Search is often approached in different ways by different organizations and marketing teams. In-house, it’s easier to look at search as one holistic bucket…often minimizing the differences paid and organic have and how that affects their strategies. At agencies, it can be easy to only focus on one or the other. Especially if you are only getting paid to manage one channel for your client.
Either way, it’s important to remember that they are fundamentally different in how they bring traffic and visibility to your site, and they require completely different skill sets to manage and optimize for effectively. They sit as different foundational pieces of a larger digital marketing strategy. We’ve talked about those differences in the past and why you should recognize them in your overall search strategy. We also talked about how even though those differences are real, they ultimately share the same SERP and we want those strategies to complement each other.
In this post, let’s dive a bit more into “how” SEO and PPC can work together for greater overall search success.
SEO + PPC = A More Successful Search Strategy
The list of opportunities you will find by having open lines of communication between PPC and SEO is going to vary depending on your business and site. But here are some ways we at Portent blend our strategies while respecting the need to approach each individually at the same time.
Keywords and Keyword Data
One of the biggest opportunities for growth when trying to bridge the gap between SEO efforts and PPC management is keyword and keyword data sharing. It’s difficult to truly understand where your attention and ad dollars will be best used without getting a clear picture of how a site is performing from an organic keyword perspective and a paid search query perspective collectively. One without the other will surface opportunities, but it is still only part of the SERP story.
With that in mind, at the very least, you should be sharing your keyword research back and forth.
PPC keyword data can and should inform SEO opportunities. This might mean things like updates to title tags. It might mean informing content creation, or just mining for new ideas in general by reviewing search term reports.
And SEO keyword research should influence PPC keywords and targeting. One way is by using PPC to fill in the gaps that you lack organically. You might also use your SEO keywords to define which campaigns to build at all on the PPC side.
Look here for a more robust list of things you can and should be doing with your keyword research.
Where to Focus Your Content Efforts
Similar to keywords, you should also look to your pages themselves for content inspiration to share between paid and organic efforts.
Pages that rank and perform well organically can inform what you want to build out in search campaigns. Certain hubs or pages on your site that get great traffic do so for a reason. They are optimized, well-targeted, resonate with your audience, and maybe a strong competitive advantage for the business overall. Use that to inform where PPC spend will be best used and most likely to succeed.
The same goes the other way. If certain landing pages or campaigns in general are performing well in paid, there may be opportunities to create new content for the site that will increase the likelihood of ranking organically for similar searches.
One strength of PPC is the control you have over targeting. You can dictate which search queries will trigger which ads, who will see them, when they will see them, what device they will see them on, etc.
Use this to your advantage and use PPC to test copy. Copy in the headlines of PPC ads can easily be A/B tested to learn what resonates the best with an audience. You can then use those findings to update title tags and on-page content to best optimize your site for search.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Idea sharing between PPC and SEO for conversion rate optimization (CRO) testing is a two-way street as well. That said, we see the largest lifts taking findings from SEO to influence PPC landing pages.
CRO is massively important for PPC success. If you are paying to send traffic to landing pages, it is paramount that those users perform your desired actions. By looking at what pages in search are receiving the most traffic and best traffic engagement, we can find ideas to improve PPC landing pages. It might be the copy on those pages, the calls to action, or specific content pieces like a video or imagery. These are all things to look at as opportunities to improve PPC landers and boost conversion.
Competitive and SERP Analysis
This one surprises me. Organic and paid share a SERP (although not truly competing against each other). We all know this. But far too often, PPC teams only look at competition in the paid results, and SEO teams only look at competition in organic results. However, most users don’t see the paid and organic results separately…they see the search results collectively.
Combining PPC and SEO for one comprehensive SERP analysis can provide a single tool that will benefit both. Doing that analysis and sharing findings for your competitors’ overall SERP presence can then be taken back to each team individually to find new ways to lift the site’s overall visibility.
For most advertisers, budget is a concern and limitation. So, by nature, budget management and optimization is crucial for maximizing PPC reach and return.
With that in mind, use PPC to fill in the gaps where SEO is failing. This will provide an overall incremental search lift and drive more search ROI.
The same goes the other way. If SEO is strong for a set of keywords that historically are expensive on the paid side, save your PPC budget for other areas so your efforts complement each other instead of completely missing out on some traffic because you used your PPC budget elsewhere.
This is not to say you shouldn’t pursue keywords through PPC that rank well organically. There is plenty of research to suggest that having both paid and organic in the SERP provides incremental lift to click-through. But if you are limited by your budget, get the most out of it for the greater good of search by targeting it where you are already missing out organically.
Remarketing lists for search ads are a powerful way to improve targeting and spending. Applying these audiences to search campaigns and bidding up means more visibility for people who are inherently more brand-aware and therefore more likely to convert.
Look to build remarketing audiences based on people who landed on pages and engaged after entering the site through organic. Bringing those users with piqued interest back is extra important compared to other users who engage with the site because they show an even higher level of intent by having searched on Google. They were actively looking, found you, engaged…that is the kind of user you want to return.
How to Track Incremental Lift
So you’re making an effort to blend your SEO and PPC strategies… next, you need to track your success! If you are employing some of the tactics above, are they working?
It is all too common for reporting on PPC and SEO to be very specific to those channels. That is important. Understanding the direct return you are getting from investments in each isn’t going away. But at the end of the day, the goal should be to capture the most return you can from search, not just one channel.
Here are some metrics and reports in Google Analytics to look at to help you gauge that.
View Data by Source
When viewing reports in Google Analytics or other analytics platforms, look at the Source reports. Viewing how the site is doing from the perspective of traffic that entered via Google, Bing, or other search platforms provides a picture of how you are doing in those SERPs. Look at metrics like:
- New users
- Behavioral metrics like bounce rate and time on site
- And all goal and conversion metrics
If you see lift for a particular search engine as a whole, it’s likely your efforts are having an impact.
Paid and Organic Report
This report lives in Google Ads. It is available when you connect Google Ads to Google Search Console. Since it lives in Google Ads, it is through a PPC lense, but definitely impacts both PPC and SEO.
This report can show you the incremental lift you see in things like click-through rate when both paid and organic are in the results. It is a great way to dig in and find some of the opportunities I have been pointing out throughout this post.
PPC and SEO are very different things fighting for visibility in the same SERP. For success in each, clear and distinct strategies are needed. That said, they each can perform better when you use one to help inform the other’s strategy. PPC and SEO teams can benefit greatly if they share data, learnings, and opportunities.
In the end, the goal is to create one digital marketing strategy that works together to support the entire marketing stack. This is true for all digital channels, but is especially true in the world of search where PPC and SEO share space.