In recent months, search marketers have seen a major shift in focus from Google. Where previously, PPC and SEO lived in harmony across clearly defined sections of the SERPs, the lines are now more blurred than ever, with Google (arguably) pushing it’s paid offering more aggressively than ever before. From changes in number and positioning, to the colour of labels, we have seen the impact of this across both channels – Increased CPCs and lower return on ad spend and organic click through rates left their mark on revenue across both channels.
Now, marketers must spend harder and smarter to achieve year on year growth. But while PPC and SEO offer two distinct strategies – the former is focused on providing more instantaneous results, with the latter focusing on longer-term gain – to a user, the difference between an ad and an organic result is harder to discern. This can either play to a marketer’s advantage, with the channels working to collect every possible click or hinder them with both channels competing for the same user.
Okay, but if seeing a positive ROI across either channel, that’s fine, right?
Well, sort of – but it’s a myopic point of view to take. At the moment, Google is looking to promote paid search – but it could easily shift its focus another part of the operation. In addition, the landscape is always changing, and tomorrow a new competitor could enter the market. Suddenly your reliable #1 keyword starts to move to #3 or you’re constantly out-bid for a high converting term and your fantastic ROI starts to become a lot harder (or costlier) to achieve.
It’s far better to take an approach that combines learnings from both channels to drive benefit for everyone. Now is the time to stop thinking of things in terms of SEO and PPC, but as ‘search’ as a single entity with two key, complementary strategies. While your teams may continue to sit apart, by working together you will be able to drive continued growth for your business both now – and importantly – in the future.
A complete change of approach isn’t something that happens overnight; it takes planning and careful thought. However, this doesn’t stop you from rolling out a little mutual-thinking to your current activity. With this in mind, here are a few key areas where making a change can have an immediate impact.
Be smart about your keyword targeting: By combining your approach, you’ll be able to focus your resources on the terms that are most needed. Lacking visibility across high converting keywords? Ramp up your paid activity. Spending too much on important terms, higher up the funnel? Focus your SEO activity here. This way, you can focus your PPC budget where it can have the most impact.
Make mutually beneficial website changes: Elements from both channels can help inform website changes. For example, optimising as page for your target terms may be a standard SEO recommendation. But it can also improve quality score, making ads cheaper to show. Alternatively, why not use your best performing ad copy as meta descriptions? Both are designed to attract the users eye and earn their click. You can even use internal site searches to help optimise pages and bidding strategies to capture what users are actually looking for, an often overlooked tool in the SEO and PPC arsenal.
Work together to boost your brand presence: If you are operating in a competitive market, you can use synergy to completely shut-out other players; use paid to boost your presence across high value, high performing organic terms. Or alternatively, align your messaging across SEO and PPC to provide a consistent tone of voice across brand terms, building user recollection in the process. It’s important to test the impact each channel has on each other, to make sure you don’t end up paying for traffic you could have earned or that you’re not overloading users with too much of your brand at once.
Report as a single search entity: As both channels can heavily impact each other, to report separately is to fight a losing battle; instead, why not provide a single report with combined data? This way, you’ll more accurately be able to tell when you are gaining or losing market share (and something is working or not) and not waste crucial resources on combating an increased PPC spend or SEO activity.
These are just a few ideas to help you on your way to a one-search future. By making these small changes a part of your performance marketing team’s culture, you’ll improve your spend, focus your activity and build a more consistent brand presence where it matters. With the next, game-changing update likely to be only round the corner, now is the time to focus on building bridges between channels and preparing for the future.