Synopsis — Although there is a lot of debate about terminology in our industry, most consider search engine marketing to be composed of the two components of search engine optimization and paid search. For most properties, both elements are an integral part of the online marketing plan, but because of the scope of the knowledge needed to maneuver both, it often happens that different individuals or teams — and sometimes different outsourced entities — wind up being responsible for the implementation of each. Although this may seem to be a logical use of limited resources or indeed a smart business move in employing the best agency to outsource SEO and paid search to, there is the potential for some serious missteps and problems to arise if you separate your paid and organic search efforts too much.
In his article, “5 Reasons To Consolidate Paid & Organic Search Efforts,” John Fairley will help you navigate through this dilemma by detailing five reasons why consolidation of your paid and organic programs may be the best option. By revealing the problems that could arise from a separation of the two, the article will lead you in the right direction to avoid the pitfalls no matter which direction you ultimately decide on. Don’t miss this detailed look at the implications of separating your online marketing strategy into fragments, and learn how to avoid the inherent problems!
The complete article follows …
5 Reasons To Consolidate Paid & Organic Search Efforts
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are commonly the first — and often the only — place consumers go to find information. As larger shares of budgets are dedicated to search marketing, it is important to ensure funds are allocated efficiently to maximize ROI and remain competitive. Although the vast majority of marketers recognize the importance of paid search and search engine optimization (SEO), many do not realize value of consolidating these efforts.
It is very common for companies to outsource portions of their search marketing campaigns to specialty firms. Unfortunately, unless you use the same provider or an integrated team to manage both paid search and SEO campaigns, the brand messaging and ROI can be negatively impacted. Here are five reasons why the same team should manage paid and organic campaigns:
1. Paid And Organic Search Can Inadvertently Harm Each Other
Paid search firms create landing pages in order to optimize their campaigns. These pages are frequently included in a search engine’s organic page index and are often derivatives of existing web pages, which can result in duplicate content. Since search engines look for the highest quality and most original content, they perceive duplicate content as a signal of diminished quality, which can dilute or even harm organic search efforts.
If the paid search manager leverages existing material on the website and repurposes it on a different page to track effectiveness of a landing page, search engines will recognize this as a duplicate and reduce the ranking power of both. Even if the search manager slightly modifies the content, it will still often be recognized as a duplicate.
There are strategies to avoid being tagged for duplicate content or pages if you cannot guarantee that all material and pages are significantly different. Search engine algorithms are designed to direct crawlers to look out for large blocks of similar content, but you can make technical modifications in the page’s HTML that will allow duplicate content to exist without incurring a penalty. These include using a canonical meta tag or “no-index” meta tag. In addition, you can use a special file on your website called a robots.txt file to instruct the crawlers, or robots, to avoid those pages.
Although these tactics will significantly improve organic page rankings, paid search managers have little incentive to implement the modifications because duplicate pages have absolutely no impact on paid search. They do, however, impact organic search.
On the other hand, organic SEO efforts can also negatively impact paid search campaigns. If the paid search team is using a web page managed by the SEO team and the SEO team makes modifications, such as reoptimizing the page content or changing the title tag, it can drive the bids up for keywords because search engines recognize it as less targeted to the keywords used in the advertising campaign. Also, if the organic team changes the page’s address (URL) to optimize a page that the paid team is using without notifying them, the paid search ads will stop appearing because the page will no longer exist. The last thing Google wants to do is take someone to an error page. Coordinated efforts will ensure both paid and organic efforts are mutually beneficial.
2. A Consistent Message Is Essential
Using the same firm for paid and organic efforts will bring a consistent strategy and message to your online marketing efforts. Multiple vendors increase the chance that messaging will veer off-brand. In search results, the branded ads and organic search result listings should convey the same or complementary messaging because both results can show up side-by-side on the same page.
If you want to experiment with new messaging or ad copy, you can make changes or additions immediately. On the other hand, modifications to web pages take time to appear in organic search listings, if at all. For example, imagine an organic listing for a high-end product or service that differentiates your offering based on quality and value, not price, but your paid search team tests out an ad that promotes low price. This will confuse your audience if both appear at the same time, and may even turn off potential customers attracted to the luxury aspect of your product, lowering conversion rates.
3. Competing Firms Have Competing Interests
With two separate firms evaluated and incentivized based on performance, in many ways they compete against each other for online marketing success and, more importantly, a larger portion of the marketing budget. Each has an incentive to withhold successful strategies and tactics from the opposing team. While competition can help drive success at times, it is not in your best interest to have your SEO and PPC teams withholding information from one another in order to gain an upper hand. Sharing information and ideas about best practices, successful strategies, and ineffective or inefficient tactics will enhance both organic and paid results.
Additionally, using two teams raises concerns with responsibility. If a problem in paid campaigns shows up organically, which team is responsible for identifying and fixing the problem? The PPC team will not be compelled to use resources to fix an organic search problem they caused if it is not impacting their results
I once worked on an account that used two different vendors for PPC. One firm focused on landing page optimization and the other on keyword targeting and quality, as well as ad copy optimization. When these efforts were not coordinated, both teams ended up running the same A/B tests. These vendors were competing against each other for share of the PPC budget, creating a situation where both firms could potentially benefit by sabotaging the other’s efforts. At times, the ads ended up competing against each other — a situation called double-dipping, when two ads show up at the same time for the same company.
4. Using Two Firms Is Inherently Inefficient
When SEO and paid search are handled by different agencies, overlapping and duplicated efforts result. This includes strategy meetings, keyword research, content creation and reporting meetings. With one unified team, there is no reason to worry about going through the same steps twice, leaving more time and resources to be distributed to execution.
If both the SEO and PPC team have access to modify your website, teams can step on each other’s toes, causing a number of problems. For example, if one team changes a page, the other can go in and modify, or even delete, the previous changes. This back-and-forth can continue indefinitely. A lack of communication causes management overhead that makes the whole process inefficient.
5. A Unified Team Increases Innovation
Having SEO and paid search efforts working hand-in-hand allows for improved innovation and experimentation. By working together, teams can share and use best practices for both SEO and PPC in order to improve ROI on both sides. When these responsibilities are handled by multiple firms, it is much harder to coordinate cross-channel experiments and growth can be limited.
For example, if your paid search firm experiments with an improved landing page design and achieves improved results, how quickly, if at all, will the successful strategies be integrated into the organic landing pages? On the other hand, the paid search team might waste valuable time experimenting with something that has already been disproven by a prior organic optimization effort.
If you have only one team analyzing all of the paid and organic search data, the team can catch things that they otherwise would have overlooked when viewing only one data set. Along the same lines, if there is a problem with SEO, PPC, or both, and each team is only viewing one separate data set, they might not even spot or recognize the severity of the problem.
On one occasion, my web team discovered that the conversion pages were not working in a certain web browser, which accounted for 10% of total traffic, for an SEO-only client. We fixed the problem for the SEO pages and since our SEO team, the paid search team, and the client were all operating as partners, we shared that paid search was also impacted. The problem was resolved on both ends. However, with separate teams who are treated as vendors instead of partners, the paid search team may have never recognized or fixed the problem, which would have resulted in an ongoing 10% waste of paid search dollars.
Conclusion: Partners Vs. Vendors
Without clear lines of communication, teamwork and cooperation, and shared goals and rewards across paid search and SEO campaigns, marketers can end up with valuable portions of their budget wasted on inefficiencies and inconsistent messaging. Using the same experienced firm for both organic and paid search will increase ROI, reduce time spent managing efforts, and maintain your business branding.
Under exceptional circumstances, if you must use two separate teams for paid and organic search, you have to ensure both firms are treated as equal partners, rather than separate vendors. Keep open lines of communication, schedule meetings between all teams, require that updates to the website be shared with everyone, and do not incentive teams with the prospect of an increased portion of the search budget for better service. Instead, reward teams for collective achievements, treat them as equals, and encourage them to work to grow your company.
Partners want success, whereas vendors only want to deliver what’s in the contract. Sustainable growth is more likely with integrated partnerships than with disparate vendor relationships.