Paid & organic search are often seen as completely separate by brands and agencies alike. In fact the strategy and implementation for both aspects should go hand in hand.
As controlling your organic traffic through SEO becomes continually harder, many marketers have felt that paid search is the only way to go. The statistics seem to back this up with US search spend growing by 12% year on year in quarter 4 of 2013. A combination of increasing competition and Google changes have increased CPC’s gradually over the years, but paid search is very much worth investing in – particularly from the organic search perspective.
We believe in always starting with paid search when embarking on a new or amended organic search strategy. The key reason for this is to collect data. Building a whole organic strategy based on little or no data can lead to you investing a lot of resource in a strategy that potentially may not convert. Your organic strategy is naturally a more long-term play, with time and money needed to be spent in creating great content and building strong relevant links. To do this without the data in terms of conversions from keywords & landing pages means you are taking a major risk.
Paid search has a few major benefits to help inform your longer term strategy. First, you can get up and running straight away, almost instantly driving traffic from a wide range of keywords that would potentially take months to rank for organically. You can also manipulate your adverts to drive traffic into different sections of your site to see how they convert. Even better, with paid search you get to keep your keyword data in Google Analytics, which gives you great insight which can’t be achieved at any time as accurately with organic traffic in the ‘Not Provided’ age.
With this paid search data you can very quickly start to see what keywords and landing pages convert, what the competition is like on certain keywords, how visitors interact with your site in general through different keyword groups, and what kind of creative works (which can help inform your on-page optimisation efforts).
The first step is to define the keywords you think you’d like to focus your organic strategy upon, and then expand this with variations, longer tail terms, and semantically similar keywords. The Google keyword tool can really help here, both in generating you new ideas, but also in terms of giving you estimates in terms of keyword volumes, estimated CPCs, and competition level.
Think very carefully when setting up this AdWords campaign – the way you set up for this kind of PPC may not be exactly the same as how you would set up a longer term, full budget campaign. This kind of campaign is usually smaller, and the primary goal is to be able to test a number of factors and report on them effectively.
When your campaign is up and running, a good way to find interesting insights is to use the search terms data in AdWords to see exactly what is being search for and which keywords these are matching. This allows you to optimise your campaign slightly to ensure that you are not targeting too broadly in your match types and diluting your results, and can identify new keyword opportunities.
To truly analyse the success of your keywords and landing pages, Google Analytics will be your best friend.
Head to the acquisition menu, and choose paid keywords to show the traffic by individual keyword, alongside key metrics such as conversion rate from these keywords. Analysing this data gives you a great starting point for your organic strategy.
Next, go to ‘Channels’, choose ‘paid search’, and then click ‘landing pages’. This allows you to see your landing pages conversion rates and performance to see if anything needs to be taken into account before you start your organic search plans.
The ‘auction insights’ section of AdWords (found under Keywords > Details) also provides useful data to consider before laying down your longer term plans. This shows your impression share, average position and overlap rate with the key competitors for your paid activity as show below:
This enables you to identify keyword based competitors, who aren’t always who you’d expect. The fact that they are bidding on the same terms as you though shows that these are the people actively looking to compete in your market, and allows you some extra competitive insight with which to use in your strategy.
Once you have all of this paid search related data, it is finally time to define your organic strategy and start tracking your keywords and creating great content to enable you to rank in the appropriate search results.
Whilst taking this approach may take a little longer, it enables you to get your strategy right from the off without potentially wasting months on an organic search strategy that will not pay off.