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1 PAPER 16 THE CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION AGENCY Want A Boost? HOW PPC CAN DRIVE MORE TRAFFIC THAN ORGANIC SEARCH ALONE Why read this paper? A question that often confronts advertisers is: should you allocate your budget to search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising (PPC), or both? Does paid search have an impact on your organic results? There are those that believe that by adding PPC when your site already has a high organic ranking is tantamount to wasteful cannibalism or paying for clicks that would have occurred naturally through organic ranking. The opposing faction suggests that there is a synergy that occurs when PPC is used in conjunction with organic traffic. What is the right answer? IMPACT OF ORGANIC RANK ON AD CLICK INCREMENTALITY In 2011, Google released a study called Search Ads Pause that estimated that 89% of ad clicks are incremental. 1

2 The debate over whether there is a correlation between PPC and organic has been raging for a number of years now. There are arguments pro and con that such a relationship exists. However, even the most vehement opponents do agree that a marketer should use a blend of the two to improve brand recognition and conversion rates. The focus of the debate hinges on a landmark Google study that suggests a synergistic relationship does in fact exist between PPC and organic search. Google s Position Google commissioned its own study in 2011 to discover what (if any) incremental impact paid search has on total search volume. The findings of the Search Ads Pause research study revealed that ad click percentage was as high as 89%, meaning that for a given keyword, a paid ad campaign would generate an 89% increase in traffic to the site over that generated by organic traffic alone. Google found that PPC ads tend to generate new site visitors and do not divert traffic from organic search result links or cannibalize them, as some marketers believe. Their study entitled, Incremental Clicks Impact Of Search Advertising, compared the number of clicks generated organically and from ads when PPC was used and when it wasn t; 89% of the traffic was found to be incremental. Google did a subsequent study to address the question of how the ranking of an advertiser s organic listings on the search results page affects the incremental effect of ad clicks. On average, 50% of the ad clicks that occurred with a top rank organic result are incremental and would not occur organically if a PPC ad campaign were paused. For ad clicks with an accompanying organic result that have a ranking of 2-5 on average, 82% of the ad clicks are incremental; for rankings over 5, 96% of the ad clicks are incremental. Google s claim that more searches + more ads = more traffic, clearly indicates their position on whether or not PPC has an impact on organic searches. It should be noted that they have a vested interest in advancing this position, as their paid service AdWords is a revenue generator for them. Google Isn t The Only One Who Thinks That Way When the impact of PPC on SEO was tested by Brad Geddes, a well-known Internet marketing speaker, consultant and author, the results demonstrated that total revenue generated by combining the two together yielded a profit over 27 percent higher than SEO alone. Geddes says that the impact of PPC on organic rankings is said to be indirect and manifests itself in two main ways: By running PPC you will get extra traffic in a shorter amount of time and the data generated may help you improve factors that influence your organic rankings. By focusing your optimization efforts on high volume and higher converting phrases, you can boost your rankings, sales, and inquiries. Running PPC can also raise the visibility of your brand and your site. If the extra visitors you get like what they see, they are likely to link to your site and this will improve your organic ranking. Why You Should Consider Combining PPC & Organic Search PPC complements your SEO optimization efforts because you can determine which keywords drive traffic and conversions, and then incorporate those keywords within your organic SEO efforts. By analyzing the keywords that drive conversions and sales, you can group them together with your AdWords (Google s paid service) campaigns. Organic keyword data from Webmaster Tools and Reverse Indexes can help you discover keywords you may not have considered adding to your PPC campaigns. PPC campaigns can also often reveal ways to group products together that people are searching for. You can use the data from PPC campaigns to examine your website and determine which pages best deliver on the promise of your ad. 2

3 To demonstrate how PPC can boost your organic SEO, watch your organic rankings and traffic for particular keywords you are using in PPC. Doing this should enable you to tell if those keywords are driving more visibility in organic search. Search Marketing Standard, an online marketing resource magazine, definitely considers that there is a correlation between PPC and organic search and expresses it as follows: Paid + Organic = Max ROI They suggest the rationale for combining the two search approaches is to guard against the disruption that SERP (Search Engine Results Page) design and algorithm changes can have on your search marketing efforts. They recommend that the one important constant that should be present in any search marketing strategy is the combination of SEO with paid efforts, and vice versa. ( Branding Can Increase Organic Click-Thru Rate Another reason for using PPC to increase organic results is a basic tenet of marketing top of mind awareness. Here is how it works: if you have two brands, X & Y that are essentially parity products, the one that creates more lasting impression in the target audience s mind is more likely to be the one selected when the consumer is at the point of purchase. Thus, if a user is familiar with your brand, they are more likely to click on your organic listing. Although a user might not click from the first PPC impression, the delivery of that impression increases the odds of a return search click on an organic ad. Also, if a user sees both your organic listing and your paid ad on the first page, your credibility increases exponentially. A recent study by Enquiro Search Solutions shows that owning both the top organic and paid position easily outperforms either position individually. Combining organic plus paid can increase not only your click-thru rate, but also ultimately your conversion rate as well. According to a study by digital agency Razorfish, Organic Search plays an important navigational role in the consumer behavioral patterns while Paid Search is known to close the deal to a conversion as promotional messaging triggers the close. Again, just mere investment in Paid Search is not enough, but aggressive ranking in both channels is key to positive impact on client revenue. Razorfish also noted that paid and organic work well together because: Consumers convert after multiple types of searches and clicks, in their research phase Organic Search ranks well for brand terms, but PPC can fill the gap on non-brand coverage PPC messaging can be managed, tested and optimized. And promotional language helps to close and move the consumer to the desired action. You can ensure an optimal experience by driving consumers deep into a designated landing page that relates to the intent of the search query through PPC ads The more coverage you have, the less room is available for competitors to steal traffic and revenue See more at: The Rationale Behind Pay Per Click You should bid on your own brand keywords even if you rank highly in the organic results for your brand keywords. Here are the reasons why: Searchers gravitate to the ad section of SERPs where your competitors can and often do show ads; bidding on your brand terms is a proactive measure to counter your competitors bidding on them as you will make it cost prohibitive PPC traffic often converts at a higher rate than SEO traffic because of optimized landing pages 3

4 Brand PPC is often much cheaper than perceived because CPCs are often much lower than non-brand CPCs (i.e. GEICO vs. auto insurance); the demand is lower for brand so it s cheaper Situational factors make PPC desirable in some industries (i.e. unpopular industries where a PPC ad can push negative organic listing down the SERPs so less people see it and give you more control over the message searchers see) PPC increases your page real estate because you show up multiple times on the results page, increasing top of mind awareness, brand recall and affinity Organic and PPC combined create synergies The Reverse Is Also True A study undertaken by a couple of NYU Stern professors revealed that organic search engine results can have an impact on whether or not a paid listing is clicked. The research indicated that if your business has PPC and an organic result appearing at the same time, you have a better chance of your paid result getting clicked than if the organic result had not appeared. Professors Anindya Ghose and Sha Yang found that: The positive association between paid and organic listings increase advertisers profits by at least 6.15% when compared to profits in the absence of either of them. The professors also found that: CTRs, conversion rates and total revenues are higher when both paid and organic listings are present simultaneously than when paid search ads are present The combined CTRs are 5.1% higher when paid and organic listings are presented simultaneously than when only the organic listing are present The combined conversion rate increases 11.7% when paid and organic listings are present simultaneously as opposed to when organic listings alone are present Paid search advertising drives up to 54% of total revenue growth A study by icrossing found that the addition of organic SEO to a pre-existing PPC campaign yielded benefits as compared to the campaign alone. Their study revealed the following data: Clicks increased by 91.8% Actions increased by 45% Orders increased by 44.92% The Cynics Have Their Say For every opinion that states that there is a symbiotic effect of PPC on organic, there are naysayers that point to their own research suggesting no such relationship exists or can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A typical cynical response to this question is given by Tobias Cummins in his blog, The Effect Of PPC On Organic Search Ranking in which he says, the extent of the effect that PPC has on organic search rankings is steeped in mystery and until proven can be left to the conspiracy theorists, but PPC clearly does help. ( Some go even further to definitively dispute that there is any cause and effect correlation between PPC and organic search. Lexie Bond a blogger at Blue Corona, a digital agency says, Your PPC and SEO campaigns run completely separate of each other. Having an active PPC campaign does nothing to improve your organic (non-paid) listings in Google. Read more: Follow on Twitter 4

5 When To Use Both PPC & Organic Search You are likely investing substantially in your online presence. And even more likely a sizeable chunk of that is in organic SEO. While that is great for your brand, the effect of organic SEO and PPC combined can produce even better results. As with all elements of digital, there is a synergistic effect, which takes place when you combine tactics and strategies. The sum is greater than the whole. When you want both a long-term result and more immediate traffic and sales at the same time, you can opt for both PPC and organic search. PPC will give you immediate visitors, while allowing you the enough time to prepare your organic strategy. While working out on this process, you can get enough data that might be very useful in your SEO plans. It will help you to choose the most profitable keywords and its application in the contents and initiatives to amalgamate. The Last Word Most websites benefit most from using a combination of PPC and organic search. Using PPC marketing can help you quickly identify your best performing keywords, while implementing a longer-term SEO strategy will increase your chances of ranking well in the organic listings. While there is no definitive resolution to the great debate about whether PPC can affect your organic listings, one of the best ways to increase your organic traffic is to initiate an aggressive PPC campaign. At the very least a PPC campaign will give you valuable data in weeks, that would otherwise take months, if not longer to acquire via organic data research. The useful data you collect will help guide the direction of your organic campaign. 5

6 Sq1: The Customer Engagement & Conversion Optimization Agency About the author Trent Cockerham, As Sq1 s, Trent is responsible for the execution of strategies for SEO, content marketing, social media, local listings, and shopping feeds. A jack-of-all-trades in the digital world, he launched his career as a software developer, building business intelligence tools for marketers. Since then, Trent has focused his talents to the owned media side of the industry where he melds his passion for technology with an understanding of users. He considers the SEO world to be much more than just keyword ranking; it s about creating the most valuable and useful experience for users. Trent has a degree in Business Information Systems from Texas Christian University. Sq1 continually engages customers along the entire consumer lifecycle and purchase funnel, using conversion optimization to drive higher sales at a lower cost. Our customer-centric approach applies data and analytics to every interaction helping clients maximize customer profitability and optimize customer experiences. Designed to adapt with our clients ever-changing consumer base, we take the guesswork out of marketing. Our repeatable programs integrate all channels and media to steer consumers along the path to purchase pre and post leading to predictive ROI modeling. While traditional conversion optimization measures only one phase of the conversion process, we measure each and every consumer touchpoint to determine the best way to maximize marketing spend. Every single program is viewed as an opportunity to test, learn and optimize. Using multivariate and A/B testing, Sq1 continually scrutinizes a variety of factors including: landing page effectiveness, messaging, and targeting methodologies. We take full advantage of the latest in technology, message delivery and measurement. Our Optimization Science Engineers design our programs, focusing on predictive modeling, ROI, and monitor results in real time, making changes to campaigns whenever necessary all while the campaigns are live. We are a privately-held corporation with offices in Dallas, Houston and Portland. For more information, contact Sq1 at or visit 6

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