Ensuring that your SEO and paid search campaigns are fully integrated can help improve your overall marketing efficiency. Each of these tips should help you identify how to make each channel work harder for each other and develop a unified SEM (search engine marketing) strategy.
When setting up new paid search accounts use the Search Analytics report in Search Console to quickly identify high volume, low intent keywords with low CTRs (Click Through Rates) that you don’t want to bid on. When reviewing an account, this should be one of the first things you look at. Don’t forget that data can be segmented by device category and search vertical too.
Our philosophy is to make sure that keyword research for all our paid search and SEO clients is a collaborative task because of the symbiotic nature of the two channels. We recommend using the AdWords search query report to quickly help expand your natural search keyword research seed set.
After completing keyword research for both paid and organic search, don’t forget to take natural search ranking benchmarks. Having a full understanding of the SERP landscape can give your SEM strategy a real shot in the arm. Rankings can be used to inform content strategy and help you to propose realistic SEO performance targets which will help you to manage expectations.
Another important consideration is SERP layout. Focusing on rankings and ad positions can make you lose sight of the bigger picture. In this day and age, when more and more queries are triggering rich answers, you need to understand what SERP layouts and universal search integrations are being used on particular queries. If you have time, try and mine this data. The insight gathered can cause paradigm shifts in your strategic thinking and help you devise strategies that account for device used for example.
At this point you’ll want to check that all key PPC campaigns have suitable landing pages and flag any gaps you spot to your SEO team. Likewise your SEO team should perform a content inventory to check that there is enough suitable content on site to help move the user through the purchase decision journey.
Another tactic to improve paid search and natural search performance is to identify keywords and landing pages with poor paid search quality score (QS), and commission new content. Your SEO team should be able to suggest on-page optimisations to improve relevancy, which in turn should help improve QS in paid search campaigns, helping to improve efficiency.
Finally, don’t forget to deindex custom, paid search landing pages! You don’t want them cannibalising organic performance.
Copy Testing and Sitelinks
In general terms, organic search should be used for awareness and paid search used for conversion. As part of a control, test and learn approach to expanding your strategy, don’t limit copy testing to just PPC. Consider meta description optimisation tests to understand more about the impact of the descriptions on different user types.
For brand searches it’s particularly important to ensure that the whole SERP is optimised to appear to both first time users who haven’t visited your site before, and repeat visitors that are ready to convert. Paid search has the big advantage of being able to take the user directly into the conversion funnel and your bid strategy and relevancy should ensure brand search ads appear in high positions so you don’t lose sales to competitors.
Think about the site links you are using and what stage of the purchase decision journey they are targeting. In PPC, a good mix of direct links to core conversion generating pages including the latest offers will capitalise on customers ready to buy and whilst you have less control over what organic sitelinks are displayed, demoting links not related to core information or product pages can have a positive impact on those you do want to appear. It’s also important to remember that Google is probably using site link demotion feedback as part of their algorithm improvements!
Use Paid Search to Evaluate SEO
The speed of feedback and the agile nature of paid search allows you to tactically test things like new landing pages and keyword expansions before committing to long term SEO and content marketing projects.
This evaluation process can be very useful when building a business case for SEO and content investment and getting SEO buy in from senior stakeholders.
In the absence of organic data, paid search data can also be used for forecasting and modelling possible post optimisation outcomes.
Use Paid Search to Promote Content Marketing Campaigns
Paid search can be a really cost effective way to target informational searches and use this as a way of driving visits to content hubs and information repositories. Personally I feel that this is an under used tactic and it should be considered wherever budget allows. Don’t forget that this tactic can be deployed seasonally; so if you know that each year people are searching for information on a particular topic at certain times, make the case for some testing budget. The downstream impact may be pleasantly surprising!
Competitor activity is another underutilised piece of information from the Auction Insights report in AdWords. From an organic perspective this report can be used to identify new competitors that currently don’t have an organic presence. This is useful because brands that are spending money on paid search are more than likely to be looking at ways to develop their organic presence.
Check that autotagging is enabled for all AdWords accounts. If AdWords accounts aren’t linked to Google Analytics, paid search data will get classified as organic. Also ensure that the destination URLs you are using do not pass through redirect routines. Server side redirects can strip out the autotagging parameter which can cause paid traffic to get classified as ‘not set’. To avoid the issue, a simple check is to get your SEO specialist to check AdWords destination URLs using Screaming Frog in list mode.
Depending on your search strategy, PPC and SEO may have very different goals. As a result you should look at developing specific KPIs for each channel and campaign. Make sure you are analysing the relationship that each channel has with the other to gain a more holistic understanding of performance. Don’t be afraid to set up event based goals to measure micro KPIs such as PDF downloads, external link clicks and email links. These will help give a more rounded view of the path to conversion.
To make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of analysing the performance of each channel in isolation, we recommend using the multichannel funnel reports in Google Analytics to get a fuller understanding of the marketing touch points that are driving last click goal completions.
Don’t forget that custom channel groupings can be applied to all these reports. These can be set up to segment brand and generic PPC and SEO traffic, which can really help bring the data to life and coax out insight.
Another top tip is to filter reports to show conversions from a single goal type and path length. AdWords conversions can also be easily isolated.
AdWords Paid and Organic Report
The AdWords paid search and organic report can be used to ensure that SEO and PPC are complementing each other rather than cannibalising each other. The aim is to find a combination of SEO rankings and PPC ad positions that generate the most cost effective traffic and sales. Naturally this will vary from site to site, but you should try and avoid the temptation of simply driving up PPC ad positions without checking the impact this is having on organic Click Through Rates (CTR) and conversions.
With organic keywords whose positions fluctuate, it’s worth keeping an eye on Search Analytics impression data so that you can explain how ranking fluctuations are impacting paid search CTR.
The key theme running through all these tips is communication. If you have separate SEO and PPC agencies makes sure they are talking to each other and sharing data. Likewise, if you have separate internal specialists make sure that they share information, strategy insights and devise the overall SEM strategy together. Having a testing timeline also really helps and we recommend adding all search optimisations as annotations in Google Analytics.
Having your teams talking to each other ensures that you’re joining the dots and minimises the likelihood of mistakes. Another really positive outcome is that it fosters teamwork and this helps to develop more rounded search practitioners.
Hopefully this article has provided you with some ideas to help integrate your own SEO and PPC strategies. There may also be things you want to revisit periodically. If you’d like any more advice please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or get in touch.