Synopsis – Every marketing move online and off is designed to result in a specific outcome, whether it be as simple as pointing searchers to a new iteration of a website or as complex as convincing potential customers to purchase an item. Goals exist independently of the available channels used by online marketers, such as pay-per-click advertising or social media, but those channels themselves are increasingly crossing each other and converging. It is no longer sufficient to concentrate on one channel alone — an understanding of the variety of channels is an absolute necessity for achieving success with online commerce.
Marty Weintraub, in his article “Intersecting Channels: The Convergence of SEO, PPC, and Social Media,” explores this situation, explaining how the channels intersect, using PPC, SEO, and social media as examples. Social media and SEO converge particularly well, while the goals and techniques used in PPC are increasingly useful to those undertaking SEO and/or social media campaigns. Consequently, marketers need to use the synergy created by these intersections while not forgetting about the global CPA of doing so. Those who take on the challenge will find their success multiplies accordingly.
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Intersecting Channels: The Convergence of SEO, PPC, and Social Media
At the end of every marketing funnel, regardless of whether the campaign is tendered in SEO, PPC, or social media channels, some desired outcome awaits. Perhaps the KPI (key performance indicator) is lead generation, product sales, branding, incenting user-generated content, pushing a bad result down Bing’s first page, or engaging customers in conversation. Any way you slice it, marketers by and large approach the table with a specific objective in mind to justify the expenditure of time, effort, and money.
Behind every SEO puzzle is a marketing riddle. Each PPC project becomes an ROI math problem, and most professional social media forays evolve into a holistic conundrum of friendship mashed up with PR goals. Without an intended outcome, there are no keywords, tweets, title tags, or rankings to mine. The goals themselves are channel-independent. Channels are the vehicles to achievable marketing results.
No Channel Lives In A Vacuum
The reality of today’s planetary networking tools exceeds what most of us even dreamed of back in the day. We live in a fascinating era of intersecting channels, radical cross-indexing, and unpredictable multi-layered convergence. Social media now drives organic search KPIs, Facebook PPC launches viral content proliferation, and most of us use a variety of PPC keyword inventory tools for SEO research. Understanding how channels work together, technically and financially, is crucial in today’s complex search universe. Let’s have a look at PPC, SEO, and social media mainstream channels for a high-level overview of how they affect each other.
Social Media And The Intersection Of SEO
It is a delusion that social media is only about the “conversation.” My friend (notorious and brilliant UK link-baiter) Lyndon Antcliff summarized it well in his blog, Cornwallseo. com:
“After all, the objective is not to have a conversation, the objective is something else, be it links, exposure, sales or branding. The objective is not the conversation, that is merely a stepping stone and yes it is an important and useful stepping stone, but it is not the objective.”
This is not to minimize the importance of greeting customers where they congregate and on their terms to service needs and make friends. Truly, that alone would justify social media programs. However, it is not the only reason. Significant SEO KPIs are connected to any social media optimization (SMO) agenda. Social media has become a crucial component to informed SEO plans because so many links are attained as a result of such efforts. Also, many SEO savants believe that off-page engagement metrics will — or already have — become important clues utilized by search engine ranking algorithms. One can make a case that engaging users is a crucial component for long-term SEO rankings.
Real-time results already impact Google and Bing to some extent, all the way from Twitter in organic SERPs to the alternate search terms at the bottom of organic SERPs. Search engines also index tweets and Twitter profiles. Many believe that buzz created by content, by way of algorithms like PostRank, are excellent statistics to include in organic ranking algorithms. PostRank keeps track of buzz by counting Delicious.com posts, retweets, FriendFeed views, on-site comment thread virility, and a number of other community rebroadcast metrics. As search engines look to these types of engagement statistics for ranking, it’s easy to see why social media is critical for SEOs.
LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon and a myriad of other social media profiles index prominently in all search engines to such a great extent that procuring social media accounts on brand terms is a front-line defensive tactic to expunge reputation-damaging results in the organic SERPs. Services like KnowEm.com, which keep tabs on classic and emerging social media sites sporting profiles that rank, have now become an extremely relevant tactic for reputation managers and SEOs alike.
Google, Yahoo!, and Bing’s Universal Search results incorporate data from several verticals, especially YouTube and other user-generated video sites. Internal YouTube ranking factors are dependent on social engagement within YouTube. Given that it is arguably the second most used search engine in the world, social activity in YouTube is a requirement for brands. Social media is an awesome way to build links. The importance of this connection cannot be overstressed. Google’s storied PageRank algorithm was built with — and to a great extent remains fundamentally associated with — links. Though link-based PageRank may be diminished in importance, each of the Big Three search engines measure links that a site receives. Correlation data indicates that factors include an inbound link’s energy, semantics (anchor text), relevance between inbound and outbound sites, pages, and how much the engines “trust” the link’s source site.
PPC And The Intersection Of Everything
Since the beginning, starting with Overture.com, classic keyword research tools have been primarily based on search frequency as indicated by paid search inventory. If not for a need to sell PPC to adver- tisers, who knows if search engines would feel compelled to make such keyword inventory tools available? Because PPC keyword research tools reveal search frequency, either directly from search engines or via third-party search engine data aggregators like Trellian KeywordDiscovery and Wordtracker, the data is universally used for SEO research. Therefore, as a starting point, the relationship between PPC and SEO is intrinsic and profound. That said, PPC is essential to knowledgeable search engine optimization specialists for a number of other reasons.
The classic approach to high-level PPC is to conduct multivariate testing to maximize the ROI between keywords, ad messages, and landing page conversions. Because PPC facilitates instant routing of traffic along these lines, funnels are very easy to test. However, SEO is not as precise, in that it’s much more difficult to test conversion funnels and to optimize ROI. The solution is often to conduct PPC testing to prove organic funnels. In this way, SEOs can deploy optimized pages with much greater confidence that, once indexed, the pages will convert to KPIs.
Another emerging convergence is between social media and PPC. It’s easy these days using Google’s keyword tools to scrape content from a specific web page to discover prominent keywords and associated keyword inventory and search frequency. Clever PPC demographic researchers seek content, hot by rebroadcast, and mine it algorithmically for related keyword inventory. It’s even possible to evaluate “private” threads from closed sites like Facebook, which Google won’t allow you to mine. To find keywords from your friends’ chatter in Facebook, copy and paste from the thread in your browser, post as a temporary .html file, and point Google’s keyword tool at the page. Bingo! Instant keyword delivery.
Social PPC, like Facebook’s evolving ads platform, targets PPC at a user’s interests, as opposed to keywords searched. Google’s Content Network also has more limited, yet substantial, demographic targeting features. In other words, if we were marketing an audio recording trade school, we might target high school students who like to play guitar or sing in a band. Clearly, as social media evolves, PPC targeted by various models at interests, rather than search, will become as much of a norm as search PPC.
Global CPA: Cutting Through Money Myths At The Intersection
It is a complete illusion that search engine optimization and social media efforts are free, whereas pay per click costs. SEO firms can charge quite a lot of money to help sites garner Google, Bing, and Yahoo! “natural” or “organic” search engine results. Likewise, competent SMO teams charge a pretty penny because the work is non-stop, labor- intensive, and requires significant training. Bottom line — any team member good enough to get the job done has a significant associated expense. Because channels are converging, ROI lines are getting very blurry.
The answer is to take a more global look at CPA (cost per action) and KPI. Check the analytics and add total SEO and social media traffic and conversion divided by the cost of content, community management, optimization, researching authority users, link-building, and other consulting efforts to arrive at the same sort of global CPC (cost per click/conversion) metric most of us associate with PPC. Include everything. Don’t overlook office overhead and support staff.
SEO, PPC, and social media stand at the crossroads of a brave new intersection of channels. More and more marketers are taking a step back and asking how the channels can advise each other and interact. Any way you look at it, Internet marketing channels can and should be approached as a portfolio of tactics to fulfill the overall strategy — marketing something at an acceptable cost, while leveraging available data from any channel to enhance efforts in all others.