3 Steps to More Effective SEO & PPC Analytics

August 17, 2016

The following was previously a series of blog posts. We're repurposing the series in a single document here to make the piece easier to link at and reference; additionally our readership is much larger than it was when we first started the blog, and we thought the new readers might find the content valuable. The original posts can be found here:

Anyone engaging in search marketing should be analyzing SEO and PPC concurrently.

By creating a data-driven Web marketing environment in which you can share insights from multiple channels, you provide yourself with a marked advantage over companies and marketers who segment their information sets. This is particularly true within search marketing itself.

Because of the input required for success in the two disciplines, SEO and PPC are often managed separately by everything from SEO and PPC tools to agencies to in-house search teams. The implementation of strategies really can require significantly different skill sets. But the DATA offers a very important commonality that should be exploited by anyone attempting to truly “optimize” for search engines.

In this article, we’ll show you an overall process you can implement, along with specific advice as to how you can leverage paid and natural search engine marketing analytics insights to provide lift in both channels.

The PPC to SEO to PPC Keyword Targeting Cycle

While we’re telling you to consolidate certain aspects of your paid and natural search marketing data sets, the fact remains that marketing SEO and PPC have some fundamentally different characteristics:

  • PPC is faster – You can set up a campaign and launch quickly. No waiting for content creation, relationship building, or domain authority.
  • SEO can scale more cheaply – While SEO isn’t really “free”, you can generally find a means of ranking for a broader set of keywords without paying for each individual click.
  • PPC & SEO can benefit from the complete data set – You can finally get an idea of how a keyword performs in one or both channels, and apply that knowledge to both PPC and SEO in order to refine your keyword targeting for both.

So for new sites or in the event that you’re targeting new PPC or SEO keyword verticals, the process looks something like this:

The PPC to SEO to PPC targeting cycle.

But three step processes are never as simple as they look in bulleted form or handy graphics.

Three Steps to More Complete Data

The graphic above makes a lot of sense in the event that you’re:

  • Launching a new site
  • Launching a new product/product line/offering
  • Attempting to target a new SEO or PPC keyword vertical

This cross-channel thinking can certainly be applied by anyone engaging in search marketing, but for our purposes we’ll focus on the process surrounding any of the above.

Step 1: Test Your Keywords with PPC

First you want to generate a list of search engine keywords. You can do this any number of different ways, and there are several valuable tools to research keywords available that can help you to build this list. The problem is that this data isn’t specific to your site:

You can view approximate average search volume with the Google keyword tool, as pictured.

Google’s keyword tool and others can give you a rough sense of the total traffic for a keyword. The numbers you’re getting, though are approximations of all of the traffic for that keyword. They don’t tell you:

  • The exact amount of actual search traffic
  • Whether people find your site, your offer, and it’s content relevant for that phrase
  • How those website keywords actually perform: i.e. do they positively impact your bottom line

By getting a PPC campaign off the ground, you can learn how much actual traffic you can expect, get a feel for how relevant searchers and Google consider your content for your keyword lists, and most importantly: find out if building content for a list of keywords will be profitable.

Step 2: Target Your Successful PPC Keywords Via SEO

Once you have success targeting paid search keywords, attack those very keywords in your content creation and promotion. You need to be able to see precisely which keywords have been driving traffic and sales, and then build content to those keywords. Let’s imagine we’re running a custom cake shop. We can create some campaigns for PPC based around very broad keywords related to our business. The list might be:

  • wedding
  • birthday
  • chocolate
  • vanilla
  • etc.

Within these campaigns we’ll create more specific Ad Groups for terms like “custom wedding cakes” or “funny chocolate birthday cakes”.

Once we’ve run a paid search campaign, and created some high level segmentations, we can take a look at what works:

You can look at a campaign summary to see which keywords have worked.

If our vanilla group fell on its face, maybe we’ll skip that in our website’s information architecture. If “custom wedding cakes” is a big seller for our paid search campaign, though, we might try to create a whole section of our site targeting related key phrases.

The key thing to remember is that we won’t be wasting time and money building all this content: we know that if we achieve rankings, these keywords will be profitable. Since it takes months and a non-trivial amount of labor (in the form of not only content authoring but also link building, Web development, etc.) it’s crucial to us that we not waste money targeting keywords that won’t bring us leads and sales.

And the good news is, once we apply our keyword targeting to SEO and develop effective copy, we’ll discover a whole host of new long tail keywords.

Step 3: Take a Look Back at Your Logs

Now, by revisiting our log files, we can discover new keywords and new keyword verticals that our SEO efforts have unearthed.

For instance, maybe we were targeting custom wedding cakes, and on that page we referenced a great golden yellow cream cheesecake we had made for a wedding. We might see some traffic trickle into the website for that phrase. It might even convert for us; now we can add that keyword to the list of paid search keywords we’re bidding on.

In this way, we can effectively scale our paid search campaign to reach more searchers. Additionally, we’ll generally lower our overall cost per click, since these more specific queries often have less advertiser competition.

Search Marketing Data Sharing Makes Both Channels Better

In addition to the process outlined above, there are a host of other things you can do to generate additional value from your paid search and natural search campaigns. These include:

Targeting Insights – As we outlined above: paying close attention to your paid and natural search data can help you to find valuable information about both.

Messaging Insights – Paid search ads are very trackable. In organic search, you actually have a chance to write something resembling “ad text”. Take a look at a search result for custom wedding cakes:

Effective ad copy and effective meta data can help to inform each other, as pictured.

The ad with the tan back-drop is a paid ad. If the site listed started to rank for “custom wedding cake”, though, and had had a lot of success with their paid search campaign for that term, they might replicate the above headline for use in the title tag. The WeddingWire.com meta title tag and meta description will serve as the listing in search results. By infusing ad text that has proven to be effective into the meta title and meta descriptions of pages, you’re able to create title tags and meta descriptions that are particularly compelling (NOTE: don't bother populating the "meta keywords" attribute as search engines no longer support it). Towards the same end, if you have a few benefit statements, a couple of taglines, or multiple product name options you’re considering, you might consider running them as PPC ads to test their popularity amongst searchers. Towards the same end, organic pages that enjoy a lot of traffic may offer ideas for clickable headlines or calls to action.

Your messaging, targeting, and overall execution for both PPC and SEO are drastically improved by creating a single home for data analysis and by implementing processes for acting on that data.

Tom Demers

Tom Demers

Tom Demers is Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content.

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