Keyword research is one of the first things new Internet marketers learn. Understanding what people are looking for online, and how they are searching for it, is the critical step that allows everything else to fall into place. Many keyword tools list several pieces of valuable information, including the amount of searches per month, competition level and advertising rate. This data is fairly straightforward, but not all of it is meant to be used for SEO keyword research. Knowing the difference between SEO and PPC keywords will help you become more visible than ever on the results page and drive the right kind of traffic to your blog or business.

The Difference Between SEO and PPC

The results of search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising campaigns generally appear in the same place: search engine pages. Users enter a certain string of keywords, and then a mix of optimized and paid websites appear. That, however, is where the similarities end. Search engine optimization takes months or even years to build up to a competitive level. Pay-per-click advertisements can bring in instantaneous traffic on even the most high-demand keywords, but it costs a certain amount for every click delivered, and there’s no guarantee that those visitors will convert into sales.


SEO Keyword Research

SEO is all about visibility and luring people in with the same limited real estate as everyone else. Most small websites focus on long-tail keywords to bring in the right kinds of readers and avoid having to compete with the big players for the general search terms. These narrower queries see less traffic but actually help marketers pick out the visitors they want. For example, a website selling holistic remedies can gain a lot more from the keywords “natural toe fungus treatment” than from “toe fungus.” Once a keyword is selected, the marketer uses both on-site and off-site SEO to improve his or her ranking, hopefully seeing a gradual increase in hits and conversions. When performing keyword research for SEO, the most important information to consider is traffic per month.


PPC Keyword Research

Pay-per-click advertising is a different animal. There is a ranking system to most search result advertising spots, particularly with AdWords, that depends partially on bids of cost-per-click as well as the ad’s Quality Score. Quality Scores are determined by the ad’s relevance to a keyword search. That means advertisers need to target the keywords that will bring in more revenue. “The history of sewage treatment in 18th century England,” for example, won’t draw many advertisers because the people searching for it are unlikely to buy anything. The competition for ad spots in this niche, and thus the cost-per-click, will be low, but the returns are so negligible that it’s not worth buying a campaign.


Creating an Integrated Strategy

Both SEO and PPC campaigns have their place in a marketer’s toolbox. Advertising is a great way to boost a website’s popularity while the long-term SEO is being implemented, and can be used to explore new markets worth branching into. Every campaign presents a financial risk and may lose money if the right keywords are paired with the wrong ad copy, or vice versa. On the other hand, poor SEO keyword research can be even more devastating. Losing $200 on advertising makes for a bad day, but spending months building a particular keyword and then hitting a brick wall is worse. Keyword research tools, whether free or paid, usually contain all of the information you need to bring your website to the attention of your customers. Using it effectively in a variety of balanced marketing strategies, however, is up to you.