There have been countless examples of articles about the importance of SEO working together with PPC and the opposite. Some of them are actually quite good, e.g. Integrating SEO & PPC: 3 Areas to Explore. Others though are merely a recap of how SEO and PPC activities influence each other and what the best practice for each channel is. The problem with this is that we already know it all. What I believe to be a lot more useful is using this knowledge to help people to devise their own integrated SEO PPC strategies, with meaningful objectives, tasks, considerations, plans and measurements. That is what this post is about – a guide to creating an SEO PPC integration strategy.
Step 1: Identify overarching objective of the strategy
First of all you should ask yourself: why am I doing this? Are you trying to deepen understanding of SEO/PPC relationship or simply improve overall digital channel performance? It’s absolutely crucial to pinpoint exactly what you’re trying to achieve. This will have a great impact on tasks, plans and results. Are you trying to use each channel’s learnings just to save PPC budget or you’re trying to save and then reinvest? Answers to these questions will become an overarching aim of the strategy.
Step 2: Brainstorm ideas and select the most relevant tasks for the job
This is where you get your SEO and PPC teams together and come up with actions which will help you to meet the objective. The outcome can vary from one to another brainstorm but there are some actions which are often repeated. These include:
- Brand bidding strategy – saving on brand terms and reinvesting elsewhere
- Reallocating PPC budgets spent on expensive generic keywords with organic coverage
- Maximising visibility – identify keywords that are ranking towards the bottom of the Google page one results but are performing well and test paid search on these keywords
- Increase trust and CTR – test if having both paid and organic listing increase consumer trust and leads to an increase in click through rate
- Share findings between teams – create and maintain GAP analysis with top and bottom performing keywords for both channels
- Harmonisation of copy – sharing PPC ad copy with SEO in order to harmonise copy in search results and use well-converting ad copy in SEO titles and meta descriptions
Note that these are only few examples. There are other ways and actions so make sure you don’t skip the brainstorming session.
Step 3: How to implement these tasks and what you need to do it?
The best and the safest way to implement any SEO PPC strategy is to ‘test and learn’. You will need to put in place a set of ‘on/off’ tests to determine if your strategy actually works. Tests can take different forms based on the ‘on/off’ frequency, e.g. day on / day off, day on / day off with one week break, etc.
Ok, so we know how to test if our strategy works. What else do we need? One thing I’d recommend is generating a combined SEO PPC GAP analysis with all tested keywords. This will become a benchmark and a working doc which you will need to report on the success of the test. Ideally the data pull part of the GAP analysis will be automated. If you’re planning on using Excel to keep track of the data there are several good Excel plug-ins which will help you to pull the data out of web analytics suites, including Excellent Analytics (GA) and Omniture ExcelClient.
One of the most important working documents you will need is a timeline document. As any other timeline doc or planner this must be flexible and realistic. Bear in mind that timeline will be dependent on seasonality and offline activity. Also, different tests may require longer running periods to get enough data.
Step 4: Risk mitigation – consider all internal and external factors which may influence the strategy
Ok, so we have our objective, we know how to get there and what we need. On paper we’re good to go, right? If you’re lucky you may well be good to go. The problem is that in real world things do go wrong. In real world you must pre-empt all factors which may affect the results or implementation timelines. Your strategy and plan must take into consideration several factors, including the following:
- Tracking – are you able to track the progress?
- Timelines – will they be affected by seasonality or offline activity?
- GAP analysis – which metrics you will consider – visits, revenue, CPA, SEO rankings, prominence of SEO listings (sitelinks, etc.), seasonality of search volumes?
- Website and product changes – are there any major website changes in deployment pipeline? Is the product under test going to change?
- Resources – do you have time to identify test candidate keywords and time to run the test and get results out? Will this impact other work/clients?
- Budgets – will you have additional budget to support the test?
- Competitors – how competitor bidding strategy will affect your overall search performance
- Reporting – are you aware of the fact that, in short term, the test might have a negative impact to reported PPC performance?
Step 5 (optional): Brainstorm possible approaches and processes in details
Although this is optional you can start thinking about how you will implement the tests and business logic rules you will put in place. It may just reveal other hidden considerations you may not had thought about before.
Let’s say you want to test if you can save some of the budget by stopping to bid on some of the brand terms. How do you go about this? Well, you could introduce a ‘day on / day off’ test on a tight set of keywords which you monitor on a weekly basis and benchmark against combined PPC/SEO revenue and ROI figures. You could switch PPC off for brand keywords which conversion rate is higher from SEO and lower from PPC, those that rank high in SEO, have high CPCs/CPAs and those which don’t trigger ads from main competitors.
At the same time you could leave PPC ads on for brand keywords which experience decrease in conversions and revenue when PPC is off, when SEO rankings are not great and there are many competitor ads triggered by the term.
Step 6: Create a plan with timelines and deadlines
In order to keep track of different tasks and actions you will need a plan. That can vary massively but there are several elements which you must ensure are always plotted onto the planner:
- Agree on reporting template
- Set test KPIs and test plan /methodology
- Prioritise test areas
- Finalise keyword selection
- Schedule & run test
- Evaluate results and feed them back into overall search strategy
As with any other project all activity must be communicated internally and externally through regular reviews.
And now you’re good to go, easy!