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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Integrating SEO & PPC: Three Pitfalls To Avoid

Chances are, your search marketing efforts could be missing as much as 80% of your target audience.

Don’t believe me? It’s true.

Why? It’s fundamental. Most search marketers agree that about 70%-80% of all clicks come from the natural (organic) search results, while the other 20%-30% come from sponsored listings (PPC). Yet despite these stats, it seems that the only thing B2B marketers want to talk about lately is their PPC campaigns.

Now am I saying that most B2B marketers only engage in PPC? Hardly. Thankfully, most organizations today participate in both PPC and SEO (and those who don’t need to step up their game, and pronto). However, I have seen companies that have so much money invested in PPC, that they largely ignore SEO. But I can understand the allure of PPC as it appeals to our desire for instant gratification – it’s very satisfying to make campaign adjustments today, and see the results tomorrow.

However, if you are leveraging both PPC and SEO, you should be thinking about how you can improve overall performance. And one sure way to do just that is through integration. But while bringing PPC and SEO together sounds easy enough, successful integration can be challenging. Trust me, it has its pitfalls. I see the same integration mistakes made over and over. Given that, I’d like to help you avoid making the same errors. The following are a few common mistakes marketers make when trying to integrate their search marketing efforts.

Cross communication

Not surprisingly, communication—actually, a lack thereof—tops the list of pitfalls during the integration process. Though largely considered a no-brainer by many, lack of communication trips up more organizations than you might think. Personally, I have seen it ruin the search marketing efforts of more than a few businesses. Why? More often than not, it’s due to the fact that PPC and SEO are separated in one way or another. For some reason, many organizations mistakenly adopt a divide-and-conquer modus operandi. While the actual work structure can vary greatly, the two efforts end up distinct and separate. I’ve seen situations where an entire team of individuals is responsible for SEO, while another completely separate group handles PPC. Alternatively, I’ve seen search teams that subdivide into smaller units to handle each discipline.

Unfortunately though, separating PPC and SEO has a myriad of ill effects, and is a sure recipe for disaster—especially in large organizations. Such a divided set-up impedes—rather than facilitates—communication. This, of course, can wreak havoc. Poor communication between the groups can produce inconsistent programs where different keywords are often assigned different priorities, and/or where some paid and organic listings are prominent, while others only have a presence in one area. This approach can also negatively affect creative messaging as it creates inconsistencies, which in turn can confuse potential site visitors. In addition, such division can also produce considerable differences in landing pages.

So what’s a marketer to do? I recommend centralizing the search function as much as possible. However, if your organization demands that the search functionality be decentralized, your best bet is to foster cross communication. Sharing data across campaigns is a great way to improve results. For example, if you see that several terms are driving great results for your PPC efforts, you should leverage its data for the benefit of your SEO campaign so you can also show up well in the SERPs on the same terms. Conversely, if certain terms are under-performing in the SERPs, you would be wise to make sure you have solid PPC coverage on these terms. At the same time, while your ROI or ROAS metrics might price you out of the game on expensive terms, they can easily be identified and made a priority in SEO. In addition, PPC campaigns provide a great way to quickly test creative messages; smart marketers will use information gleaned from such tests to inform the Meta Data for your SEO campaign. Doing so will help to entice your desired users to click through.

Play to strengths

Another mistake marketers often make during this process is failing to leverage the strengths of each program. Let’s face it; both have their strengths and weaknesses. However, a key element in maximizing your performance is to have each campaign play to its strengths. Let’s say you want to market a short term promotion. Naturally, your efforts should focus on PPC as it offers both speed and flexibility. Not only can you control the start and stop dates of your campaign, you can select the exact messaging you would like to deliver, and even use it to quickly step up volume for an end of the quarter rush. It also allows you to easily create new landing pages to accomplish your desired goal. With PPC, all of these elements can be up and running quickly, whereas SEO’s lack of speed makes marketing short term campaigns less productive.

On the flip side, SEO is best at driving large volumes of traffic by optimizing for content that is consistently featured on your site. Therefore, it is ideal to optimize for your core terms in SEO, and work to maintain consistent placements in the SERPs and drive quality traffic. Should you need a short term burst, go with PPC. However, if you want to leverage SEO to get some more immediate returns, I suggest optimizing for video and image search as you can typically gain traction in theses areas more quickly than with conventional SEO methods.

Poor understanding

Lastly, one of the biggest mistakes marketers make while trying to integrate their search efforts is failure to understand what each program delivers. I find this not only disheartening, but also incredulous—especially in light of the significant investment required for each. But the fact is, many marketers struggle to discern exactly what their individual PPC and SEO campaigns are delivering for them.

But the struggle is for naught, as the information needed to facilitate this understanding should be at hand. Specifically, it can only be gained through the following: a clear understanding of your specific goals (which often differ for PPC and SEO), a plan for how you are measuring everything, a rigorous analytics system, and internal performance accountability.

Invariably however, organizations—both large and small—fail in delivering on one or more of these elements. Quite frankly, I think that failure explains a lot. If you don’t have a handle on all of these factors, it’s impossible to truly understand what you should be expecting from each program. In addition, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of proper measurement. Ultimately, those who succeed integrate their SEO and PPC efforts, but measure each individually.

In the end, well optimized and successfully integrated SEO and PPC campaigns are a powerful combination. As you strive to integrate your search efforts to improve overall performance, be sure to avoid these three pitfalls. Doing so will help position your organization to reach its full potential from driving business outcomes from search.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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