PPC and SEO — Shouldn't They Get Along?

Both pay-per-click advertising and organic listings vie for your attention when you search, but do the two types of search results always have to be at odds, or can savvy marketers use SEO(Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) in tandem to dominate the search results? Making Portent history, Laura Oden (PPC Strategist) and Kaitlin McMichael (SEO Strategist) tackle the first tag-team blog post, putting their heads together to figure out how PPC Strategists and SEO Strategists can work together. The thought process was if we can co-exist at a Christmas party, then chances are we can share a list of keywords with each other. Plus, come to find out, a lot of other good things.

From the SEO Strategist:

I hate to say it, but it’s not really good enough to be number one for organic search anymore; paid advertising needs to be a part of your search strategy. When a client says to me, “I want to be number 1 for all my keywords,” they actually mean they want to be number 4. There are at least 3 other listings that will steal upwards of 64% of the clicks – at least for keyword phrases with commercial intent. So, as an SEO Strategist, I’ve resigned to the fact that I should probably discuss with PPC Strategists about how the paid campaigns for my clients perform. I want to know if those clicks they’ve been stealing are converting or not. The PPC Strategist has a whole minefield of interesting insights at their fingertips, and figuring out which keywords work and which are duds are all part of my plan for world domination.

From the PPC Strategist:

While I’d like to think that PPC is awesome because it’s easy to control, takes effect quickly, and takes the top of the search result pages, it’s not the be all and end all of search marketing. Organic listings, and other information snippets appear on results page and drive on average 64% of visits to a web page. Clearly beating paid search as a traffic driver. Also, while paid search ads are accompanied by a little “ad” button designating it as a paid placement, SEO isn’t seen as advertising and is perceived as trustworthy by the public.

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See that little ad bubble in the left hand corner of the PPC ad. Yes, that clearly designates it as an advertisement which dissuades some users from clicking on it. Sure internally I can know this is all above board, but it is like comparing your favorite garage band to an auto-tuned pop singer, one has a lot more authenticity.

Come Together, Right Now

With these views of SEO and PPC in mind we’re going to examine how the two departments can complement each other.

Keyword Research

Both PPC and SEO Strategists do keyword research before and during a campaign, so why not share those keyword insights with each other? Follow these steps to ensure clear keyword communication between departments: 1) The SEO specialist creates a “keyword map” report that details the keywords for which your site is already ranking and the corresponding landing pages for those keywords. This takes a bit of reverse-engineering in Google Analytics and other keyword data sources, but it is a necessary evil in this era of (not provided) keyword data loss. 2) The SEO Strategist also does some additional keyword research to find new keyword ranking opportunities and maps those keywords to the appropriate landing pages. 3) Then the SEO Strategist sends the keyword map to the PPC strategist. The PPC strategist can use this keyword map as a seed keyword list for building out campaigns. 4) After testing keywords to find over- and under-achievers, the PPC Strategist should send the results to the SEO. An SEO might try to rank for “keyword A” but if the PPC finds that “keyword B” is actually kicking ass, maybe the SEO would like to know that. This report which is pulled from the AdWords UI can be used to find out what queries are actually generating actions on a web site, but most importantly it can be used to find synonyms or other variations of keywords that were not included in the original keyword map or PPC campaign. With 20% of daily search queries being questions that have never been asked before, relying on a static keyword list leaves opportunities on the table. Review the search query report thoroughly to see what keywords could be added to a PPC account, or built out for SEO pages.

Improve Loading Speed and Overall Quality Score

Quality score is rated on a 1- 10 scale and determined by several factors such as keyword click-through rates and page loading times. If a page loads slowly, then your ads will cost more and your organic rankings will suffer. So the SEO and the PPC Strategists should do everything in their power to make the site as freakishly fast as possible. 1) The SEO Strategist should communicate with the PPC Strategist if they suspect that certain pages are suffering from slow load times. A PPC Strategist can then see if those pages have low quality scores.

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2) The SEO Strategist can investigate page speed issues using Google PageSpeed Insights, YSlow, and other tools. 3) The SEO Strategist or a developer can then implement the fixes necessary. If a page loads slowly due to render-blocking JavaScript or CSS, then those should load asynchronously. Or maybe some static resources simply need to have expiry dates set so that browsers will load cached content. 4) Once page speed issues are addressed, the PPC should measure for improved click-through rates and higher quality scores.

Optimize a Landing Page Using PPC

Not only are the elements that drive clicks testable, but PPC can be harnessed to test post-click behavior as well. Since AdWords can send traffic to multiple landing pages via the same ad, a PPC Strategist can see what elements on a page influence KPIs for a particular keyword. For example, an ad group can be set up with two versions of the same ad that point to different landing pages. In this manner the page headline, call to action, layout, images, or other page elements can be tested. The findings from the PPC team can be used to inform SEO efforts. For example, if a PPC Strategist notices that Landing Page A is converting at a breakneck speed, then the SEO Strategist can take some cues and re-design the organic landing pages to follow suit.

Make Friends with AdWords and Webmaster Tools

When you link AdWords and Webmaster Tools together, beautiful things can happen. Have you ever wondered whether your organic listing is more effective if you also have a paid listing? Or if your paid listings are cannibalizing your organic listings? These questions can be answered by looking at the “Paid & Organic” dimension report within Google AdWords. This report pulls data from Google Webmaster Tools for organic searches, impressions, and click-through rates, and compares that data to AdWords keywords you’re bidding on. This helps you to look holistically at your integrated SEO and PPC campaigns. 1) The PPC Strategist should pull a monthly report of the “Paid & Organic” dimension report and send it to the SEO Strategist. The two strategists should look for insights such as the performance of keywords where both organic and paid ads show for a given keyword. 2) The PPC Strategist should determine if any changes need to be made in terms of bidding strategy based on the report. Look especially at keywords where “Organic only shown” as new keyword ideas. 3) The SEO Strategist should determine if any changes in SEO strategy should be made. Pay attention particularly to “Ad shown only” keywords where there were a significant number of clicks – this may indicate a qualified keyword to target.

Setting up Site Search

Setting up Google Site Search in Google Analytics allows PPC and SEO Strategists to see what users look for in the site search box. This can help you glean additional keyword info and help you understand what your users can’t find. For example, if 85% of users search for “blue penguin,” and you do, in fact, sell blue penguins but the product is buried under Blue Items > Penguins, then maybe it’s time to feature your blue penguins on the home page.

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1) The PPC Strategist can use this information to bid on new keywords and drive them to a page that speaks to what they seek. 2) The SEO Strategist can use this information to determine which keywords are important to users that they can’t easily find, and then use that information to suggest on-page SEO improvements, new pages, and/or site structure revisions.

Testing Page Titles

One of the many benefits of PPC is that it allows marketers to test messaging. Use this if you launch new content and would like to see what messaging resonates most with your audience, or test specific offers, promotions, or value propositions. SEO Strategists can get in on the action too. Ask your PPC colleague to write two ads for a given term with the exact same copy except for the title. Then set Google AdWords to rotate the ads evenly until a winner is decided. Sit back and watch the results come in. In the AdWords interface you will be able to see which title performs better in terms of click-through rate. This indicates that there is more interest for this specific offer. Google Analytics can also assist in this effort too. Go to Analytics > AdWords > Campaign and set the secondary dimension to “ad content.” This way you will be able to see post-click metrics such as bounce rate time, time on site, and pages per session. Now you will be able to determine which ad after driving a user to a page actually kept them there. This isn’t possible with just SEO alone, but is a great example of how SEO Strategists can leverage the unique ability that AdWords offers PPC Strategists. As you can see from the example below Ad 1 had a significantly lower bounce rate and kept users on the site for a longer period of time. Consider utilizing the copy in Ad1’s headline in and SEO title tag.

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Test New Geographic Markets and Demographics

And last but not least, PPC Strategists can help SEO Strategists by testing new markets and demographics with their laser sharp geo-targeting. PPC is helpful for businesses that are testing new markets to decide if there is enough demand for their products/services before they invest money and resources into new markets, and/or determine if your site would benefit from a long-term international SEO strategy. A properly executed international SEO strategy can take up a lot of time and resources. PPC in international markets, however, can be properly set up and executed within a few hours, if performed by an experienced PPC manager. 1) A PPC Strategist can set up a separate campaign for the country, region, city, or even ZIP code that you are interested in targeting. After testing the new campaign to see if you can achieve average or below-average CPA, the PPC Strategist can then send the findings to the SEO Strategist for implementation. 2) The SEO Strategist should not rely on estimated search volumes alone as an indicator of whether targeting a new region will be effective. Instead, wait until after a PPC campaign has launched to determine if targeting a new region will be successful.

SEO + PPC = Money

As you can see, there are several opportunities where SEO and PPC Strategists can work together to glean richer, more relevant data that can help them refine their search strategies.

This blog is a great example of the magic that can be made when two aspects of search marketing come together. The ironic thing is that this kind of inter-departmental information sharing rarely happens. Why? We think it is because it is possible to be successful within one’s own department. It is possible to carry out an effective SEO or PPC strategy without discussing these topics with a co-worker. And yet, as this article has pointed out, there are so many ways in which we  can teach and learn from each other! We hope this post inspires you to break out a six-pack and make yourself comfortable at your friendly SEO/PPC person’s desk and get to work. Also read this article about How to Use PPC to Bolster Your SEO, Inspired by Elizabeth Marsten’s Mozinar.

Although we can’t post this from two different people, this was a joint blog by both PPC Strategist, Laura Oden, and SEO, Kaitlin McMichael.

Laura Oden

PPC Strategist
PPC Strategist

Laura has been driving leads in the PPC game for three years. Her world consists mainly of Paid Search Advertising, Facebook Ads, Display, Mobile, and Remarketing. Prior to focusing on leads, she studied the business aspects of broadcasting at San Francisco State University.

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