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Integrated search getting it right

I am gobsmacked with the amount of times that I hear people referring to paid search as search. Its one of the things, as sad as it sounds that really grates me ““ I don’t know why but it does. Search comprises two facets ““ namely that of Paid Search and that of Natural ““ not just the one but the two.

Working for a media agency, I am fortunate enough to see the interplay of these channels in a wider remit. Previous roles have often seen SEO run as a silo with little or no consideration of how it interacts and reacts to other marketing channels ““ however its very interesting when one takes into play how reactive organic search is to other channels whether that be TV or PPC.

Take into account offline advertising

Search doesn’t stand still. Non-brand terms vary seasonally in line with demand ““ for example here in the UK travel organisations spend up to half their entire marketing budget during the first two months to take into account user behaviour. The spend will include a significant proportion of online spend in particular that of search however TV will also play an important part in this. When one takes into account the timescales of this offline advertising, there is nearly always an incremental spike in visitors during the times that the ads run ““ and as such it makes sense to ensure that ones search activity is joined up as well.

For example ““ paid search is as close to real time as you can get. Ads can be tailored to run specifically round key advertising periods (for example the superbowl in America). Similarly with many large organisations, the title tag and descriptions can be tweaked fairly quickly. Caffeine allowed Google to index and evaluate content far quicker and as a result options like this are far more easy to do.

It is surprising just how many organisations forget to do this. The amount of ads I have seen that utilise the search on Google’ tagline with no support online is amazing. I did a post back on my Holistic Search marketing blog during the ad run last year for “˜I am number four’ covering just this ““ however its such an easy and effective tactic to cover off. Further to this the impact in terms of click through has been fairly significant during a number of the tests we ran – somethings up by as much as 17%.

Take into account offline factors

Theres no point complaining that YOY traffic is down without fully looking into the factors. Issues such as the weather and the economic climate can be particularly major factors when evaluating YOY or even MOM performance on a campaign whether paid or organic.

Never is this better realised than in the current retail and travel sectors. These have very real impacts in terms of search impressions, which in turn often have a very real impact in terms of clicks. Such factors need to be taken into a consideration during any analysis, and keeping abreast of the following is key

  • Industry news and Trends
  • Search news and trends ““ keep a log and benchmark regularly
  • Watch the weather ““ and forecast in advance. For example, raining days can often see spikes in the number of travel bookings but can have the opposite effect to someone selling fair weather gear. Knowing this in advance is not only good practise, its good for business as well.


Look at PPC and SEO together.

As I mentioned at the beginning. SEO and PPC should not be run in isolation of each other whether you are responsible for one of the channels in isolation or both channels. Combined planning not only allows for greater flexibility but given the synergies between say quality score and on-page optimisation one could argue that the two in synergy have tangible commercial benefits as well.

Some simple tips may be to:

– Benchmark SEO performance against that of PPC regularly ““ particularly at keyword level. The impact of the introduction of PPC advertising particualarly on something like brand can have massive repurcusions in terms of SEO. Whilst many advertisers consider brand a given for SEO, this isn’t always the case, and organisations are increasingly looking at competitor brand bidding as a way of generating incremental traffic. As a result brands are having to think about how they protect their brand much better. This is fairly obvious in a brand context, however sitelinks, product ads and local results are all increasingly found in Google serp result and thus need to be integrated into the benchmarking framework

– Utilise your insight. The paid search management tools are a wealth of information. They give you valuable insight into potential volume, potential clickthrough, likelihood to convert ““ all in double quick time. Not utilising that insight is madness particularly to any campaign where ROI is a major factor. All of this information should be taken into account when not only starting your campaign (keyword research/mapping etc), but also in terms of ongoing profiling. If one for example takes into account the following for keyword selection that PPC data is invaluable

  • Which keywords cost me the most money overall
  • Which keywords cost me the most per click
  • Do they convert
  • Do they contribute to the conversion path
  • Which terms could potentially drive me more clickthrough.

Think Integrated. Take for example a new site. There is little chance on this earth that a site is going to be profitable within the first three months, particularly in more competitive sectors and verticals. As a result, an integrated campaign when viewed holistically can provide that scalable framework to allow budget to be spent more effectively. Looking at a blended ROI for example is likely to keep your client on board during the early months, and as the campaign matures and performs better generating more incremental traffic where previously PPC activity was the sole channel ““ we find the channel in isolation and in integrated context perform far far better. With that in mind, one can tweak PPC tactics in accordance with current SEO visibility and performance.

– Ensure communication is good between both teams. I mentioned above reacting to visibility, and this is particularly key here. Advertisers will ask if it is worth and the truth is it depends on your client. I have seen a number of clients see little or no impact from taking non-brand bidding away when organic traction has been achieved, others have seen traffic remain constant and conversions fall by a 1/3. Only you will know ““ and the only way to find out is test.

– Test, test,test


Consider the changing lifecycle.

Technologies such as retargeting have changed the way users convert. Old school display was always picked on for its propensity to convert in comparison to search which was often seen as the hoover to display and offline advertising. Times have changed. Retargeting has allowed us to target users based on their previous behaviour on a site, and present back to them relevant advertising based on what they have looked at.

As such, integrating a more comprehensive tracking solution can help you to understand the role of the all channels in the conversion funnel ““ basically know as multi-channel attribution. Google Analytics in particular has recently introduced this functionality but increasingly search management tools such as Atlas and Doubleclick are able to deliver similar data very quickly and easily.

If you are spending a lot on advertising, this really is a given and something people all to readily look over particularly when increased cost is concerned.

What are your offline touch points.

Customers convert in many ways. Understanding how they convert is fundamental to online success and increasingly we are able to not just track when a user converts online but also what happens when they move offline. Tools such as AdInsight here in the UK are able to deliver conversion based data right back to the keyword and search engine a user typed in at the start of their journey.

In a lot of markets this can be the difference between getting a sale and not getting a sale ““ i.e. the ability to let a customer convert how they want to convert. In some sectors just online is enough but some customers may want to ask questions, to find out more about their product before they buy it. This is particularly the case on high ticket goods where users may be spending thousands if not tens of thousands of pounds/dollars (delete as applicable) on their item.

To conclude

Looking at your campaigns in isolation is not a bad thing to do ““ however it often only answers half the question. There will often be reasons why things have happened, seasonal or otherwise and as a result integrating this thinking into campaign planning can often relieve potential headaches moving forward. If you aren’t utilising other channels perhaps now is the time to rethink that

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