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A joined up SEM strategy Control, Test and Learn in action

Written by Jamie | 23-Aug-2013 15:30:00

When asked by clients “why do I need to invest in PPC if I rank in top positions organically?†our reply is always the same…we need to carry out a robust test to see if you gain incremental volume by being live in PPC. 

Then analyse the cost of that incremental volume against the value of the traffic generated, remembering that PPC and SEO traffic will convert differently and have a different revenue per sale – so all of this needs to be factored into the analysis.

Getting this right means a great win for the client. Either they have PPC budget that can be re-invested into other areas, or we can drive more volume into the website via a combination of PPC & SEO.

Market conditions and how competitive the search landscape is will have an impact. If you are the only person bidding on your brand then the results will probably be very different than if you are trying to gain cut through in a cluttered results page, against well-known, established brands.

The reason we say that we need to test this for every client (and on a selection of different keywords) is that we have in the past seen very different results from these tests (both on generic keywords, but for different clients):

  1. Organic picked up PPC volume

    • Paid Search volume saw the expected decline when paused – however, overall site visits remained steady.
    • Based on the test results we recommended keeping the PPC terms paused as it was clear that the volume was picked up directly in organic search.
  2. Organic didn't pick up PPC Volume

    • Paid Search volume saw the expected decline, but in this case, overall site visits also fell.
    • The Organic channel did not capture all of the “lost†paid search traffic.
    • Paid Search for that particular keyword was turned back on to prevent loss in volume on-going.

With any test we need to keep a control throughout, so external factors that could impact results are kept to a minimum. We would also validate and re-test regularly to ensure strategies are fresh. Device segmentation is also key to factor into the testing plan as this may deliver a different outcome.

There are various reports/studies released that say you get x% more volume from being live in both, or that x% of people click on PPC rather than organic ads. However our view is that as every sector is different, each client should have their own testing plan to achieve the optimum SEM strategy that works for them.

From 2011: http://googleresearch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/studies-show-search-ads-drive-89.html
From 2012: http://searchengineland.com/google-research-even-if-you-rank-1-organically-you-can-double-your-clicks-with-paid-search-116713

We have used Google Analytics for the data (in our opinion this is robust), however if clients do not have GA there could be a way to see this data within Adwords (must be linked to WMT) – although we would ideally validate this data before using it to draw conclusions of a test from:
(We will have a follow up blog specially on this).

Analysis takeout

A bespoke review of every search campaign is important to evaluate where potential benefits can be gained. A thorough test period with on-going analysis is vital to spot early indications that revenue is potentially being lost through a decline in overall search. Each search campaign is unique, and what works for one may not work for another, however testing - under a control, test and learn at pace philosophy - is paramount when looking to drive efficiencies across the overall search channel.