Antony Yiu | March 7, 2011
With the economy booming in Asia Pacific and the shift of advertising budget to digital, more marketers have been evaluating their past online initiatives in-depth and looking for a more holistic approach. Search is no exception. During the past three years, I have seen a shift of interest from SEO to paid search. Particularly, this has to do with how the economy is performing. When the economy is good, marketers tend to have more long-term focus and more resources to execute a SEO project. During the downturn, immediate return on advertising spending is a must. After trying out SEO and paid search during different periods, many clients are now looking for a comprehensive search strategy to integrate both SEO and SEM together. They also start questioning the need to do paid search if their website organic ranking is already on the top of the search engine results page (SERP) or vice versa.
A number of studies, including one conducted by Stern School of Business at New York University, have scientifically demonstrated the interdependence of organic and sponsored search advertising. The research study clearly illustrates that “…the total click-through rates, conversions rates and revenues in the presence of both paid and organic search listings are significantly higher than those in the absence of paid search advertisements…”
Paid search, together with proper Web analytics and conversion tracking system, will provide you with a lot of insights in terms of how your prospective customers reach your website. It also gives you an understanding of which ad text is most successful in converting your customers. After analysing your paid search campaign results, you should be able to follow the three simple steps below to kick-start a proper search integration strategy.
1. Keyword selection
Realistically, no marketers out there have sufficient budget to cover 100 percent share of voice throughout the entire day for all generic keyword phrases (think of the keyword phrase ‘hotels’) in paid search across the entire world. With a limited budget in paid search, you want to have keywords with high conversion rates to rank high both organically and in paid search listings, since the combined benefit will bring in substantial improvement in performance across both listings.
Second, you should look at your paid search’s search funnel. Google AdWords has an excellent feature that you can opt in to and your Web analytics data to identify keywords that drive a lot of traffic to your site and help assist in driving conversions down the line. These keyword phrases are valuable because even though they don’t drive immediate conversions, they do contribute to your bottom-line KPIs. These terms tend to be very generic, have a high CPC, and are highly competitive. They usually appear in the beginning of your search funnel when people start looking for your products or services.
Needless to say, your website’s organic ranking should rank high for your brand terms because you need to be presented as the authority and the go-to place for your products.
Therefore, a website’s ‘gold’ keyword list for SEO should include:
- Brand terms
- Keywords that have high conversion rates
- Generic terms that have high CPC but are early in people’s search process
2. Site optimisation tag creation (page title and meta description)
When you run a paid search campaign, it is imperative that you run ad copy testing to identify the most effective ad message that can drive conversions to your website. Each search engine allows you to serve various ad copies in rotation for each keyword phrase. By looking at the click-through rate (CTR), as well as the conversion rate of each ad copy for the same keyword phrase, you can easily identify the most attractive one to be incorporated as the meta description for your Web page. You have probably seen that for most Web pages’ meta descriptions on search engine results pages (SERPs), they tend to be very plain and descriptive. Marketers should take the learning from the ad copy testing in paid search and craft corresponding page title and meta description for each of their Web pages. For example, we found that for some of our luxury hotel clients, ad text highlighting unique amenities tends to be most effective compared to the ones highlighting room rates. Therefore, we ended up editing our client’s Web page’s site optimisation tags based on the paid search finding.
3. Content development and generation
It happens frequently that search behaviour changes faster than how often you update your website. Many clients treat their website as a one-time project, ending up leaving the website content remains static with only occasional updates on promotional pages. For example, keyword phrases such as Internet TV and 3D TV are unheard of up to a year or so ago. If you fail to refresh your existing website content or create new content to support the new keyword phrases, you will be missing out on a lot of opportunities that can fuel your organic conversions. Marketers should closely monitor the trends in their paid search campaigns and incorporating new keyword phrases in their websites.
Hopefully, the three points above will help give you some ideas to start thinking about how to properly integrate your paid search with SEO. There are a lot of additional factors, other than changing site optimisation tags and body content, which one needs to address to improve the overall visibility of a website.