SEO and PPC fans often find themselves in different parts of the building, on different floors and sometimes on a different planet. This shouldn’t really be the case, but is.
If you start to think of PPC as a device of SEO, it takes on a very different light and your own attitude shifts slightly. Now, I know you’re already ahead of me and thinking of keywords and the dreaded “not provided” category of keywords as the point of this post — but in fact, that isn’t my main point.
Rather, the insights which pay per click campaigns deliver to marketers are crucial to making the right decisions about SEO campaigns and, moreover, the ability for the Global SEO Manager to actively deploy PPC activity to test issues and concepts before implementing expensive SEO projects means that it should really be the tool of choice for the world’s greatest SEOs — not the abominable beast it is sometimes described as by pro-SEO SEOs.
There are two thoughts I’ve had for literally years that I continue to wrestle with; firstly, how can we, as an integrated global SEO and SEM agency, find ways for clients to fund their SEO activity directly through their PPC campaigns. And secondly, how should PPC and SEO campaigns relate to each other.
I’m certainly convinced that the PPC budget should not be taken away from the SEO for purely political reasons — in fact I would go so far as to say that exceptions should be made to PPC versus other forms of media spend, and paid search should not be regarded as part of the advertising mix for organisational reasons.
The reason for this is basic and simple; if you spend the money purely with the advertising team you will get the advertising and nothing more. Spend it with an SEO team which has so much more to gain from the knowledge gained from working with it, and you stand to gain substantially more besides the normal paid clicks.
Motivate Your SEO Agency To Perform With Slices Of The PPC Budget?
The funding mechanism is so much more challenging. I’d be interested to see what would happen if clients merged their PPC and SEO budgets into one once more — in other words to hold search budgets.
One solution might be to have a fixed budget — let’s say $10,000. That budget would be available to use as media spend or as ‘Search Referral Conversions’ (SRF). In other words, let’s say a fee of $5 per SFC was agreed. This would be paid for each conversion whether it came from a paid or an organic click.
If the agency started off with $10,000 but was generating 100 conversions, the agency would actually spend $9,500 in media spend and claim $500 in SFCs. The more SFCs the agency was able to claim, the less the agency would spend on media.
The downside of this, you say, is that the client would eventually see fewer conversions for their media investment — but this isn’t actually true. If the number of conversions dropped, the agency would lose revenue they would otherwise have been allowed to keep. So, they would have a vested interest in maintaining or improving performance.
If you allow the agency access to make SEO recommendations — in fact you’d be wise to actively encourage that — then the agency will be minded to focus on making the changes offering the greatest likelihood of success. They’d also be likely to focus on the most important improvements first –as well as knocking over any obstacles in the purchase funnel. As the SFC revenue grew and they gained confidence in you being fair and paying the fees, the agency’s commitment and efforts invested would also expand.
The result is that you would have converted your PPC budget into an also-SEO budget without too much effort. By the way, the main reason these performance schemes don’t work is because the client puts in thresholds and caps. A threshold might be because their search referrals are already converting and they don’t want to just pay money across to the agency rewarding them for past efforts that are just now producing conversions.
Thresholds can actually work as long as they reflect the conversions already being generated, and are not thresholds based on some future figure or upward pointing trend.
Caps, however, are a killer. They turn an agency’s motivation and risk taking effort right down — and why would you cap things? If your budget is capped, why would you need to cap SFCs? Because your media spend has been completely cannibalised? So what? If you did the math right in the first place, that was what you always wanted and you can surely afford now to increase your media budget to take things to the next level?
What’s To Be Gained By SEOs Working With PPC Budget?
Looking at this from our original angle of the PPC experience helping the SEO team, what exactly can an SEO gain from working directly alongside PPC?
The first benefit could be described as gaining an insight into user behaviour. This means much more than understanding which keywords prospects use. By understanding things like time of day or search patterns you can gain a real grasp of how prospective customers are thinking — which in turn would highlight which aspects of your SEO program are most important and have the greatest upside value.
Secondly, don’t forget that testing content against users is no longer the sole preserve of the usability or conversion optimization teams. The best measure of content quality is to ‘bounce’ that content off users. And since content quality is key for SEO these days — witness Panda, Penguin and click through rates — finding out quickly whether your pages or liked or not quickly, is essential.
Finally, an SEO does need to know if the users fail to convert because of obstacles they meet en route through the site — if the conversion path isn’t smooth, why would you invest in further SEO techniques?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.