PPC vs. SEO The Bigger Picture

Upon reading today’s White Board Friday on SEOmoz.com I had to respond with my own opinion on this sibling rivalry between these two forms of Search Marketing.  PPC and SEO should not be seen as such separate channels for search marketing programs but as symbiotic entities that need and feed each other in order to create and maintain a well optimized search marketing program.

Danny states “The downside to PPC is that it cost a lot of money as compared to traditional SEO.”  This is a total misnomer.   In my experience SEO costs can be far higher than that of PPC.  Yes PPC takes a outlay of cash to pay for clicks but SEO takes TIME.   

He goes on to say, “With SEO it has a slower start-up. So, in fact, SEO can take a long time to start working. But it is essentially free.” SEO takes time and a large amount of sweat equity thatis used to create, maintain and implement SEO strategies over the long term.  That time costs money too and can be a huge chunk when added up over time.  That isn’t even thinking about development costs that can be incurred or third party agency or consultants that one might utilize for recommendations. 

SEO can actually benefit from PPC testing, analytics, and reporting.  By testing different landing pages for keyword conversion in PPC you can optimize that same page for SEO purposes.  And yes utilizing SEO best practices for content will improve the quality score of keywords used for PPC therefore aiding in PPC placement and conversions. 

So yes I agree share the research and work together to build a better branded, optimized and converting search marketing program.   By utilizing both channels you can compliment each other’s programs and reach more traffic. 

PPCers are NOT big dum-dum heads…they are the pioneers who push the limits and build a brand in a way that SEO can’t.

PPC Advertising Needs to keep the User In mind

I’m seeing a very disturbing trend among retailers when it comes to their PPC advertising.   Retailers seem to be dropping the ball on user experience for their PPC landing pages. I’m finding more and more that major retailers are missing out on the basics of PPC advertising best practices by sending users who are searching on specific product related keywords to their home page instead of to that specific product.  My bet is that the CTR is high but the bounce rates are also high.  Searchers will click on PPC ads in the hopes of going directly to what they want and when they get there and find they are going to have to search through a retailer’s web site to find it, they will back right back out and go to the next ad.  These retailers are Wasting precious money and losing potential sales for lack of a proper landing page.

In the example below I found that the top 3 ads on this page were not going to relevant pages at all.  The top page goes to Lift tables, but they are not coffee tables, this is a case of broad terms gone bad, this ad most likely gets a high click thru rate and an even higher bounce rate when users find it isn’t what they are looking for.  The 2nd ad goes to JC Penney’s Home Page, not at all helpful to someone who is searching on such a specific term.  If this bid is on the broad term ‘coffee table’ it should at least take the user to the coffee table page, this will cause high bounce rates for those users who don’t have the patience to go drill down through the JC Penney site to search yet again for what they want.  Meanwhile the 3rd ad by Rotmans at least takes the user to ‘coffee tables’ but those who are looking for specific type like this keyword is it might be best for them to bid on that term and do exact match as well in order to mitigate the possibility of loosing people on this page.  All three of these ads landing pages are disassociated from the exact term they are driving traffic to.  They are all getting high CTR but also high bounce rates and lower conversion rates as a result.  This is also skewing their cost per conversion high.

Google Ads page
Google Ads

Meanwhile, the 4th, 5th, and 6th slots to the right are perfect examples of a good PPC landing page experience.  These ads take the user to an exact matching product that matches clearly with the keyword.  They have pictures featured which also tells the user immediately that this is the product they are looking for.  These ads will be paying a slightly lower CPC and have high CTR and most likely lower bounce rates and a resulting higher conversion rate and their cost per conversion will also be lower.

It is easier for some PPC advertisers to just send their ads to a single url, their Home Page or to a general page thinking the user will find what they want, but it isn’t true.  You want to have focused PPC ads that go to a relevant and focused web page that will result in conversions.  Paying out on wasted clicks like this will take away from your ROI and keep conversion rates low.  Focus the ads and they landing page and you will see a big improvement in the cost per conversion.

Landing Page Optimization

Yesterday I attended a webinar “Conversion Ninja Toolbox with Tim Ash” which was extremely helpful.

Some great inexpensive tools for analyzing and helping to create better optimized landing pages were discussed.

But the most compelling part for me was in the end of the presentation when Tim critiqued landing pages that attendees sent in before the webinar.  The landing page I sent in was the first, it was difficult to watch but I had to keep reminding myself I hadn’t built this page I knew what was wrong with it but I really needed and wanted more input on what should be done to make it better.

As a result I think I’m going back to the drawing board.  I had begun building a few other possible landing pages that are awaiting approval but I’m now going to apply the techniques and suggestions from this webinar and take a stab at making a better landing page.

Marketing can lead people to your site but that doesn’t make them leads

Clicks, visits, visitors, unique visitors, page views, time on site, etc. don’t really mean a whole lot if they are converting!

Organic, and Paid search along with social media can create traffic to any site but the site must lead the users through the conversion process in such a way that the convert.  Whether that is by filling out a form for a case study or white paper, signing up for a newsletter or blog rss feed, or registering for a trial membership the most important thing is to capture that conversion!  At the end of the day we’re all measured on that end resulting goal of the all might ‘Conversion’.

So I ask myself time and time again how to get that person to that form and how to get them to WANT to fill it out?  Not just using calls to action…not dangling more information in front of them…but make them WANT to be a part of that end result?  I believe that it is going to be by giving them the user experience they need to lead them through the research, sales process, and eventually the sale.  The one thing that is lacking in so many marketing and sales strategies is the user experience.  utilizing landing pages and A/B testing to build a better experience that will convert traffic into customers.

Happy Holidays

Christmas Eve and I sit in the dark office all alone.   I’m quite happy to see that my traffic yesterday did not suffer from ‘holiday’ fatigue.  That’s what I call the lull in traffic that happens around holidays.  Each year I’ve made adjustments in my forecasting to account for traffic erosion during the holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, 4th of July, and Labor Day.  I was expecting that this week would have a larger then usual lull due to all the holidays hitting basically on weekdays.  So I have to say I am pleasantly surprised that so far this week we’re running around average.

Planning for holiday fatigue in your traffic numbers is very important in order to meet your goals you will need to plan accordingly.  During months that these holidays occur I try to focus my major traffic building exercises during the rest of the month.  For instance, this month instead of holding a Webinar near the end of the month I held it at the beginning of the month to drive as much traffic as early in the month as possible.  It has paid off, I’m running close to my goals for the month and I’m seeing much better then expected conversion numbers this week.

Meanwhile, I’m also seeing better social networking results that I expected.  I had expected their to be a bit of a lull in the social media sites during this holiday week as well, but I guess not as many people are taking this week off as I’d expected.  I’m seeing a much better then average amount of social media buzz this week for my clients which makes me and them very happy 🙂

So Happy Holidays Everyone!