How to Integrate your PPC & SEO Strategy To Increase ROI

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By Shelby Higgins

Would you rather… get a 300% ROAS or rank #1 above your competitors for your top priority keyword…for free? It’s not always a simple answer, but today the key is not choosing either or, but choosing how to strategically leverage both channels to maximize your returns. As the consumer journey has become more complex, the changes made on one channel often, if not always, impact other channels. The impact is especially true with Paid and Organic Search.

While everyone understands the benefits of leveraging both Organic and Paid Search strategies, more often teams, both in house and agency side, only talk about collaborating and sharing insights. Understanding the importance of an omnichannel strategy and the customer journey is only one piece, execution is another story.

Collaboration across channels within the agency or with a client’s other agency partners or internal teams is critical. Although there’s always room to improve whether learning more from the data or testing theories sooner, the key to efficient and successful cross channel campaigns is sharing and analyzing the data and insights. Sounds simple enough… well, you would think. Unfortunately, we all often run into channels or teams that operate as silos, forgetting that the customer, their customer has multiple touch points. And today, the customer’s journey is more complex and often no longer a simple linear journey. (source) Not only do brands now need to attract customers at the top of the funnel, but throughout all stages of the customer journey. Reaching the customer with the right message at the right time is key, but how can you do so if you’re digital channels aren’t collaborating?

The answer isn’t groundbreaking, nor does the solution require insane amounts of time, but it’s surprising, if not mind-blowing when you ask how many teams are sharing data and collaborating. After all, everyone is working towards the same end goals.

PPC + SEO: Let’s All Be Friends

Sharing insights across channels is not a new idea. For example, many of the insights in this PPC vs SEO article for 2016 still hold true and can be used to get more successful results. In fact, we set out to test and refine the process to create actionable steps all teams can follow and easily implement.

Before we dive into the process let’s do a quick review of the benefits of each channel to better show how they can and should be integrated for the best results. The complementary nature of the two channels – Organic Search can help build brand awareness and credibility long term despite changing ad spend. Paid Search has the speed, agility, and targeting to test and iterate quickly, not to mention the prime position in the search results.

SEO Benefits:

  • Brand awareness
  • Credibility
  • (Free) CPCs
  • Not Dependent on Ad Spend
    • However, subject to algorithm updates

PPC Benefits:

  • Speed & Agility
  • Prime position (top of the page)
  • Focused Targeting
  • A/B testing
  • Independent of algorithm updates

Process: How To Combine PPC + SEO Insights

The following process adds value to both the Paid Search and SEO channels and can be applied for in-house teams, agency departments, or different agency partners working for the same brand.

When looking at the big picture, it’s a very simple concept:

  1. Conduct keyword research
  2. Share data (including keywords and ad copy)
    1. Implement Optimizations
  3. GET RESULTS
  4. REPEAT!

The process can be easily done by using some sort of task-oriented platform where each team can have recurring monthly tasks that they complete, and share cross-channel to gain insights. Obviously there are pros to having each team working under the same roof, which we will cover later in the blog, however, this can be done if the teams are under different agencies as well.

Requirement: Non-Brand Campaigns

Non-brand search campaigns are key as the most valuable SEO campaigns are focused on bringing in new traffic to the website through non-brand keywords. In almost all cases, a brand is going to already rank for their own brand, naturally. If you’re going to gain market share, you need to bring in customers who don’t have the brand recognition for your service or product. From a Paid Search perspective, leverage your non-brand keywords to work harder versus only relying on brand keywords to drive conversions.

Step 1: Conduct Keyword Research

If this is a brand new campaign and your team is starting from scratch, each team will then complete their own keyword research. Bonus: This keyword research can (and should) be shared across teams to help capitalize on any potential missed opportunities. Keep in mind, not all keywords Paid Search is bidding on will be a good fit for SEO, and not all keywords SEO is optimizing for will be a good fit for Paid Search.

Keep in mind that these two channels can have quite a bit in common and have the ability to utilize each other’s findings to improve performance, there is different intent behind each channel. For example, if Organic Search is optimizing for ‘what to look for in stand-up paddleboards’, Paid Search may not want to bid on that keyword. That specific keyword has more of an informational intent behind it, and that user may be looking for more of an educational source, thus Organic Search might be sending them to a blog on the company’s website and building credibility. Based on this search, we know that the user is at the top of the funnel and may not be in the buying phase yet. As such, Paid Search may not want to put budget towards this keyword as it’s going to take longer to convert. On the other hand, there might be a keyword Paid Search is going after like ‘best paddleboard for dogs’ that Organic Search may want to optimize for, but can’t rank on page one because it’s too competitive. Instead, there’s an opportunity for Paid Search to bid on the keyword as this user is more likely to convert. They know what they want – a paddleboard they can use with their dog – and are looking for the best options before purchasing.

Step 2: Share Insights

After at least a month of running Paid Search campaigns (non-brand), PPC should have enough data to share. At this point, download your non-brand search terms report and share with the SEO team. While it’s great to share the non-brand keywords that have converted and are performing well, sharing what keywords are struggling or spending but not converting is another powerful way to leverage the two channels. For example, if “SEO agency” is spending almost all of your budget but not driving any conversions, or assisted conversions, it might be better to stop bidding on it and use Organic Search to target the keyword.

  • Organic Search team – to review the keyword data and mine out any that are relevant to the SEO strategy, and check if they are currently ranking for them.
    • If they are not ranking then the team needs to assess if they should be, what page to optimize, and how to optimize the page.
    • If the keyword is ranking, the next step is to better optimize the page it is ranking for by updating the metadata and/or page copy.
  • PPC + SEO: Review top performing ad copy –
    • As SEO meta descriptions are essentially ad copy for the search results, use the immediate performance insights from PPC ad copy tests to build better metadata (title tags and meta descriptions) to increase your CTR from the search results. PPC campaigns are continuously testing ad copy variations and get results 10x faster than SEO.

Action: Review your ad copy tests often with your SEO team.  

Step 3: Measure Results to Get Results

In order to find out how these changes impact your strategy it’s crucial to benchmark the CTR and current keyword rankings (organic) before and after implementing the Paid Search ad copy, and then compare after a month or so.

Step 4: Repeat!

Collaborating across channels is an ongoing process. Teams need to continuously share data and adjust to changes in the search landscape (both paid and organic) and customer behavior.

This process is very simple and has so many benefits to both channels, along with the overall company’s performance.

If you’re coordinating with different agencies running different channels, this process can work for your brand. Teams internally and externally should always be sharing data. After all, they’re operating as an extension of your brand.

Survey: Who Cares?

We surveyed a number of digital marketers to better understand how many PPC and SEO practitioners collaborated across channels and how many liked the idea but didn’t quite follow through. The survey asked a variety of questions, including, “Do you see the value in PPC and SEO sharing data cross-channel? Yes or no? Explain.” The answers speak for themselves:

  • YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!, there’s a huge opportunity for PPC to reallocate budgets for terms/campaigns/testing that Organic is already dominating. SEO can leverage converting terms/ad copy that’s backed by click data to make meaningful changes that drive results. If things are really struggling, both channels can develop a strategy to command more real estate on the SERPS. There may also be instances where the two channels can collaborate to drive local results, improve visibility and trust for e-commerce (Shopping Ads & Schema Markup). SEO site search data can help PPC dial in their terms. PPC can help SEO test keywords. Lastly, there’s an opportunity for both channels to make a positive impact on Social
  • Yes! We need to leverage the fact that we have the search term data through paid, since we can’t see that through Organic.
  • To help the SEO team determine potential keyword targets.
  • Search Intent with PPC is usually different from SEO, but it’s important to share as much data as possible. The other channel expert might spot an opportunity that you didn’t
  • We share a report that shows actual Google searches of website visitors that converted on-site so that the SEO team can consider incorporating those search terms into their Keyword targeting strategies
  • We share our converted search terms so they can use any themes or findings for the SEO strategy. It is beneficial because we can get immediate findings/results.
  • Identify keyword gaps
  • So SEO can optimize for these keywords
  • I do see the value! It makes the messaging in the Meta Descriptions more in line with what people are most commonly looking for.
  • Yes. It could help identify keywords for the SEO strategy
  • Yes, this way we can improve the targeted keywords for specific pages.
  • 100% yes, Sharing keyword research across SEO & SEM is a fantastic way to align the strategies across both verticals.
  • yes, for high converting keywords through paid, we should be incorporating into the organic strategy
  • Yes, because it helps identify opportunities in paid where we can’t compete organically and helps us with targeting in keyword maps.

Conclusion: Combine PPC & SEO To Drive Results

Overall, there is a lot of value that comes from cross-channel collaboration, especially between Paid and Organic Search. Whether both teams are sharing their keyword research to make sure they are covering all the bases, or Organic Search is utilizing Paid Search’s top-performing ad copy in their metadata, it really does WORK. Best of all, it’s never too late to start integrating your PPC and SEO strategies. While there are many benefits of running all channels under one roof/agency, that does not have to be the case. If you have different external teams set up a monthly if not quarterly partner strategy call to ensure everyone is aligned.

Channels can collaborate and bring value to the table regardless of the situation. Believe it or not, there are so many different channels that can add value to each other’s strategies by simply collaborating and sharing their findings. We hope this blog shed some light on cross-channel collaborations and motivates you to want to do the same!