SEO and PPC are two sides to the same digital marketing coin. The end goal for both is to drive more traffic and, in the end, garner more conversions for your business. But while these strategies often run parallel and can support each other, there are some critical differences in terms of keyword research and targeting. 

Since you literally have to pay for every click in pay-per-click advertising (PPC), you need to be able to find and target the most relevant search terms that will provide a good return-on-ad-spend. 

Search engine optimization (SEO), meanwhile, helps generate more traffic and free, organic clicks to your website. It’s still essential to find the terms that will eventually lead to conversions.

Whether you’re researching to set up your own marketing strategy or just want to understand the difference, here’s the gist of what you need to know. 

Distinguishing Search Intent

In order to select profitable, applicable keywords for your SEO or PPC strategy, you first need to understand search intent and how to balance it with search volume. 

For instance, if you run an interior design studio, you’ll likely want to target “interior design” as a keyword. While that’s a relevant and applicable term for your business and has plenty of search volume, the search engine result page (SERP) from Google is filled with general information. 

When you type “interior design” into the search bar, Google responds as if you’ve asked what is interior design, where to go to school for interior design, examples of interior design, etc. These are all queries that indicate searchers are very high in the sales funnel– if they’re in it at all– which means that it’s a low intent keyword, even though it has high volume. 

“Interior design services near me,” on the other hand, indicates that the user is actively looking to make a purchase or conversion. That makes this search phrase a high intent keyword, and will likely pull in much more qualified leads who are already on their way down the sales funnel.

If you’re not sure whether the term has high or low intent, the easiest way to find out is to simply search for it. What do the results look like? If you’re seeing results from Wikipedia or articles discussing the topic, it’s likely low intent. If you’re seeing competitor ads and sites ranking, especially their service or product pages, then it’s probably higher intent. 

What to Target & When

For PPC targeting, you typically want to avoid low intent keywords. Since you’re paying to appear on the SERP and paying for each individual click, you don’t want to waste money on someone clicking your ad for interior design services when they really just want to see some ideas on Pinterest. 

You could still get a conversion out of the Pinterest searcher if they’re looking to redo their kitchen, but they could also just enjoy looking at examples of lemon yellow cabinetry or chalkboard cupboards. 

Instead, you’ll want to aim for the high intent terms (while still balancing volume and your budget). There’s bound to be more competition, and, depending on your budget, you may have to get a little creative. “Interior design services near me” might be a golden keyword to target, but if the click costs triple the amount you’ll gain from a conversion, it’s probably not worth it.

Instead, you might be able to find phrases like “kitchen interior designers” or “apartment design services” that are more specific to whittle down the competition. These terms also come in handy if you have specialties or unique niches, and are key for successful PPC campaign management.

For SEO marketing, you won’t be penalized for targeting low intent keywords. In fact, it’d be pretty hard to avoid low intent keywords on your site’s content. If you manage to have an interior design business without saying the phrase “interior design,” you’re probably doing something wrong. 

The best digital marketing agencies know that SEO is all about the long game. That Pinterest searcher from earlier may not be looking to purchase design services at the moment, but if they find your site and like your portfolio, they’re more likely to keep you in mind. So for organic purposes, it’s still worth it to target users who are still high in the sales funnel. 

You can target higher intent keywords as well, but make sure you have a solid content marketing strategy. Search engines tend to penalize keyword stuffing, and users still want to be able to find relevant information for their searches. 

Do Your Research (or Let Us Do it For You)

In the end, keyword research is going to be your best friend regardless of whether you’re developing PPC or SEO marketing strategies. And hopefully you enjoy it, because you’re probably going to have to do a lot of researching. 

Depending on your budget and business size, you could be researching and managing hundreds of keywords– and don’t forget to track their ROI so you know if they’re profitable for your business specifically!

Or, if that sounds like an awful lot of work, you can always let us do it for you. We are the experts, after all.