Lee Odden

When is PPC Better Than SEO for Public Relations?

SEO tips for PRWhen search engine marketing enters the conversation in PR circles and vice versa, it’s usually search engine optimization, not pay per click that gets attention. However, there are numerous opportunities to use the on-demand visibility of Pay Per Click as a method to attract visitors to news related content.

nytimes ppc spyfu

Publishers of online news and media use Pay Per Click to create instant search visibility for hot and trending news stories. Here’s an example of the NY Times using AdWords to promote a story about Twitter.  You can also see from this screenshot via Spyfu, some of the topical and time sensitive keyword phrases they’ve bid on to drive traffic to news stories.

PR professionals can do the same with brand names, company names or executive names that often get searched on. PPC can be used to attract attention to specific news items, stories and content that is likely to be passed along once people get a chance to see it.

Deciding when PPC vs SEO is appropriate has to do with the situation and goals. Use of PPC advertisements are more of an on-demand and often times a reaction to other content displayed in the left side of the search results page. An example would be running ads on brand names that have negative information in the organic search results in order to tell the other side of the story. This can be useful to attract consumer attention away from negative listings.

paypal ppc
As an example, here is a Search Results Page for “paypal sucks” where PayPal is bidding on and displaying an ad for its brand name.

SEO for public and media relations is a long term effort and should be viewed as an ongoing investment in time and resources. SEO is most effective when it’s built into the processes of creating and promoting news content. Using the right keywords in the right places as well as making sure the PR content is crawlable by search engine spiders compliments the need to attract inbound links.

The effect of ongoing SEO efforts (continued content creation, promotion and link building) is cumulative. The more news content on web pages and incoming links from other web sites, the wider the net that’s cast on the web from which to attract searchers. Results from SEO efforts are not often immediate so the decision to use SEO tactics should be appropriate to an ongoing commitment to see results.

The decision is not so much whether PR professionals should use SEO or PPC, but more likely how to use both together to achieve specific goals whether they are  on-demand and reactive, or long term and proactive.

Do you know of some good PPC examples for public relations purposes? Please share in the comments.  If your company is in need of professional search engine marketing services, be sure to visit the TopRank site for case studies and resources.

This is post #3 in a series of ten, “Top Ten SEO Tips for Public Relations Professionals“.  For post #4 we’ll focus on “How to Choose the Best Keywords for Optimized Public Relations“.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Hi Lee,
    Examples? I know a few large PR agencies that have savvy internal online media divisions — almost separate from the day-to-day conventional PR practitioners. Most PR practitioners have little clue about PPC. It’s important to remember, though, that while PPC is more on-demand than SEO, it’s not necessarily instant-on. Why? First, a successful campaign requires several key components: proper account structure; keyword research; landing pages; tracking and internal processes to follow-though post-conversions. And even if you can get all that into place quickly, there’s still ad Quality Score…which is something earned over time.

    Regardless, it complete makes sense for PPC, SEO and PR to work in concert. Cheers.

  2. Lee Odden Lee Odden says

    Great insights Max, thanks.

    I suppose the mixing of advertising into PR efforts may seem to blur the lines a bit for some, but as you know so wel, PPC is another distribution channel to extend reach.

    The question is, whether audiences respond as desired.

  3. I always advised clients to have content running for their brand, especially in the case of a negative article. You cannot control what is being said about your brand – both positive or negative, but you can at least be present at either point through contextual advertising. At least you can provide a clear voice from the real brand at a point that would otherwise not have any contact.

    This usually worked and resulted in a positive reaction from people clicking through from “negative” posts.

    • Hey Eric, good point. While people do gravitate to negative news, most are reasonable and interested in “both sides” of the story. Companies need to tap into that and make themselves available in the channels their audiences interact with. That conversation extends far beyond SEO and PPC of course, into social media and other content creation/distribution/engagement models.

      The great thing about PPC as a counter to negative mentions in search results is that you can track how effective your landing pages are and adjust the campaign very specifically.

  4. Interesting stuff Lee, I definitely agree with Max’s point with the necessity for SEO (and PPC) to be part of a larger marketing strategy. The damage control aspects of it’s usage are particularly interesting.

    This is just me but I’d add a little humor in the form of a microsite landing page for that PayPal ppc ad. “We may suck, but not as bad as the dude who set up a site declaring our suckage” or something of that nature.

    • Hey Stuart, I think there’s a time and place for humor in negative search reputation management situations. Monsanto does this slightly with their Monsanto on Monsanto blog. It’s a play on the name of a dissenting blog.

  5. Excellent post Lee, and some great comments thus far. I’ve used the content network for pr purposes with awesome results in the recent past. Example: a site had published less-than-flattering stuff about one of my clients *and* they were running Adsense. I used the site targeting feature in Adwords to push creative directly to the page in question, and it helped us steer the conversation back to our site. #awesome

  6. Thanks for advancing this discussion Lee – the commenters insights so far have been excellent. I admit that the damage control aspects fascinate me most. For instance, competitors who regularly claim they are “better than” the rest are likely to be using the competitions brand name(s) somewhere in their message (social media, word of mouth, announcements on their Websites, etc).

    As far as using PPC as a counter strategy, Google’s TOS don’t allow the use of a competing brand name as a keyword in PPC campaign. Such scheme’s (aka passing off) can be especially problematic if they are recalling negative reputation incidents of competitors in their message, or hotly debated industry topics which point the finger at past offences.

    There was a case where we discovered a gripe site through a PPC campaign so I suppose PPC could also serve its usefulness as part of a reputation monitoring strategy. The interesting part of that story is that the site owner decided to register false information on the domain record of the gripe site as a stunt to maintain anonymity.

    Eventually, the site owner agreed to hand over the domain name as it infringed on the brand name, but I wondered at the time whether anyone has ever successfully had a domain delisted by reporting false whois information to ICANN or a similar domain verification body.


    • That is a unique situation Joseph, thanks for the example. As for PPC to create a positive signal in the SERPs for reputation management, I’d suspect results will vary according to the situation.

      The important thing for PR people is to start by including PPC in their standard mix, test it out and refine or kill it according to results.

  7. Great post Lee.

    In my opinion, PPC is often used as a reactive PR measure, rather than proactive PR-SEO campaigns. Certainly in my experience the benefits of using PR and SEO techniques to influence search results are fairly well understood (if often underutilised), however few organisations use PPC either via the search results or via the content network to attempt to influence negative PR (site targeted content ads have worked well for campaigns i have worked on in the past).

    • Thanks Peter. I think one gem out of this discussion is the use of PPC & site targeting on content networks to present the client side of the story in negative content situations.

  8. The PR (brandking) value of PPC compaings is often ignored. Primay reason is that it is hard to measure the value.

    AdWords campaign I ran had a good ROI for the leads it was generating. What was interesting was the cost for the total impressions that were recieved was lower than a small banner in an industry info portal. From the VP Marketing’s perspective he was getting leads and good branding. Remember the impressions were for targeted search terms, where on the info portal there was limited control just where the banner would show.

    John Deck

  9. Good point John. There’s a lot to be said for measuring ROI in the public relations biz overall. Something not too dissimilar from what’s happening with social media right now.

  10. Well Lee, how very PPC of you :). Truly PPC in PR is like PPC in any channel, part of the overall marketing mix. There is an amplification effect in the way organic and paid work together…again, like in other channels. Thanks for the cool post.

  11. The technique that works best if you are a premium advertiser of course is to just get an advertisement on the top right below the fold. I think SEO should be used on every situation to create a positive image but PPC shouldn’t be ignored especially when there are derogatory terms or websites about your brand.

  12. Since I cannot choose properly, perhaps for me, SEO + PPC = Win win situation if you know how to handle it. When you try to look up the definition of the so-called Pay per click programs you ca sum it up as a program that outs out ads that are relevant to your page which can gain you revenue. But apart from revenue, it can also generate you traffic so if ever you are thinking that you need to find another tactic aside from SEO for public relations, then PPC so be it!

  13. Avatar Seo Stan says

    If competitors are allowed to bid on your brand name (let’s say PayPal), bidding on your own brand name seems an expensive way to deflect customer attention from negative listings. I guess Google’s new policy to allow trademarks to be included in paid search terms will not only “balance the interests of users, advertisers, and trademark owners while leveling the playing field for all advertisers”, but also raise Google’s revenue considerably.

  14. i will prefered using PPC rather than SEO for my new hot article, cause it work and can show in first page in just a second. rather tahn SE that need time to show in first page, but thank for sharing any way