Integrated Search: are you getting the most bang for your buck?

 

Most companies now realise that having a search engine strategy for their brand is vital – whether that be SEM or SEO or ideally both. What is interesting or rather concerning however, is that more often than not, these programs are running in isolation of each other – not sharing insights, KPIs or strategies. This separation it is often the result of the two disciplines being looked after by different teams on the brand and agency side as well as the fact that each one often has its own set of objectives – i.e. they end up competing.

The truth is, while the two are still very separate specialisms, they can and should complement each other to maximise budgets, visitation and conversions.

Here’s why:

  1. When SEO teams develop better website content and navigation, Paid Search’s Quality Scores is positively impacted, lowering average cost-per-click (CPC).
  2. Paid Search keyword information can tell SEO specialists what people are looking for, driving content strategy and areas of focus for future projects.
  3. Testing the reduction of SEM budget on keywords where SEO is ranking strongly can identify opportunities for cost savings and budget reallocation. Note: We readily see that, even when SEO keywords are ranking well, paid search drives incremental traffic.

What’s more, the changing search landscape itself is now also forcing the two channels to integrate. Paid search keywords are becoming more expensive, and SEO data is becoming increasingly less visible. In fact, Google has moved the search keyword data previously available in Google Analytics into its paid search platform, Google Adwords, effectively forcing marketers to invest more in Adwords. (Given Google has a 95%-ish market share in Australia, we don’t have much of a way around this currently). Finding efficiencies in this new environment is imperative to long-term success.

So by now, I think we can all agree that yes, we should integrate.  The question is, why is it so hard?  Do we have proof that it can work?

Yes!

The OMD Resolution team have been conducting our own tests and were asked to present a case study and actionable thought piece at AdTech this past March. The big turn-out highlighted just how many brands struggle to make integrated search a reality. We took the audience through an example test on one large enterprise client that helped us determine whether we are effectively paying for SEM traffic that organic results could have picked up for free.

The below is a snap shot of the test results for this client when both SEM and SEO were used:

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It was clear that in the case of this client, when the brand was well represented in organic search, paid search drove incremental clicks and conversions.  In fact, the test also showed how an aligned strategy outperforms what each channel alone can provide.

Now, it must be noted that this isn’t the case with every brand as our tests have indicated that it is dependent on many factors such as the level of competition and brand awareness.  Moreover, many businesses are simply not in the financial position to action such a test and then implement an ‘always on’ strategy regardless of the benefits. There simply isn’t a one size fits all integrated search approach.

With that said, there are 4 areas that every brand should address to ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to search.

  • Measurement – Agree on one source of truth (i.e. analytics program) for your data. Ensure the tracking is set up correctly and blend targets where appropriate. This should become an evolving conversation as new KPIs are created.
  • Communication – Formalise processes so that reporting is consistent and that discussions between SEO and PPC are frequent. This should include a combined report which would need to be developed on top of standard channel reporting.
  • Strategy – Think “searcher” not search. The aim here is to determine the best user journeys and then consider what channel best facilitates them.  It doesn’t matter if it is SEM or SEO. What matters is that you close the loop and provide the more frictionless path to conversion online.   Forget about competing!
  • Execution – Specialism in each discipline is required and execution will for the most part be discrete. Although they appear very similar to the user, the day to day of SEO and SEM practitioners is very different. In order for each to be performing at the peak, you need an expert – just make sure it is one that is willing to agree to the other 3 points above.

To read more about integrated search as well as other trends and recommendations for 2014, request a copy of the Resolution Digital Marketing Trends Whitepaper 2014 here or talk to your Resolution/ OMD contact. Other topics in the report include analytics, CRO, insight, local, vertical search and context.

David Moore is Search Account Director for Resolution at OMD

Sources: With thanks to OMD Resolution employees Richard Bedford and Kevin Tunney for the AdTech case study results, and 4 pillar process.

 

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