How marketers can create a holistic search strategy
SEO and PPC teams can empower each other when they work together. At SMX Next, Allison Duvall and Hannah Johnson of Merkle shared how marketers can create holistic search strategies.
Organic and paid search channels are huge sources of traffic for websites (roughly 68%), yet few marketing teams know how to align the tactics, insights and goals of both effectively. This is why so many search professionals speak of implementing holistic strategies.
“Building a holistic search strategy can be tricky,” said Hannah Johnson, associate SEO manager at Merkle, at SMX Next. “You have to be able to get buy-in, determine your needs and work together as a team.”
Holistic search strategies combine the keyword, audience and industry data from organic and paid channels to better address customer needs and, ultimately, increase ROI.
“When our paid and organic teams work together, we see results,” said Johnson. “This ranges from a variety of industries, ranging from retail to B2B and much more. We see increases in conversion, decreases in cost-per-click and the overall search knowledge increases between both teams.”
“Holistic search drives incremental growth, time and time again,” she added.
Despite the proven benefits of these cross-channel search strategies, many marketers have difficulties adjusting their frameworks or convincing the rest of the team to adopt them. To help address these issues, Johnson and Duvall provided three helpful ways marketers could create effective holistic search strategies.
Identify opportunities for organic and paid search to work together
“The first thing that we want to do is identify initial opportunities,” said Johnson. “We want to get a better understanding of how each team is sharing information — if they’re doing so and how they can better share it.”
Knowing what type of relationship your SEO and SEM teams have from the get-go will make creating a holistic strategy much easier in the long run. Marketers should identify siloes and areas where data is already shared between both teams, then point to opportunities for improvement.
SEOs can focus on sharing query performance data or competitor research with their paid search counterparts so both teams can tackle the same goals, increasing the chances that their brand grabs greater portions of search real estate.
During the same presentation, Allison Duvall, SEM senior manager at Merkle, highlighted information that could be shared from the paid side.
“From the SEM side, we’re auditing landing page quality scores, working with the SEO team to update landing page wording, and creating or identifying better landing pages to increase the quality score for sets of our keywords,” Duvall said.
Educate teams about channel strengths and weaknesses
An important part of bringing SEM and SEO teams together is educating each member about the benefits of each channel. This includes identifying the weaknesses of each as well. The process is designed to help get everyone on the same page and prevent wasted time and resources.
“You want to make sure that they [search teams] know what the strengths and weaknesses are of each channel,” Johnson said. “So, for SEO, the main points to get across would be that it’s high reach, has sustainable long-term results and is relatively low cost.”
“However, you also want to be aware of the weaknesses of each channel,” she added.
When looking at the potential weakness of SEO, Johnson pointed to marketers’ lack of control within the search engine results pages (SERPs). And, because Google uses its algorithms to rank queries based on numerous relevancy factors, it takes some time to see results with SEO.
Duvall noted some of the most pertinent strengths and weaknesses to be aware of in SEM as well: “We can be agile, react quickly to changing situations . . . We can pause campaigns if we’re seeing poor traffic coming through, or if spend needs to change one way or the other.”
“For weaknesses, [paid search] management takes time and requires skill, and ad spend can vary based on elements that are out of our control,” she added. “These can look like changes in competition or even the SERP landscape.”
Combining the capabilities of these channels — while acknowledging the weaknesses of each — can help marketers plan out successful holistic strategies. The key is to keep everyone in the know.
“By combining our forces, we’re able to overcome most of these weaknesses that each of the channels faces while creating a long list of strengths,” Duvall said.
Analyze the overarching incrementality and enact cross-channel collaboration
Once teams have shared data from organic and paid teams and pinpointed the capabilities of each channel, Johnson and Duvall recommend marketers measure the overarching incrementality — the benefits attributed to each marketing tactic.
“You’re going to want to analyze that overarching incrementality and the easy way to do that is with a paid and organic report,” Johnson said. “Create that report in Google Ads, then you’ll want to categorize queries by brand and non-brand.”
She provided an example of a paid and organic search report (shown below), which shows how marketers can compare branded and non-branded clicks, impressions and click-through rates. It also includes a method of measuring growth differentials between queries where ads and organic results are shown and those with only the ad displayed.
Johnson then shared another chart (shown below) that highlighted the benefits of cross-channel search strategies. Using insights gleaned from keyword sharing, website updates and search coverage reviews for branded and non-branded queries, her team saw a massive increase in year-over-year revenue.
“We saw a 55% increase in total revenue,” Johnson said. “We also saw a 50% increase in SEO clicks as well as a 162% increase in SEM clicks, with holistic search clicks increasing by 152%.”
When SEM and SEO teams share data and plan strategies in concert, brands can identify more growth opportunities. Using the latest collaboration and data sharing tools to break down departmental siloes will help search marketers build more holistic campaigns.
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