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When putting pay per click (PPC) against search engine optimization (SEO) in a head-to-head comparison, there’s no clear winner. PPC’s speed-to-market and relative predictability are longtime advantages over SEO, while SEO has long enjoyed the advantage of being “free.”

Perhaps because of SEO’s bargain price, Google has taken increasing actions to make SEO more honest and thus, more difficult. Since SEO isn’t getting any easier, it’s becoming more important than ever to leverage your PPC data to bolster your SEO efforts. In this post I’m going to walk through some of the best ways you can use the data and findings from your paid search efforts to improve and reinvigorate your SEO strategies.

Keyword Data

We PPC people got a bit of a scare back in April with the announcement of Google encrypting PPC keyword data. Luckily, we still have access to really great data through AdWords search terms report.

But just imagine your poor SEO brothers and sisters… they actually had the hammer fall completely, and those on that side of the fence have been operating without most of their precious keyword data since 2013. That means you can be a hero by lending a helping hand. Share your top converting keywords- or better yet, search queries- so that your SEO team can continue the good work of optimizing each page for the best keywords search has to offer.

Conversion data can help you optimize for the keywords with the best chance at converting, whereas click and impression data can help you understand which keywords are being searched for the most. Some keywords that may be unprofitable to bid on through PPC might just work through organic search when you’re not paying for each visit to your website.

Google still relies on keywords being put in their search box. So until that stops, keywords are still 100% valuable and something any good SEO strategy will want to monitor and improve over time.

Ad Testing

The structure of a paid ad resembles the structure of an organic listing, and truly compelling copy can work wonders in both cases.

Take your ad testing learnings and revamp your approach to meta descriptions. Adding a call to action that you’ve seen win out in PPC ad testing can immediately have an impact. Think of enticing copy replacing a boring meta description that Google pulled out of context to showcase in the SERPs.

Sure, many SEOs will be justly concerned about making changes to title tags, and there are other factors to think about aside from CTR; however, updating a bland meta description might garner more clicks out of the same organic position.

Landing Page Testing

What elements can you roll out across your entire website?

Building out new pages can be a lot of work- especially on the SEO side of things where you need to create unique, compelling and relevant copy for each new page you’re rolling out. Testing landing page ideas through PPC is a great way to gather some firsthand intelligence on which pages are likely to make the most difference in terms of your business goals.

Use your landing page testing data to prioritize which new pages you need to add to broaden your website’s SEO targeting. Building awesome content takes time and resources, so do your best to make sure you waste neither while reaching your goals by using your PPC landing page test findings to inform which direction you take.

Display and Remarketing

The display network has incredible reach. There are over two million websites that partake in the AdSense program where an advertiser is eligible to place AdWords ads. If your client or company is having success through the display network, you might be able to share the wealth and take further advantage.

If you can figure out which websites perform the best for your business from the display advertising side of things, you can start to take action. Can you create content that caters to these websites where you already know your converting audience exists? Can you find similar sites and figure out ways to acquire a natural link?

This kind of link building can have a two-fold impact: first, you’ll receive a link which boosts your website’s relevance in Google’s eyes. Plus, if you can provide value to another website’s users, you will also have a relevant and hopefully productive referrer, minus the CPC like you’re used to with your display ads.

Quality Score Cues

If you are sending search traffic to the best possible landing page on a website, and you’re receiving pathetic quality scores, it’s pretty clear that something is going wrong. Sometimes quality score faux pas have nothing to do with optimizing a website, as is the case with expected CTR or ad relevance, but sometimes your Quality Score can indicate a greater issue stemming from your website.

QS

When you see a “below average” score relating to your landing page experience, there will be things you can do to improve the experience on your website. If Google sees your landing page as providing a poor experience when you’re the advertiser and paying them money, how often do you think they will rank these same pages well organically and for free? Google wants to give its users an excellent user experience; help that happen by delighting your users and everyone will win.

How do you do this? Most simply, make sure the content you provide is relevant to the keyword in question. Make sure the content is focused on the keyword you’re bidding on or trying to rank for organically. On the SEO side, make this content unique and original  for an added boost. Additionally, you’ll want to make your navigation clean and easy. Don’t try to trick your website users into anything. Finally, be transparent and instill trust in your website users.

Product Listing Ads / Google Shopping Ads

Effective titles? Effective descriptions? Are you showing up for keywords that you think you’re relevant for? If not, why not?  Often times, the Title Tag of a landing page is the same as the title in a product feed. The meta description of a product page is often pulled directly from the product description. Fix your feed, and you might just be surprised by the SEO benefit.

This is most successful when the main descriptive keywords have been omitted on-site in favor of a manufacture pet name. For example, we work with a plumbing equipment supplier that has created their own names for well-known products. This is okay from a standard text ad perspective, since we can choose which keywords we bid on- but not so through PLAs and definitely not through SEO. At least PLAs have supplementary information such as part numbers and categories that can add additional clues. But it’s very hard to organically rank these days if your target keyword is not on your page.

If your product names don’t match up with the ways that people are searching for them, and an explicit connection is not made between your product and the common name for an item, you’re not going to be happy with your results. Make it easy for people to find your product.

Manual SEO Penalties

Organic traffic can be fickle. If Google picks up on a red flag based on paid links or less-than-honest link building and decides to take action against your website, you might find yourself in the penalty box, while potentially losing business every day. Once your site is deindexed, it means that some or all of your pages will be excluded from Google search results. If you’ve been able to build up a strong brand, your brand-based organic search might account for a large portion of your total traffic.

PPC can help retain this traffic by buying up all branded terms. Because your paid listing will be the most relevant on the page, you will see CTR spike, but you’ll also see total demand increase as well. Make sure you have the budget to weather the storm while you work on fixing the manual penalty levied against your website.

Trends

On the agency side of things, you sometimes hear about PPC vs. SEO, as if you’re only allowed to use one strategy at a time. But for a marketing manager or a business owner, there is really no such division. SEO and PPC are both tactics we employ in order achieve goals as dictated by a larger business strategy. And from this perspective, no one likes a data hoarder. So share, and see your holistic internet marketing work achieve the goals you set forth.

Let’s flip the tables; do any of you Certified Knowledge readers out there have any great ways to leverage SEO learnings for PPC gain? I’d love to hear about it.

This is a guest post by Nathan Pabich. Nathan is the Director of Paid Search at Digital Third Coast, a Chicago search marketing agency offering Pay Per Click Management and SEO. Nathan has been working in the search industry for the past 8 years, and was fortunate enough to be taught a thing or two early on by Brad Geddes. You can find Nathan on Google+

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

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