People often see SEO and SEM as an ‘either or’ proposition and treat them as siloed disciplines. SEO and SEM should be seen as complementing rather than cannibalising. Getting SEO and SEM to work together, and closely, is an integral part of delivering or implementing an overarching search strategy.
In many marketing environments, certainly in Australia, the two disciplines are more often than not entirely separate with very few people having both skill-sets. During my career I have been fortunate enough to gain experience in both SEO and SEM and enjoy them both for different reasons.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of what you do, whether it’s prospecting for an ideal site to publish your content on or building out a new campaign at the last minute request of a client or manager. But it’s important to remember that although SEM and SEO may be measured separately and have distinct goals, both disciplines pull opportunity from the same source; which is for the most part, delivering traffic and conversions.
This post aims to provide you with the Top 10 SEO SEM Synergies and Efficiencies to help advance what should be an almost symbiotic relationship between the two disciplines. Hopefully you will be able to take away some quick wins and other longer term benefits when doing either SEO or SEM.
1. Unrestricted Data
In light of the developments last year when Google reduced visibility of organic search data, using paid data has become more important than ever. Leveraging insights from paid search and applying the learning to organic target keywords can provide useful insights. This is especially relevant when considering conversion data; because despite the recent improvement in Google Webmaster Tools data, we are still unable to see keyword level conversion data with any degree of accuracy.
2. High performing search terms
Reviewing high performing paid search phrases and comparing this to how they are performing organically can lead to opportunities. For example; a search term that converts well in the paid landscape might be a valuable keyword to target organically. The reverse is also true in this case. Are there organic keywords that are underperforming that could be capitalised upon in the immediate future through the paid channel?
3. Front loading a search campaign
When creating an overarching search strategy, front loading the strategy with SEM is a great way to meet targets, deliver new business and conduct quick market analysis. Roll back paid spend over time as organic recommendations are implemented and results start to accumulate. The graph below is an example of how targets can be met whilst making cost savings.
Once organic search is delivering the majority of the leads, paid can refocus efforts into other areas, support SEO with remarketing, and assist in landing page testing or using budget more tactically.
Where paid advertising is seen as a long term proposition there is an opportunity to reduce ad spend from keywords that are ranking well organically, and reallocate that budget to areas where organic does not provide the same volume. The graphs below show the contrast between this and more format off-the-shelf approach:
In the right hand graph what we see is a more efficient use of paid search in conjunction with organic. For example, targeting the keyword ‘red widgets’ (because let’s face it, we love a widget analogy). If the site has improved its organic ranking for ‘red widgets’ over time and at some point the site has a No.1 listing for both paid and organic for the same term. Targeting ‘red widgets’ is expensive so by reducing the bid we drop down to a lower ad position and can save some money, which can be used to target other keywords not ranking well organically, potentially ‘blue widgets’.
This model delivers greater overall business results by using the two channels together rather in competition.
4. Meeting overall targets
If you are measured on total number of leads or conversions generated, having regular knowledge sharing sessions to understand how well organic is performing to the monthly target can mean a potential short term reduction in media spend, delivering a saving to the business. In one case, FirstClick was able to deliver a saving of $90,000 as a result of this kind of strategy. Equally if organic conversions or goals are under target, SEM can pick up the difference. Demonstrating these kinds of savings is one of the best ways to illustrate the effectiveness of using the same agency or person for both SEO and SEM.
5. Link Google Webmaster Tools with AdWords
Linking your Google Webmaster Tools account with AdWords will provide you with some of the useful insights that you will need when you get to point 9 on this top ten list – being able to see paid and organic impressions and the relationship between the two. This is simple and easy to do and will result in a clearer picture in terms of data.
This is one of the most powerful synergies that can be leveraged between SEO and SEM. Being able to retarget organic visitors with paid adverts is particularly useful in certain industries. How many times have you been looking at an item you’ve been coveting for some time, only to find it follow you around the net for the next few days offering you a discount? Google has now made ‘Remarketing for Search’ available, which allows an advertiser to tailor their search messaging based upon a user’s previous actions.
This technique is fantastic for recapturing users dropping out of a conversion funnel and can be targeted in any way you choose.
7. Landing Pages
As Paid Search has the advantage of instant traffic and potentially instant conversions, it is often easier to perform A/B split testing with paid traffic. The findings from this can then be applied to the rest of the site or similar pages. The learnings gleaned from improving the conversion rate of a page through, for example changing colours or improving a call to action, can be applied to pages receiving organic traffic.
The second aspect to consider is creating new landing pages to target keywords that have both SEO and SEM value based upon previous paid search performance. This can improve relevancy from an organic perspective but can also be valuable from an SEM perspective in terms of improving quality score.
8. Path to Purchase
A significant percentage of people will click organic listings during the research phase and ultimately return to a site through a paid ad to convert, often on a brand term. Here we see the best example of paid and organic working together. One could argue that this is cannibalism (which is talked about in the next point) but if we see the ultimate goal to be generating profit, the specific channel through which someone converts shouldn’t be the focus.
Understanding search terms, and other channels that line the path to purchase, can lead to great synergy, or highlight inefficiencies that can be avoided through remapping keywords or refreshing your keyword strategy.
9. Understand Where Cannibalism Takes Place
Following on from point 8, it is crucial to understand when paid search is detracting from organic from both a traffic and conversion perspective. As paid conversions cost more than organic conversions in general, it is important to avoid this kind of cannibalisation. Instead we want to drive synergy whereby paid ad results instigate a lift in organic visits or goal completions.
Evaluating both data sets and testing is intrinsic to understanding what is going on. For example, if there is crossover in terms of top organic keywords being targeted by paid, look at the impact in organic traffic for those keywords in Google Webmaster Tools and also, more generically, in Google Analytics at the time when those keywords are being displayed through paid. If you notice a drop in organic traffic during those times, it may be that your paid ads are eating up the traffic that organic listings would have otherwise captured. In this case consider testing by pausing keywords in AdWords and measure the effects either in lost or gained traffic and conversions against the cost savings.
Having a positive brand presence, controlling the search engine results page (SERPs) and pushing down negative mentions are all potential goals for an SEO. SEO’s may have had to work hard to dominate the front page with relevant and brand friendly properties for brand related searches only to find a competitor ad appearing above the top organic result. In this case setting up some brand targeted paid ads can be highly effective and limiting competitor exposure and is usually cheap by contrast to non-branded terms.
What do you think? Should we be pitting paid and organic search against one another or playing as a team? If you have any synergies or efficiencies that aren’t mentioned here, please leave them in the comments below.