How to Marry SEO & Paid Search for Maximum ROI

Even the savviest of marketing teams can be guilty of treating SEO and Paid Search as separate assets.

In truth, failure to unite the two tactics results in missed opportunities to improve both efficiency and results. Ideally, marketers should have a holistic approach to Search in order to strategically balance each traffic channel’s strengths to address gaps in knowledge and maximize ROI.


SEO & SEM Work Together to Increase Overall Search Traffic

One concern many marketers express is that their SEM and SEO efforts will “cannibalize” the same traffic rather than increase overall inbound Search traffic. To a certain point, their concerns are valid.

A 2014 study by Philip Petrescu noted that Paid ads negatively impacted how many searchers clicked on Organic results. The amount to which Paid detracts from Organic CTR has only increased with time, thanks to the visually-enhanced ads and increased usage of mobile devices.

However, if Paid ads will decrease Organic clicks regardless, it’s important that your brand be there to capture the lost visits and take the place of a competitor. What’s more, Moz recently noted that the CTR for a brand’s Paid ads and Organic listings increased when the same company occupied both spaces due to large amount of visual “real estate” consumed.

Therefore, it is crucial that your brand control both the top Paid listing and the top Organic position rather than solely relying upon one or the other. Keeping in mind that roughly 30% of searchers don’t scroll below-the-fold of search results, dominating the top “real estate” on the page can lead to your brand controlling the overall user experience. As every digital marketer knows, visibility is key!

How Paid Search Can Assist SEO?

Provide Quick Solutions to Organic Gaps in Visibility

One advantage of SEM is the ability to achieve almost-instantaneous results. Alternatively, the fruits of SEO’s labors may take months to mature. Therefore, Paid Search is a viable solution to gain first-page visibility within search results for terms currently inaccessible with Organic results.

Houzz does not rank on the first page of results for this competitive search term. Therefore, Paid Search is the website’s only short-term solution for gaining visibility within search results.

This is particularly beneficial for new web properties that have yet to accumulate Organic maturity or a strong backlink profile in order to reach full SEO potential. An aggressive Paid strategy can raise overall awareness for the new website and bring in visitors and, as the Organic strength of the site gradually gains momentum, Paid spending can be scaled back if desired.

The obvious benefit to using Paid to fill Organic gaps in visibility is the increase in visits. However, Organic can also improve due to the following:

  • Increased brand recognition, leading to improved Organic CTR. Searchers innately are more likely to “click” on a search listing with which they are familiar. Paid Search listings can increase familiarity for a new site. Considering that search engines closely observe Organic CTR and adjust rankings accordingly, brand recognition can indirectly help rankings.
  • Natural accumulation of backlinks to property or new content piece. Individuals do not discuss or link to content of which they’re not aware. By leveraging Paid to increase the number of visitors to a new website or page, the elevated awareness of the offering can expedite the natural enlargement of the backlink profile.

SEM Insights can be utilized to provide SEO with insights into keyword CTR, conversions, etc

It takes time for a page to build the Organic credibility to rank highly within search results. Therefore, Paid Search is an asset SEO can use to quickly test and measure the success of a keyword set or message before investing resources to generate content.

You can quickly set up a campaign with your targeted terms and allocated testing budget to then view CTR metrics, engagement and conversions. From there, communicate with SEO on the messaging that is believed to resonate the end-user (ad copy) and conversion metrics. It’s important to track the quality of conversions from AdWords, as engagement that does not improve leads or sales should be greatly discounted.

This test could be useful if you think a keyword is important for your business but, in reality, it might be relevant to your target audience. After all, you wouldn’t want to invest time in content building and organic optimization around those terms, would you?

How SEO Can Assist Paid Search?

Ensuring Optimal Crawlability and Tagging for Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads and “Shopping” Ads (otherwise known as Product Listing Ads) are a key component in many Paid Search strategies, especially those serving sites with large product inventories. Unlike traditional Paid ads which are manually uploaded to Adwords, DSAs and “Shopping” generate ads utilizing page copy to understand a page’s relevance to Google queries, as well as what ad text and photos to display within search results. In turn, DSAs and “Shopping” ads are an efficient use of strategists’ resources and provides “coverage” to extremely long-tail queries.

These dynamically generated ads only work if Google bots can correctly crawl and interpret a website. Therefore, SEM should coordinate with technical SEO professionals to ensure that the robots.txt or on-page tagging does not block any important parts of the site; orphan pages are kept to a minimum; and tagging like title tags properly represent the contents of the page.

When a client’s developers accidentally modified the robots.txt to block Google, PLAs were no longer possible. SEO identified the issue and worked with developers to update the robots.txt accordingly.

Improvement of Quality Scores Through Strategic Optimizations

A “quality score” refers to Google’s rating of a page’s experience and relevance for a specific search phrase. In turn, it directly impacts the cost-per-click of an ad for a particular term. The better the quality score, the less Paid Search has to bid to achieve an ideal ranking. Google determines the quality score through factors like click-through-rate and the ad copy. However, the page itself plays a significant role as well.

SEO can leverage its existing involvement in site updates and content refreshes to make optimizations that assist both Organic rankings and Paid Search quality scores. Therefore, teams should ideally share keyword research with one another to mutually agree upon strategies and targeted terms.

What Does All This Mean for You?

To summarize, it’s crucial that all Paid Search and SEO teams have full transparency into each other’s target keywords, ad groups, and overall strategies. By granting digital marketers a holistic view of Search landscape, they are empowered to make decisions and gain fuller understanding of how the traffic channels should ideally interact with one another.

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