An oft-quoted line is “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This is just as true for digital marketing and search as it is for the lowly BLT. Marketers who understand the interdependence between digital channels (paid search, organic search, display, social, etc.) can optimize their efforts based on holistic data instead of siloed sets of data. By looking at the whole picture, marketers can benefit from more scalable, sustainable and profitable results.
While there is much industry buzz around media convergence and integrated marketing, it’s still common to see different agencies and even different teams within the client or agency managing media with different technologies. This happens even within search marketing. A holistic approach to search marketing brings paid search, SEO and site optimization together to improve overall results for all SEM.
To do this correctly for the first time, there will likely be structural and organizational challenges to overcome, as I discussed in an earlier column “Integrated Marketing Is Made Of People.” For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that your teams are aligned and we can focus on strategies.
PPC and SEO
PPC and SEO are like peanut butter and jelly. They are illustrative of how channels work in concert. Often the question comes up, “If I am getting great placement for an organic term, should I spend money on paid search for that term?” While a valid and thoughtful question, our research consistently shows that on terms with a high organic ranking it is better to bid more aggressively on paid search than you would otherwise. This is especially true with brand terms. Paid search ads associated with organic results show higher click-through rate than terms that are not associated with organic rankings. When you pause paid campaigns, the clicks on paid + organic are not made up by organic clicks alone. Additionally, organic click-through rates increase when the paid ads are active, driving incremental clicks to the natural results.
Click-through rates are not the only metrics that improve by coordinating PPC and SEO. Conversions and profitability are also positively influenced. Our research shows that when paid search is run alongside organic listings, conversion rates are also significantly higher. In this study, profitability of the combined search programs also increased during times when paid listings ran.
You have two opportunities to present your message for each query. By taking full advantage of both, you increase your chances of being associated with the need of the searcher, which means brand awareness and conversion. You also eliminate one possibility for a competitor to show his wares.
Bacon + Lettuce + Tomato = Bliss
There is equally tantalizing data for the interactions between search and display, Facebook and email. Let’s save the data for another day, but suffice it to say that search marketers will do best when collaborating with practitioners from other digital media disciplines, including website content.
This teamwork also applies to reporting on search metrics. These should include landing page metrics, including bounce and conversion rates, cost-per-action and engagement metrics. Remember, a click only gets you so far; the landing page brings the conversion home.
When looked at holistically with attributed data, metrics from natural search, paid search and engagement can work together to give insights to bidding strategies and improve all of your search efforts. And search is just the start. Once you get a taste of the improvements possible, you’ll want to start to add all of your marketing channels to your holistic approach.