Heads Up, Internet Marketers: How to Use PPC to Bolster Your SEO [Inspired by My Mozinar!]

Elizabeth initially presented the information below during her Mozinar on Sept. 10. But for those of you who aren’t interested in an hour-long audio presentation but want more info than a Slideshare, this is the post for you.  Consider this the “Tall,” not Venti version… Give us a break, it’s Seattle.

Once upon a time I started out as what I thought was a “paper clip” marketer. (Turns out that’s actually a “pay per click” marketer, as I was gently corrected by a Google SERP.) Since then, I’ve been smashing my way through paid search accounts at Portent. By working in an integrated Internet marketing agency, however, I’ve been exposed to SEOs and their trials and tribulations – which is how I ended up with a more intimate knowledge of what SEOs care about and what they don’t.

Since no one really reads prologues anyway (you’re all skimming right now), I’ll shut up and get to it. Here are some basic how-tos for the SEOs out there to leverage for themselves.

Quality Score

Quality Score (QS) is Google’s measurement of a keyword’s relevancy at the visible level, on a scale of 1-10. There are Quality Scores for other parts of an AdWords account, but the one we can see and in a sense, control, is at the keyword level. QS is determined by a bevy of factors, chiefly click through rate. QS plays a large role in how much your CPC (cost per click) will be, average ad position (sometimes), and impression rate.

As a result of this important metric, there are several tools and measurement options at our disposal to help improve QS within an ad group that can also be used for SEO purposes.

Load Time & Relevancy

Within the AdWords interface under the Keywords tab, there is a little “bubble” that when hovered over will tell you what the QS of that keyword is, if the keyword is displaying with ads, expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. As you can see in the first example, this is an ideal set up for this particular keyword and the ad and landing page associated with it.

landing page relevance

This second example shows you the opposite:

landing page relevance 2

Why you care: if you’re struggling with certain keyword choices you’ve made for your SEO keyword list, take a look at what Google is interpreting for that keyword in relevancy with the landing page and well, everything else. If they hate it there, you might have your answer.

Additionally, when a new PPC ad is added (paused or not), Google crawls through the destination URL to assign a baseline QS. If the page for the destination URL is not live yet- the ad will get kicked back. Same goes for pages that are too slow to respond to Google’s virtual “click” – we’ve had many a time where site speed played a factor in calculating QS and resulted in the ad being disapproved due to site speed. So just as site speed affects SEO, so does it affect PPC.

Compare QS to SEO Keywords

This one is pretty straightforward: download the list of keywords from AdWords with Quality Scores and compare it to your SEO keyword list. If you’re seeing low scores (under 5) for terms you treasure, you might start digging a little deeper. If you can’t buy your way to the top with that term, it may be indicative of potential success, or rather lack thereof, for your SEO terms.

quality score keywords

You can also pull a host of other information from the keywords tab to compare your SEO keyword list to, including the most important: average CPC. If you’re paying $26 PER CLICK for a certain term and it’s important to you (especially if QS is low), pouring some effort into the organic side to cut spend on the PPC side could very well result in your obtaining hero status.

screencap of average cost per click

Using Ad Copy

Ad copy, while shorter, still provides a place in which to test things out much faster than SEO. For example, test title tags! A PPC headline is only 25 characters, but the ad itself in total is 95 characters. Combine an ad headline and body copy, and you have yourself a bonafide title tag with which you can test response rates – from CTR to conversion rate.

Same goes for meta descriptions – 95 characters of space to find out what searchers will respond to when presented with a field of options.

A PPC ad could gather the amount of info needed to make a good decision for SEO in a matter of days or weeks, instead of the months it could take for SEO changes to take full effect.

Another feature of ad copy is that in PPC, the PPC marketer can choose which sitelinks to show alongside the ad. From as few as 1 (though I don’t recommend less than 4) up to 10, a PPC ad can show a swath of title tags and give you individual sitelink metrics in the AdWords interface. This allows you to measure CTR, impressions, and conversion rate. While you might not be able to select your own sitelinks in SEO, you can see in Webmaster Tools what is being chosen – this can help drive your decisions on which sitelinks to suppress instead.

screencap of sitelinks example

Keyword Research

Oh man. I’m sorry. This puppy is also sorry.

a sorry puppy

Enhanced Campaigns

This year, Google AdWords rolled out a very large change. While it provided more insight into certain areas of PPC account management, it darkened others – primarily the ability to target tablet devices separately from mobile or desktop.

Its effect in the short term (at least for many advertisers) was to increase their average CPC as tablet device traffic was merged with desktop. The emphasis on mobile was made even more apparent as Google’s default CPCs were the same for mobile devices as desktops – unless they were manually changed on “upgrade.” The change also made it impossible to just “opt out” of mobile – the only workaround was to set a “mobile bid modifier” at the campaign level to -100%.

Yes, you read that right. It’s very convoluted.

Why you care: For all the griping and nonsense associated with the change, the data that will come from some of the new features will be of interest to you.

Besides the above-mentioned ability to see sitelink performance on a per sitelink basis, you can now also bid for specific geographies. This will allow you to see if sitelinks in areas you *think* are more important to local SEO efforts actually are. Geographic bidding makes it so you don’t need a separate campaign for a specific geographic location anymore; instead, it allows you to nest all within a single campaign, adjusting bids up or down depending on your preference. See what people in a suburb, city, metro area or congressional district are responding to and align your local SEO efforts accordingly.

geo-enhanced campaigns

For you local SEOs out there, watch out for the AdWords Express or “Premium Features” of the Google Places for business area. This is essentially a dressed down version of AdWords with less control. You don’t choose keywords, you choose categories, no negative keywords (just categories), broad match only and no direct conversion tracking. If you want to “boost” local SEO on Google Places, carefully weigh your options, as the premium product is technically PPC and you may be better off with a full (yet, simple) AdWords account.

The Keyword Planner

Okay, so I know that technically keywords are passé now, but if you perhaps wanted to get an estimate on what Google thinks is out there based on the last 30 days of searches, you can. As most of you are probably aware the Traffic Estimator and Keyword Tool were merged together to create the Keyword Planner. Keep in mind, however, it was meant for PPC, so you’ll be asked to fill in certain fields and click certain tabs as if you were actually trying to build out a new ad group (even though you’re not).

screencap of keyword planner


  • Yeah, you’re going to have to sign in to use it. If there’s an MCC (My Client Center) login that your PPC team uses, get logged in with that and navigate to the client account. Technically, it doesn’t matter what AdWords account you do the research in as long as you don’t save.
  • Click the keyword button in the “segment by” area to see individual keyword estimates (ad group is the default).
  • Enter a fake bid. Go with $5 or higher for high volume or tech industry related terms. Go with $1-3 for the less tech-y or trafficked. This will get you into your desired range of a better “ad position” for more ideal volumes.
  • If the average ad position isn’t showing as 1-3, increase the bid. You’re more likely to see closer to total volumes available for those terms. So in the above example, I’d increase the bid to $5 and see what average positions appear.
  • Double check the settings on the left rail: all languages (not English) is a default, same with USA targeting, and Google search (not search partners – you want this, as search partners won’t apply to you in the same sense.)
  • Change match type (broad is the default) with the “edit match types” drop down button.

Hopefully this post has provided something that sparks a whisper of innovation that you can run off with and claim as your own. Godspeed.

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