one of Google’s snippet results. Oh, and paid ads are pushing even those Google pages down on the search results page. This begs the question, is SEO being replaced by PPC?

Many firms that work in SEO also offer PPC management. A quick search for “Portland SEO company” showed only 7 companies (excluding places like Clutch that are just lists of agencies) all of those companies offer PPC. When I looked up “Dallas PPC management” every agency listed in Google also offered SEO.

I’m not commenting on the quality of any of these services providers. And most ad agencies have more than a single capability. But I’m starting to think SEO, where the goal is to be the first organic result is being replaced with the pay to play world of becoming the first paid result.

I just searched 10 different phrases in Google:

  1. watch movies online (0 above the fold ads)
  2. buy wedding rings (4 above the fold ads)
  3. comfortable mask (0 above the fold ads)
  4. denver diners (0 above the fold ads)
  5. cheap insurance (4 above the fold ads)
  6. windshield repair (3 above the fold ads)
  7. canker sore treatment (2 above the fold ads)
  8. dental abscess treatment (4 above the fold ads)
  9. divorce attorney chicago (4 above the fold ads)
  10. easy home cooked meals (2 above the fold ads)

On my device half of these terms do not show organic content above the fold. Most have ads above the organic results, and the times I’m not shown ads don’t seem to be worth much money.

Being the first organic result for “dental abscess treatment” or “divorce attorney chicago” would make a web page the 5th result at best. Some of those terms are very expensive, $30+ cost per click. So yes, an organic ranking is free, but it’s not going to get the clicks we used to expect form the so called “ten blue links

In smaller regions, searchers do have fewer ads. For example “rockwall botox” showed only 2 ads, but rockwall botox was also hidden behind the Google maps block, meaning even the top organic result that drives to a page outside of Google is bellow the fold.