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The Search CTR Equation: Paid + Organic = Max ROI

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In the world of search engine marketing, one thing is certain – the rules and best practices for generating success are constantly changing.

What works in organic search and SEO one day, can be obliterated the next with a single algorithm change by one of the major search engines. Clickthrough rates (CTR) on pay-per-click (PPC) ads also fluctuate as search engine results page (SERP) designs are modified. And with the US Federal Trade Commission’s recent update to its guidelines for improved transparency of paid versus organic results, you can bet some SERP design changes are on the horizon.

The Importance of Integrating SEO and PPC

To guard against the kind of disruption SERP design and algorithm changes can bring to your search marketing efforts, it’s imperative to employ a strategy that is evergreen and can compete regardless of the short-term changes made by the search engines themselves. One important constant that should be present in any search marketing strategy is the combination of SEO with paid efforts, and vice versa. If one area is disrupted, you can still maintain a level of search engine visibility while you adjust to the changes.

Beyond this defensive strategy, consider the affirmative reasons for combining SEO and PPC that can have a favorable impact on your search marketing results. Within the first page of Google results, 34 percent of ad clicks are associated with related organic results (Google study: Impact of Organic Rank on Ad Click Incrementality). Clearly, the combination of PPC and SEO is greater than the sum of its parts, ultimately increasing the ROI of each. This most likely is because of the perceived increased credibility by the searcher when the same result shows up multiple times. The integrated approach ensures SERP visibility and the chance to increase clicks.

There are other ways to integrate your SEO and PPC strategies. Because it takes time for SEO efforts to generate page-one results, SEO marketers have to be very thoughtful about which keywords to optimize. This is where your PPC program can help inform and strengthen your SEO strategy. Pay per click allows you to measure keyword performance more expediently, making it a great tool for testing the performance of search terms that you can then implement in your SEO efforts.

The Role of Mobile and Video

The importance of the growth of mobile search cannot be overstated. The number one consumer activity on mobile devices is search, according to comScore’s Sixth Annual Local Search Usage Study by Neustar Localeze and 15 Miles. And local search expert Greg Sterling suggests, “Of the estimated 30 billion annual mobile searches, about 12 billion are local searches.”

Further, a recent study by Google and Nielsen revealed that nearly one-quarter of paid search clicks now come from mobile devices. This means that mobile has to be integral to your SEO and PPC strategy. And this certainly is not an area to take an either/or approach. Integrate SEO, PPC and mobile to ensure you are visible to the growing population of mobile searchers.

Video is another area where organic results and PPC can be combined to increase overall clickthrough success. It’s no secret that high-value video content can increase organic search visibility. And now, with Google making paid search ads available on YouTube, video content with same-page paid ads is a likely winning combination.

Conclusion

The key for search marketers is to embrace the complementary benefits of SEO and pay per click in order to maximize clicks and the return on your search marketing investment. The strategically minded long-term search marketer must have plans in place that continue to deliver results regardless of search engine algorithm changes, and this means PPC and organic search must both be part of any long-term search marketing strategy.

Image: Thinking About Equations — Original Billboard Image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Gideon Rubin is CMO of Local Market Launch, the Santa Barbara-based startup that is driving new standards of quality in business listings management and local presence solutions for national brands, multi-location businesses and SMBs.

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2 Comments

  1. Great write up. One of the biggest mistakes I see clients make is not testing any keywords before starting an SEO campaign. There are plenty of keywords that get a lot of traffic and are seemingly target to a business; but why not run a 6 week test to see how well they convert on the target website. This allows you to split test keywords, and increase conversions before spending a ton to rank those terms.

  2. I'm just starting out and found your article to be relevant to my SEO & PPC research. It would be interesting to know how Brand played a role in the advantage of having both a organic and paid search result.