We have to answer those questions from clients all the time: shall we start Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O) before Paid Search? Or shall we start Paid Search before S.E.O? What are the benefits of doing both simultaneously?
On one hand, common sense dictates that you may want to have your web site in order before starting to invest in online advertising. Typically S.E.O is a good place to start: Having your pages well designed, indexed and relevant to the user will improve user experience and online conversion. It will also boost your quality score (i.e. Google’s assessment of the relevance of an ad to the landing page) and therefore decrease you keyword bids.
On the other hand, Paid Search can be a powerful way to test keyword popularity and advertising messages. Customers’ engagement levels, as demonstrated by Click Through Rates (CTR) and on-site behaviour will give some insights into your S.E.O strategy.
In our mind, Paid Search and S.E.O. are a happily married couple. Both disciplines work well together. We have tried to highlight the benefits of running those initiatives together:
1. Click Through Rates lift
Various pieces of research from Forrester and other SEM agencies have shown that the appearance of a web site links in both natural and paid search (‘sponsored results’) sections of search engines produced an incremental 15 to 20% Click Through Rates. It appears that having an ad reinforces the idea that your web site is legimitate and encourages more visitors to click on the natural link.
2. Unified reporting
As highlighted above, customers’s insights from one area can inform decisions to the other. From a S.E.O. standpoint, your Omniture, Google Analytics, webtrends and other anlaytics will provide an idea if what search queries are entered by visitors to your site. Those will be used to create your Paid Search strategy and keyword categorization. From a Paid search standpoint, be on the look for highly performing ad copies that will indicate the popularity and relevance of keywords and messaging that will shape your S.E.O stragegy.
3. Landing page optimization
A successful landing page strategy will be guided by both S.E.O. and Paid Search findings. As stated above, S.E.O can help improving customer experience, conversion and quality score. All of them can have a pretty large impact to your keyword bid strategy. Google recently said that doubling your quality score will double your rank under the paid search area, regardless of your bids.
4. Consistent brand experience
Having control over S.E.O. and Paid Search will help create a consistent set of messages to the customer, improving brand recall and relevance.
5. Long tail strategy
While S.E.O. tends to focus on ‘owning’ the head (i.e. large traffic) keywords, Paid Search can be used to capture long tailed keywords that have less traffic but tend to more relevant and costs effective. It’s yet too early to say whether Google Instant could change the long tailed keyword hunt.
All-in-all we recommend that S.E.O and Paid Search run together and are performed by the same team, where it’s in-house or done externally.