Search spend now accounts for almost a third of advertising spend in the UK, and has grown consistently since 2001. Balancing the marketing mix is a huge challenge facing any CMO or marketer, and it’s no different in the world of search. It can be difficult for brands to find the right blend of PPC and SEO, ensuring that marketers are getting the most out of both. It’s one of the more nuanced choices marketers have to make.
Too much of one or too little of the other and marketers could be in the position of unnecessarily wasting valuable budget or, on the flip side, marketers could be in the position where they are not delivering the results search could be yielding for their brand.
Forward3D’s application and understanding of data has helped to advise clients on their best strategy for success. By having using an integrated approach to strategy, appropriate recommendations can be made to allow marketers to balance activity. For one major airline client, aggregated performance data enabled us to make the recommendation to turn off PPC for brand keywords meaning they could deploy that significant marketing budget for acquisition purposes elsewhere.
So, with this in mind, how do you approach the seemingly complicated relationship between PPC and SEO to yield the best results?
Setting up for success
Without aligning PPC and SEO teams, it’s difficult to implement an appropriate strategy. Although it may seem obvious, many companies still report on search as two separate channels when an aggregated view can add a much greater value. This visibility into integrated search performance is crucial to understanding what impact individual channels have on the overall performance mix.
For example, if paid search click-through rates (CTR) increase then organic traffic might well be expected to drop. However, if marketers report this at search engine marketing (SEM) level, they’ll find that total brand traffic is likely to be flat, as it’s the proportions (and costs) per channel that are actually shifting. Teams need to have visibility and understand how changes in performance at this granular level can impact the entire business as this information is critical when planning budgets or future activity.
Understanding the problem
Creating a joint strategy can allow you to more effectively tackle particular problems a business is trying to solve. While it’s still possible to do effective paid search with a sub-optimal website, it’s much more straightforward when site performance is being guided and prioritized by SEO. This is because it benefits from the site speed, conversion rates, and relevancy being driven by tech and content which paid teams can’t usually influence.
For example, an advertiser in a highly competitive paid search auction might be able to achieve some incremental gains from keyword, ad copy, and bid optimization but working with SEO could give them a greater competitive edge. For example, prioritizing page optimization—either from a technical or content standpoint—can ultimately improve both user experience and landing page relevance which not only benefits conversion rates but can lower CPCs too.
Likewise working with content teams helps paid search marketers think more about planning and executing around events rather than reacting to traffic changes. It can also lead to a more collaborative testing strategy whereby Organic teams work with Paid to prioritize long term keyword and ranking opportunities based on first party or performance data to indicate higher profitability or lifetime value rather than relying on traffic. Through ongoing testing and adjusting traffic across these terms it may end up that Paid activity becomes an evolving test bed for high value terms which over time get transitioned to organic.
Taking a long-term view
Ultimately, finding the balance required to run strong search campaigns is largely impacted by planning, budgeting and investment. Long term investment in SEO is more likely to benefit all channels, but short to medium term there may be spikes in interest or particular products that suit a paid search investment. Brands need to correctly identify this balance and budget accordingly, which ultimately determines search success.
By hiring the right talent or working with the right partners who understand the data and nuance around both organic and paid search, businesses can start identifying where investment is best placed. By understanding this process, the teams can produce meaningful, actionable insights, which benefit customers and businesses alike.
Neil Morse is Associate Director, Paid Search Strategy at Forward3D.