Live from #SMX East: PPC & SEO – Can't We All Just Get Along?

By Lindsay Keller | Sep 15, 2011
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At #SMX East Todd Friesen (Director of SEO at Performics), David Roth (Sr. Director of Search Marketing at Yahoo), and Tim Mayer (Chief Strategy Officer at The Trada Group) spoke about how Search Engine Optimizers and Pay Per Click Advertisers can work together to maximize success.

Tim Mayer started off the session by asking the question, does search marketing mean SEO and PPC or just PPC? Search marketing has become the umbrella of SEO and PPC because search marketers have come to realize that they both need to work together holistically in order to maximize success.

The average PPC CTR in Google is 12% and average SEO CTR is 60-70%. While the click-through-rate is much higher for SEO, PPC is a very important component of search marketing for testing reasons, as well as proven eye-traffic maps that show a lot of users look at the PPC ads at the very top of the screen first.

A very interesting test showed that with an advertiser spending $1000 a month, the advertiser’s site on average received 400 organic clicks and 300 paid clicks. Then when the advertiser cut their PPC spend to $0, they received on average 500 organic clicks. That is a difference in 200 clicks, with the site receiving 67% more clicks when running PPC ads.

Some key points on SEO & PPC integration that Tim Mayer discussed include:

1. Common Success Criteria

  • Conversions/ROAS vs. # of referrals to website

2. Ranking is nice from an SEO perspective but the click is better.

  • It doesn’t matter if you are ranking high on the page if no one is clicking on your link. Focus on including your Keyword in the title and description, using a branded URL, and using A/B Testing to test the titles in PPC ads and then use whichever one works better for SEO efforts.

3. Collaborative Keyword Research

  • Determine where the search volume is in PPC campaigns to drive content generation efforts and SEO keyword efforts.

4. Use PPC and Analytics to Optimize landing pages

  • Create widgets to drive traffic into higher value areas of the site and integrate and monetize those high value areas to maximize ROI.

5. Reduce impact of major changes like:

  •  One box coverage
  • New site
  • Site redesign
  • New product launch
  • Seasonal promotion/sale

When major changes occur that will have a heavy effect on your organic results, ramp up PPC until SEO kicks in and then test with and without PPC to determine what works best and to maximize ROI.

6. Segment your traffic

  • Try different landing pages for different types of traffic.
  • Direct traffic (navigation or branded search terms) – use less monetization because these are people that visit your site often and will likely share the site with others.
  • SEO
  • PPC – monetize a lot more heavily to see a large return on investment and therefore bid higher for keywords.

David Roth, Sr. Director of Search Marketing at Yahoo asked the big question:

If you are ranking for a keyword organically why would you buy it in your PPC campaign?

David approached this question by running several tests and throwing a little math into the mix. A few steps he followed to come to a conclusion are listed below.

  1. Target a brand keyword
  2. Baseline for SEO traffic (need to be able to determine the number of total search queries each day)
  3. Buy the ad
  4. Alternate periods of buying/not buying (you need to be able to compare the organic ad results with no PPC ad and with a PPC ad. The test should be run for a longer period of time to generate more precise results)
  5. Be aware of cyclically/seasonality
  6. More data is better
  7. Estimate CTRs for both SEO and PPC
  8. Create a scatter graph of all the data points
  9. Run linear regression

Results: When they bought the paid link, it increased the CTR for the organic link. This has been proven to be beneficial for Yahoo, despite some cannibalization of their organic results. That is not always going to be the case, so you should test it for your company. There are also arguments that if you don’t bid on certain keywords because you are ranking well organically, than your competitor will!

Todd Friesen started off his section of the presentation with a little history of SEO and PPC. SEO was born in 1995 and then in 1998 PPC was born and they did not always get along. It took until 2009 for the two to get “engaged” and search marketers started realizing that the two need to start working together. The overall goal of both SEO and PPC is the same. A way the two can work together is through testing. For example, you need to test your home pages, but you can’t call up Google and ask them to serve one home page half the time and another the other half of the time for your organic results, So you can set them up as landing pages for branded terms in your PPC campaign for testing. Your results from your PPC testing can be easily transferred to your SEO efforts. You may also use ACE in order to mitigate the risk of doing SEO testing. One important thing to remember is that PPC should be run first to determine what words convert best, and then you can relay to the SEO department what words you want to make sure you rank for. That way your company is not optimizing webpages for keywords that are not driving conversions.

Another example of why SEO and PPC must work together can be seen clearly in the results of a test that Todd Friesen ran. The test revealed that just showing SEO links generated a 2.9% conversion rate, showing only PPC generated a 3.0% conversion rate and when running both SEO & PPC ads the conversion rate jumped to 3.8%. Some people see these results as a halo effect, where people think a site must be good if Google is serving it twice on the search engine results page. As you layer more and more online marketing efforts, the conversion rate increases.

Remember, never take anyone elses learning, but instead take their testing methods and use them for your site to see what works best for you.

Have you found it beneficial to buy keywords when you are ranking at the number 1 position organically?

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  • Warren Lee

    RE: Have you found it beneficial to buy keywords when you are ranking at the number 1 position organically? Answer: Depends on your business model. I worked at one company where the answer was absolutely NO, and at another where the answer was EMPHATICALLY YES!!. The real benefit of buying keywords, especially brand keywords, when you also rank #1 organically is to benefit from both increased shelf space, and also from targeting different user types. For example, SEM ad could target consumers with strong purchase intent, but SEO title and meta data could target consumers that are not yet ready to buy, and want to learn more. The good approach is to balance the messaging from SEO and SEM so that you cover as much as GOOGLE page as possible to push down competitors while at the same time targeting different types of searchers based on their persona types. Overall great session.