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PPC vs. SEO: What’s the Difference in Keyword Research?

Digital marketers use two primary tools to improve search ranking and engage customers online: PPC advertising and SEO. 

PPC (paid-per-click) advertising allows brands to target users based on their keywords, websites, and online search habits. SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of using keywords, images, and common questions to create content that will rank higher on search engine results pages and reach your target audience. 

While PPC advertising and SEO take fundamentally different marketing approaches, they rely on similar digital marketing principles to help companies engage users and grow their digital presence. 

Keyword Research for B2B Brands

The backbone of PPC advertising and SEO is keyword research. Keyword research is the process of finding the right keywords and phrases that consumers use when searching for your product or service. 

Keyword Research for B2B

Although B2B marketing is less involved than retail marketing, many of the same principles and best practices apply. Keyword research for B2B brands is more important for B2B companies because they have smaller target markets and can use keywords to differentiate their products and services from their retail counterparts.

Understanding the Science Behind Keyword Research

Keyword research is more than selecting the common words or phrases consumers search for online. By understanding how to value different keywords, B2B brands can improve the effectiveness of their PPC and SEO strategies.

Search Intent

A keyword’s search intent describes why someone conducts a specific search. There are four types of search intent companies can use to understand customer search behaviors:

  • Informational Intent – keywords used to find specific facts or data (e.g., Hamburger recipe)
  • Navigational Intent – keywords used to locate a website or landing page (e.g., SEO keyword research tools)
  • Transactional Intent – keywords to find products or services (e.g., White Nike Air Max’s)
  • Commercial Investigation – keywords to research a topic (e.g., Best restaurants near me)

Brands should test their keywords by searching them on Google and ensuring their products or services are aligned with top search results.

Industry Terms & Acronyms

Many industries have specific keywords, industry terms, and acronyms that they only use that brands can use to boost web traffic. 

Matching Search Intent with Conversion

Whether it’s making a sale, getting contact information, or securing an RSVP, conversions are essential to any marketing campaign. B2B brands can boost conversion rates by aligning search intent with customer queries and demands. 

Companies should regularly analyze the effectiveness of their keywords, Google rankings, conversion rates, and other metrics to ensure they get the most ROI from their marketing spend.

What’s the Difference Between SEO and PPC Keywords

While SEO and PPC strategies use keyword research, they differ significantly. PPC advertising links appear at the top of the search engine results pages above the organic listings determined by SEO. Companies pay sites like Google to place their ads at the top and are charged per click, hence, ‘pay-per-click.’

Conversely, links using SEO tactics don’t require additional spending and can help your website rank high on search engine results pages organically. However, gaining traction with SEO can take months, whereas PPC advertising can have faster results.

Many companies use SEO and PPC strategies to create a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. However, because of their differences, the underlying keyword research can produce different results. 

SEO Keyword Research

SEO keyword research for B2B brands tends to be more content-focused. This is because it aims to improve organic traffic results. SEO keyword research seeks to find keywords that consumers frequently use to find your product or service. 

Compared to PPC keyword research, SEO keywords tend to be broader in scope to gain traffic from a wide variety of queries. Proper SEO content may include dozens of keywords used multiple times.

PPC Keyword Research

PPC keyword research is more conversion-focused because the links are guaranteed to be viewed by users. Brands should select PPC keywords that will get immediate attention and easily communicate your brand’s products or services. 

Compared to SEO keywords, PPC keywords focus on high-intent traffic to encourage clicks and promote sales. 

Why do B2B Brands Need Two Separate Keyword Lists?

Because SEO and PPC keywords are used differently, B2B brands need two separate lists to create effective SEO and PPC campaigns. While there will likely be some overlap, brands should aim to use different keywords simultaneously to improve the chances of gaining web traffic. 

A brand’s SEO keyword list will almost always be longer and broader in scope. Brands should prioritize SEO keywords that rank high in search volume and low in competitiveness. These keywords will be the easiest to rank for and improve organic search volumes. 

A company’s PPC keyword list will likely be smaller and change more frequently. B2B brands should focus on PPC keywords with high search volumes and conversion rates. Because internet trends can quickly change, PPC keyword lists should be regularly updated. 

How SEO & PPC Keyword Research Can Work Together for B2B Marketing

Similar to a team’s offense and defense, brands should align their SEO and PPC strategies to create a winning formula. 

When SEO and PPC strategies work in harmony, they can benefit each other and improve your marketing ROI. 

When brands combine their SEO and PPC efforts, they can save time and money. Most keyword research reports can be used for SEO and PPC campaigns, reducing research costs. 

SEO and PPC strategies use different metrics to measure a campaign’s effectiveness. Where SEO will use organic impressions, average ranking, and organic click-through rates, PPC campaigns use cost-per-click, click-through rates, and conversion metrics. 

Looking at the effectiveness of different keywords for SEO and PPC campaigns, B2B brands can identify opportunities and avoid ineffective keywords. 


B2B brands that want to grow their online presence and engage customers should use a combination of SEO and PPC strategies. To reduce costs and improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, brands should aim to create harmony between their SEO and PPC efforts. 

By understanding the differences and identifying the overlaps in SEO and PPC keyword research, brands can create a comprehensive marketing strategy to promote the brand, its content, and its offerings. 

About the author

Yoel Israel is the founder of WadiDigital, a global leader in marketing and media. Yoel is a LinkedIn Advertising Expert and the global leader in cybersecurity marketing and lead generation. He resides in Israel with his wife and two daughters.

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