In late February we released our Search Synergy Report, which demonstrates that there is indeed a lift in search campaigns that have both a paid and natural search component. These
findings support similar studies presented by SEO-PR and Yahoo/Nielsen ReelResearch on the exponential benefits of and lift from holistically managed search campaigns.
The study sought to answer the following question: “Does running a natural search campaign and a paid search campaign together create more value than running them in a non-integrated manner?” In the end, the evidence revealed that the answer to this question is an overwhelming yes.
Among the findings, the report shows:
A causal relationship between paid and natural was confirmed, and the results were significantly positive. These happy results came when running paid and natural search in a cohesive, integrated manner, particularly when visibility was maximized for a particular keyword in both the paid and natural sections of a search engine results page. We also confirmed other eye-tracking and holistic research studies that reveal the dynamic interplay between paid and natural results on the search engine results pages, and that search is not an either/or proposition.
One plus one equals three. Not only did the research show that positive results increased (to the effect of appearing twice) but there was also extra lift from the additional visibility.
Running natural and paid search together (versus running them alone) in an integrated manner will drive superior results for branding and lead generation. When appearing in both natural and paid search for the same keyword impression, clicks lifted 92 percent, actions lifted 45percent, orders lifted 45 percent, page views lifted 44 percent, visitors increased by 41 percent, and time on site increased by 40 percent.
Natural search optimization is one of the strongest tactics for increasing paid search performance. Imagine that your paid copy is so tweaked so that it can be tweaked no more; your call-to-action has been massaged to entice clicks that exceed industry standards; and your sophisticated ROI measurement tools show that position 2.4 is the sweet spot for the highest conversion rate. So where do you go from there? The research indicates that while natural presence creates overall click lift, it can also create overall paid search lift. If your paid terms are converting, then a tactic for increasing those high converting clicks is increasing natural search visibility.
So how do these findings impact holistic search strategies?
Look to high performance keywords in paid search, and begin optimizing for these terms in natural search. If all copy and paid rank optimization has been maxed out for conversion performance, the next logical step is to increase visibility on the natural SERP for that keyword to attain additional click share. Impressions are relatively finite, so increasing page visibility in natural search is a sensible way to maximize the potential for high-converting terms.
Look for high performance keywords in your natural results, and ensure that these terms are added to paid campaigns. If you want to get more of a good thing, maximize your visibility on the page for that term, including adding the term to paid results. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to bid aggressively to maximize visibility and conversions. Get in the paid game for high converting terms, and find your ROI comfort zone, whether it’s at no.1, no.3 or no.6.
Increase natural presence; decrease paid spend. For certain types of ROI goals, particularly those running on leaner margins, it may be very sensible to reduce PPC bids once high natural visibility is achieved. If you are bottoming out in paid search every month, and lack a significant natural presence, it would be worthwhile to add a significant natural search component, and then tweak positions in PPC accordingly to effectively increase ROI.
Consider defensive brand term strategies. Note that neglecting holistic strategies could let high-performance clicks go somewhere else. In other words, being exclusively in paid search or natural search means that there is some click attrition. The best way to reduce click attrition is to be as highly visible in the SERP as possible, and your two basic choices are paid and natural placements.
Consider addressing multiple search intentions between paid and natural listings: If you find that paid search generates more ROI at the point of conversion and is generally more commercial in presentation, this could be countered with more informational content ranking highly in natural results. Brand visibility is attained in both areas of the page, but the discerning searcher would have two content options from the same query that meets multiple intentions at varying stages of the “funnel” process.
For additional keen insight into the SEO/PPC discussion, check out my colleague Noah Elkin's recent article.