Tying up organic and paid search: an integrated search strategy


Jimmy McCann

Head of Digital Strategy


Digital Marketing Strategy

In the world of digital marketing, position #1 in the SERPs is the ultimate holy grail which leads to more traffic, and therefore more customers. Occupying as much real estate above the fold, or even on page one, improves the likelihood that a user will visit, and purchase from, your site above your competitors.

Both SEO and PPC are crucial in gaining and maintaining this online visibility. The advantages and disadvantages of each channel differs, and as such they are typically treated as separate entities with their own set of individual goals and KPIs.

 

SEO

PROS

CONS

Organic traffic is ‘free’ which means SEO can deliver a higher ROI than PPCSEO is a long-term investment and it can take months to see results
Organic visibility is more sustainable long term and does not require a constant monetary investmentThe top organic listing can often be well below the fold due to paid listings and vertical-specific Google entities (i.e. flights, hotels)
Organic listings are often seen as more credible and trustworthy than adsSEO drives a lot of upper funnel traffic, rather than traffic which directly leads to conversions
We do not know all the ranking factors and algorithms change which means we may lose organic visibility.

 

PPC

PROSCONS
We can gain visibility for keywords instantaneouslyRequires constant investment. As soon as we stop paying for ads, visibility drops
Shopping ads which show product images can improve click-through rate (CTR) compared to text ad listingsSome searchers do not trust, and therefore ignore sponsored ads
We can adjust bids to pay more for more relevant audiencesDepending on how competitive the keyword and industry is, the cost per click (CPC) can be high which means a lower ROI
Advanced audience targeting means we can get in front of our core audience.Every click costs, even if it doesn’t lead to a conversion (again lowering the ROI).

Combining SEO and PPC lowers costs and improves results

The skills and expertise needed to manage SEO and PPC differ, so it makes sense that most businesses and agencies have individual teams managing each channel.

Keeping the channels and activity separate, however, makes less sense. Creating an integrated search strategy allows brands to reach users at all stages of the customer journey more effectively, increasing visibility, traffic and conversions while reducing costs.

How can you integrate SEO and PPC?

In an ideal world, an integrated search strategy would mean having a singular set of KPIs, with the activity of both channels contributing to these goals.

This often requires some form of restructuring and may take time to implement, particularly if a business has multiple agencies.

Even without an overarching holistic strategy in place, there are ways to tie up SEO and PPC without overhauling your current marketing set up. Once you have set up cross-team communication where PPC data is shared with SEO and vice versa, there are plenty of ways you can use these insights to improve your search performance.

Use organic insights to inform your PPC strategy

Your organic traffic can often hold the key to improving your paid performance and reducing paid costs.

For example, if you notice that organic traffic coming from a specific location tends to have a higher conversion rate, it makes sense for the paid media team to adjust bids so it is more aggressive bidding for users in that location.

Keywords which have led organic searchers on to your site, as well as site search data, can highlight keywords to target in PPC campaigns, as well as long-tail keywords to avoid through negative keyword lists.

Use PPC data to inform your content strategy

PPC results are almost instant which means you can see what keywords, calls to action (CTAs) and messaging works (and what doesn’t) almost immediately. By incorporating the messaging of successful ads into meta data and landing page copy, you can improve your organic listings’ click-through rate and conversions.

Another way to use PPC data is to look at the best performing ads and pull out keywords and topics which have the highest CTR and conversions. These can be used to develop overarching themes for onsite content such as blogs to attract more organic traffic.

Target keywords with a high CPC or high volume with low conversion rate in your SEO strategy

You can reduce PPC costs using a series of tests, where you have top spots in organic ranking for keywords. We would always recommend testing rather than switching off because then you will definitively know whether you are saving money or losing sales by doing.

It can be beneficial to have both paid and organic listings for highly converting keywords, so if you decide to test pulling back PPC it’s important to keep an eye on overall traffic and conversions and see if removing these ads have a negative impact.

Gain visibility for keywords where you have a low organic presence

There are many reasons your brand might not organically rank for certain keywords yet. Perhaps you have launched a new product or service and so your website content is still being built; maybe your website has been previously penalised and needs to rebuild trust and authority.

Whatever the reason, you can use PPC to gain visibility while you work on building up authority and gaining organic visibility. This strategy also works for short-tail keywords where organic competition is stiff, particularly in landscapes where the SERPs are dominated by comparison sites.

By sharing channel data between teams, you can improve the performance of both SEO and PPC with minimal extra effort and no additional costs.

Integrating further channels such as programmatic and social media can further amplify your visibility, improve brand loyalty, traffic and conversions.

If you would like to learn more about how an integrated digital strategy can improve your performance, get in touch.

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