It’s a well-known fact that SEO and SEM practitioners tend to work separately — even though both teams’ focus is to develop keyword strategies, content, and tactics to attract more visitors and sales.
But have you ever wondered what would happen if both teams combined their efforts and broke down their silos? The total sum of both teams' output would far exceed what they can achieve individually. And what’s important, the resulting incremental lift would be powerful.
Before I cover the benefits of combining organic and paid — and what that means for your ROI — let’s go over some basics.
The Difference Between Paid and Organic Search
Digital marketing tends to include both paid ads and organic search, but they hardly are used to work together.
There are a few key differentiators between paid and organic search that contribute to their separation. All queries will return organic results, but paid ads will only appear if an ad has been bought as a part of a PPC campaign.
Organic search results can appear as a link, or they can present themselves as a SERP feature such as the Answer Box, images, news, etc. The placement of an organic listing is dependent upon the search engine’s algorithm. SEO is “free” in that no direct payment is made to appear on the SERP — only optimization efforts can get you there.
Paid search, on the other hand, has its listings at the top of the SERP, and someone made a direct payment to get them there.
PPC placements are also indicated as such with the term “Ad” next to each paid listing.
(Paid search placements are labelled as such on the SERPs.)
These differences are why paid search gets so much more investment than SEO. Think about it, paid search is like a faucet that you can turn on or off: you open the tap (i.e. spending) and are guaranteed traffic, and you have full control over when to turn that tap off.
This control in paid search means all the investment goes there.
But what if digital marketers could look past those differences and focus on the more important angle: driving ROI and improving both channels by integrating both together.
It is possible, but there are a few issues to be aware of.
Integration Issues When Using PPC and SEO Together
The challenge with integrating both teams has a lot to do with a lack of understanding of how closely both teams really are within organizations.
Companies usually have a greater focus on paid search likely because of instant gratification and one-to-one result.
Take a look at this comparison of common KPIs:
(Paid and organic search teams are after the same KPIs.)
Paid and organic are targeting the same user behavior and the same clicks — they’re after the same thing! Yet this separation still exists.
Organizations fail to fully understand opportunities behind optimizing between both channels. Consider how common it is for companies to switch off paid search for keywords for which they rank organically in the first position?
And then, there’s the issue of budget allocation.
What people may not realize is how little investment is given to organic compared to PPC despite how much traffic SEO efforts drive and how much SEO influences the paid search channel.
In research across 500 of our clients, we found that organic search drives 75% of traffic, yet receives only 5% of investment.
(Organic drives the majority of search traffic, but receives a fraction of the investment.)
Aligning both teams offers incredible opportunities to boost online visibility and achieve business objectives to optimize results for both channels.
How SEO and PPC Work Together
The two channels together contribute to 65% of traffic for most of our clients, and more than 50% of conversions. And when working together, organic drives huge improvements for paid. Here are a few ways that PPC and SEO work together:
- Better Keyword Targeting
- Understand Keyword Intent
- Better Landing Pages
- Improve SEO Content’s Relevancy
#1. Better Keyword Targeting
It’s obvious that phrases that work particularly well for one channel might deliver similar results for the other.
And so, exchanging keyword data across SEO and SEM teams could quickly lead to identifying new and often, untapped opportunities.
What’s more, insights from each team could reveal specific phrases that engage audiences in specific locations or markets, leading to even further boost in keyword performance. However, all this can only happen if each team shares their keyword performance data.
The insights that SEO data offers can lead to better keyword relevance. This is going to improve your ad’s quality score and placement on the SERP.
#2. Understand Keyword Intent
Fact: Click-through rate is a significant factor for each channel.
It confirms the relevance between keywords targeted and the copy used in the ad or search engine listing. And needless to say, combining this insight would allow each team to build a solid picture of unique phrases that carry the strongest relevance to the target audience.
Let me illustrate the power of this by example. IT Governance uses a similar copy in their Adwords ads and meta-tags on a page targeting the same commercial keyword.
Here’s their ad copy:
And the SERP Listing:
As a result, they present the target audience with twice as many touch points per said keyword, both of which reference a specific customer problem (complying with the upcoming EU data protection changes) and offer a selling point (learning from the experts).
Insights into the user intent allowed them to influence their approach to writing the perfect meta description for both paid and organic.
#3. Improve Landing Page Relevancy for SEM
It’s no secret that quality score is a major factor contributing to Adwords ads success. And if you’re not familiar with the term, let me go over it really quickly. Quality score describes the quality and relevance of PPC ads and landing pages to which you’re sending the ad traffic.
And needless to say, it affects the two most important aspects of a SEM campaign:
- Ad rankings - the better the quality score, the higher positions at which your ads can appear
- Cost - similarly, better quality score means lower cost per click for those higher rankings
What’s more, its impact on cost per conversion is irrefutable. The higher the quality score, the lower CPC your ads achieve.
A major part of the quality score relates to landing page quality, a factor that SEO can contribute a lot of insight to.
Here, take a look at the most important quality score factors:
Four of them relate strictly to your ad set up; something SEOs wouldn’t be able to affect much. However, the content you feature on a landing page is universal between SEO and SEM. And as it happens, the better you optimize it for SEO, the greater quality score it will help you achieve for SEM.
Duplicate content. Having a similar content across a number of pages can greatly affect your rankings, and for many reasons, at that. But similarly, it can make your page less relevant to the ad sending it traffic.
Correct and uniform schema markup. Properly used schema markup helps search engines better understand the content on a page. In case of SEO, it then further helps them to display more relevant information to users in SERPs. But similarly, it also helps Google to assess how closely a page matches the Adwords ad to which you assigned it.
With our free Schema Builder, implementing structured data is as simple as point and click.
Page load time. Page speed describes the length of time it takes a browser to display all the content on a specific page. And needless to say, it’s one of the most crucial ranking factors today (particularly on mobile).
But user experience, and particularly page speed affects ad performance too. As Google explains:
Your landing page experience affects not only your Quality Score, but also your Ad Rank and advertising costs.
Furthermore, the search engine adds (cited via Search Engine Land):
“If it takes too long for your website to load when someone clicks on your ad, they’re more likely to give up and leave your website. This unwelcome behavior can signal to Google that your landing page experience is poor, which could negatively impact your Ad Rank.”
TIP: seoClarity's Page Speed tool allows you to analyze loading time for every page on the site, and discover potential issues that prevent them from opening faster.
#4. Improve SEO Content’s Relevancy
As SEOs, we have a serious challenge with accessing relevant data. Analytics hides most of our keywords behind the “(not provided)” label.
And although the Search Console now reports on search phrases visitors used to reach a site, the data is still far off from what we used to have. No surprise that SEOs often miss opportunities to make their content even more relevant to the searcher’s intent.
With SEM data, however, they could boost content relevancy by:
- Identifying the most relevant keywords to use in the content, and then,
- Applying them to the core page elements (i.e., title, headings, body copy, meta-tags, etc.)
It’s that simple. But like with everything else I’ve talked about in this post, it requires both departments to work in tandem.
PPC vs. Organic Integration in seoClarity
As you’ve seen, there are multiple reasons to bring PPC and organic together, and yet they are still managed in silos. Our feature for PPC vs. Organic breaks down these silos by giving teams the information and data they need for them to identify opportunities that may exist.
The opportunities that will arise from paid and organic search integration have the ability to reduce costs and increase revenue, and all around drive the company’s bottom line.
Let’s look at a breakdown of this within the seoClarity platform.
(An overview of the PPC vs. Organic report in seoClarity.)
Below the trend charts is a list of keywords with a variety of metrics, of which you can show or hide depending on which type of analysis you want to run:
- Quality Score: This comes from paid search advertising. Track this over time as you optimize your landing pages to work toward a better quality score.
- Traffic (organic and PPC): The amount of people who clicked through to your ad or organic listing.
- Rank (organic and PPC): Paid and organic rank position on the SERP.
- Cost: The organic cost estimate is calculated by leveraging the paid search costs. If you were to get the same traffic from organic as you do for paid, that is the organic estimate.
- Average CPC: Cost per click.
- Impressions (organic and paid): The amount of users who saw your ad or organic listing on the SERP.
CTR (organic and paid): Impressions divided by traffic. This metric is extremely helpful for comparing organic and paid, as you’ll see in the examples below.
(The keyword list for a Paid vs. Organic report with corresponding metrics.)
Note: The data points shown above are dummy data and are not reflective of actual performance metrics.
There are two different ways that integration can reduce costs at your company. Let’s take a look at them in turn.
#1. Identify important PPC keywords with low conversions/ROI
This use case focuses on optimizing in organic to allow a pull back in PPC bidding (therefore reducing cost).
First, look at your PPC conversion rate to pick out keywords that have a low rate of conversion (this number is something only you can determine based on your business operations) and see where that keyword ranks in organic.
Note: The new PPC vs. Organic reports work exclusively on comparing paid data from Google Adwords with Google Search Console data.
Imagine this example: The PPC conversion rate is 1.6%, which is significantly lower than the rate of conversion for other keywords in paid. Yet, the impressions for that keyword cost $3,500.
It’s currently ranking in position 4 in organic. If you could get that in position one, like the majority of the others, you could pull back spend on paid and still get the same amount of traffic from your higher rank position.
#2. Identify high-cost PPC keywords with high organic rankings
This method requires testing a pull back in PPC spend to evaluate incremental savings vs. incremental loss in revenue. Let me explain.
There’s a long-standing debate in the online marketing world over whether or not you should bid on your own brand keywords. One argument is that your competitors may bid on your brand terms, but the other side of the argument is that your brand will always be number one for organic.
The decision depends on the data, so here’s how to analyze.
Use the PPC vs. Organic feature to weed out keywords where PPC cost is high, and organic ranks well, and consider pulling back on paid.
Again, this test will vary for each company based on the data and the outcome, but you need to determine this: If you stop paying for PPC for your own brand names, would the top rank position in organic be enough to capture traffic and have a good ROI through SEO versus paying a lot of your brand name.
The combined PPC and organic approach is best for your bottom line when it comes to money saved, and it also impacts money earned. Here’s what you should look for in the data to increase your revenue:
#1. High ROI PPC keywords where organic is lagging
If you have keywords that perform well in PPC but your organic rank is higher than position 5, those are keywords that you can optimize for organic.
In the Organic Rank column, filter keywords results by entering >5. This will narrow down the keyword list to where the organic rank is greater than five (and most likely pushed far down the SERP).
Imagine this example: The conversion rate for PPC is high, at 9.8%. It’s had a total spend of $186.97 and has brought in $1,303.25. That’s a great ROI for that keyword.
However, its organic rank is position 12, which is definitely off the first page. If you optimize that keyword and bring it onto the first page of the SERP, you can further increase your search visibility and capture that additional market share.
Keyword Opportunities at Scale
As you’ve seen, all the necessary metrics are at your disposal for comparing organic and paid, and locating the opportunities that fit your business goals.
But with new advanced filtering, you can also quickly identify gaps between paid and organic.
(Instantly locate keyword opportunities in both organic and paid.)
Applying this filter will automatically edit the keyword list to locate those that match the criteria. Other filters include:
- Search Analytics Profile
- Search Intent
- Keyword Status
- Keyword Tags
Any digital marketer can benefit from having their marketing strategy shift from SEO vs PPC to SEO and PPC.
Again, here are the benefits of those channels working together:
- Better Keyword Targeting
- Understand Keyword Intent
- Better Landing Pages
- Improve SEO Content’s Relevancy
But the real value lies with being able to see the metrics and analyze both organic and PPC together through the same lens. This unique view will let you drive the company’s bottom line.
The combined PPC and organic approach is best for reducing spend and earning revenue, and I would love to show you how this can impact your company. Schedule a demo today to see how our platform can bring your PPC and SEO together.
Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in October 2017 and has been updated to reflect advancements in our industry.