Why should SEO and PPC strategies be linked?

The search engine results page is full of ads.  Some of the ads are referred to as organic search results.  Companies use SEO (search engine optimization) tactics to help optimize their website to show in the organic space as search engines won’t charge to show here.  The only charge to the company is what they pay their employees to create, analyze and optimize their website.  The other ads are known as PPC (pay per click) ads.  As the name mentions, companies pay to place these ads on the results page.  Ideally, a company will use both tactics to take advantage of the available space.  The use of both tactics can have a lot of advantages including the following two big themes.

Shared Learnings

Vertical Response wrote a good article that touched on this subject.  One advantage of having both tactics is the keyword research that can be shared and utilized on the paid and organic search strategy.  Understanding what keywords are generating organic traffic can show keyword expansion opportunity in the paid search program.  However, a lot of organic search queries aren’t being passed to companies from the search engines.  Therefore, many companies are taking advantage of the PPC keywords to help with their website optimizations.  If certain keywords are having success in the PPC program, the company could look to include these on the website.

Another shared learning can come from paid search ad copy.  If certain ads are performing well from a CTR and conversion standpoint, certain words could be incorporated into the website meta tags.  Understanding paid search conversion performance is an important idea.  This helps companies understand what traffic is more qualified and worth targeting.  When writing meta tags or adding additional keywords to the website, this should be the ultimate goal.

A third cross shared learning can come from the landing pages.  Understanding the landing pages that lead to conversions can help companies identify areas of opportunity.  The actual search queries will have a lot of weight towards the end conversion rate but analyzing landing page performance at a high level can be crucial for identifying good or poor performing pages.  This could lead to landing page changes or editing of the current page design.

More Clicks!

A search engine results page only has a certain amount of room.   It’s important for companies to try and take up as much real estate as possible.  The BrightEdge Company wrote an article that touched on this subject.   When showing organic ads only, the clicks obtained depended greatly on the ad position.  The graph below demonstrates this idea by showing the relationship of organic clicks and the ad positioning.

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PPC ads allow companies to have an additional listing on the page.  With these ads having a chance of being in a prime position, they can help companies attract more clicks.  The incremental clicks vary depending on the ad position as shown in the following image.

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These results won’t be the same for every company and situation.  However, it shows the opportunity paid ads provide to companies only leveraging the organic space.  This type of study has been discussed by a lot of companies including Google, Yahoo, iProspect, and Kenshoo.  Although the exact numbers vary, the overall story is the same.

Are you looking at paid and organic search together when generating new strategies?

What is the best social media site for storytelling?

Companies are always trying new ways to connect with their audience.  As competition continues to increase, it can be hard for companies to keep potential customers attention.  One technique that is becoming more popular is storytelling.  The goal of storytelling can range depending on the brand.  Goals can be related to presenting historical information, entertainment purposes, education, or anything else the brand wants to relay to its customers.  This is a technique that can be published on different media sites including the ones below.

Facebook

Facebook has over 1.4 billion active monthly users which allows brands to reach large audiences.  With the ability to publish photos and videos, Facebook offers a great opportunity to share stories.  Studies have shown that the most engaging posts on Facebook are photos.  If companies can get creative, they have the ability to leverage this tactic to try and connect with their audience.

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Although videos don’t see the same amount of overall engagement, this tactic has the ability to be shared a lot throughout the Facebook community.  When looking at individual post examples, videos were shared the most for 8 out of the 10 most shared posts.  Facebook is constantly trying to give companies ways to share stories with their fans.  Options such as sequenced ads and instant articles are giving companies ways to test the best approach for getting their story heard.

Twitter

Twitter has less characters for companies to express their message which is why images and videos become extremely important.  This forces companies to get creative but it can be done and very rewarding.  This is a chance for companies to stick out from the crowd, whether they use creativity, user generated content, or images that create a story on their own.  With the ability for quick interactions with users, Twitter is a unique site for building relationships through storytelling.

YouTube

A theme Twitter and Facebook have shown is that videos are a great technique for storytelling.  Since people go to YouTube to watch videos, the site is a natural fit for brands to use when telling stories.  In addition, YouTube is the second largest search engine giving companies a large audience to attract. One of the biggest benefits is this channel allows companies to share longer videos.  The optimal YouTube video is 3 minutes.  In comparison, Facebook videos see the best completion rate when they are under a minute.  Other channels such as Twitter, Vine, and Instagram support videos that are even shorter.  Therefore, if you have a longer message, this could be the best channel to use.

There are a lot of other social sites that can be leveraged for storytelling.  Snapchat has sequential clips and the ability to create an urgency when people view the content.  On Instagram, companies can leverage the carousel ads to help tell a story.  Some companies might prefer Vine.  The best site may depend on the audience and situation.  Maybe the best option is to tell stories across multiple sites.  Do you think there is an optimal site for storytelling?

How should companies deal with unofficial bloggers?

There may not be one answer to this question that can be applied to every company.  However, there are a lot of companies that can relate to having unofficial bloggers write about their brand.  On the one hand, this gives a company free content.  The down fall is that the company can’t control the information being published.  This will come down to personal opinion; but if there is a good unofficial blog on the internet, find and encourage it.

Regardless of the information a company publishes, it may not be good enough for some customers.  A few years ago Nielsen did a study that looked at the forms of advertising people trust.  The top three sources were related to opinions and articles.  However, none of these were related to information published by the actual company.  The graph below shows that only 58% of customers trust a branded website.

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Although personal recommendations are trusted the most, people are trusting online reviews a lot more.  In some people’s opinion, these forms of advertising have the same level of trust.  BrightLocal released a study that showed 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  Therefore, unofficial blogs can help persuade customers toward the brand being researched.

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With no control over an unofficial blog, it can be scary what might be written.  Sometimes it might not go the company’s way.  At a high level, a company has three choices on approaching a relationship with the blog.

First, they can try to control or take down the blog.  The internet is a powerful tool and if people learn about this approach it can hurt a company’s image more than the initial blog.  This happened when IKEA tried to take down the unofficial blog IKEA Hackers.  According to comScore, this blog has seen between 30K and 85K unique visitors per month over the last 6 months.  There was a lot of bad press created by the supporting community and ultimately IKEA backed down on its stance.  A second approach is to ignore the blog.  This is the stance a lot of companies take when it comes to unofficial blogs.  This is a safe stance which most likely won’t hurt or help a company too much.

The third approach is to encourage the blog.  This is an approach Starbucks has taken with the blog StarbucksMelody.  This is a popular blog which saw 33K unique visitors in the month of May.  Within the about section, the author states that there can’t be any offensive language or comments or they will be deleted.  The author is a huge fan of the company and it looks like she wants to enhance the company brand.  If a company can partner or encourage a well thought out blog such as this one, they can try to drive all customers seeking a blog to the one they prefer.  A company can’t stop customers from looking beyond their website for information and there is always the fear that they find someone writing poorly about the company.  Therefore, in an effort to protect and understand the customer, companies should consider partnering with the best supporting blog on the internet.  In the end, all partners will want the company to succeed.

How do you think companies should handle unofficial company blogs?

Should more companies invest in advergaming?

Advergaming is the use of themed games for branding and advertising purposes.  It gives companies another opportunity to reach customers on the growing mobile market.  There has been an increase in conversation around this topic as the popularity of mobile games continues to rise.  Nelson recently announced that gaming is the most popular apps within the entertainment category (most popular category of apps).  This is seen in the graph below.

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This might not tell the volume of opportunity but eMarketer is predicting that mobile games in the United States will see over $3 billion in revenue this year.  This is from taking advantage of the estimated 162.4 million mobile gamers in the United States.

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There is one stat that could be alarming or it could help show the future opportunity within this channel depending on the way a person interprets the information.  The mobile marketing automation firm Swrve found that 60% of in game revenue is coming from 0.23% of players.  That makes the audience of people that spend money in games fairly small.  This could be a challenge for companies to find creative ways to make their app worth spending money in but that could come at a high price.  Developing and keeping a game updated is not cheap.  Therefore, it could depend on a company’s size and audience when determining if they should develop a game for advertising purposes.

There are other ways to get in the gaming space if a company doesn’t want to create their own game.  They could look at in game branding on games that aren’t focused around their company.  This can be seen in example with GMC in the video game Madden and even President Obama who advertised in NHL 09.  These examples can be seen below.

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Do you think it’s worth a company’s time and money to create their own game for advertising purposes?  Have you downloaded any games that you think are successful examples?

 

Is Google Reacting to Competitive Changes?

Paid search is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Google is the industry leader within the United States and many other countries.  eMarketer shows Google with around 65% of online searches within the United States.  Since the industry spend projections are still growing, one would expect Google to be in a good spot.  However, could Google be anticipating a lower share of search traffic in the future?

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Mark Ballard wrote an interesting article that looked to see if Google was showing fewer search ads.  He examined data from the Rimm-Kaufman Group (RKG) as well as other industry leaders.  Within his research he is seeing a large decrease in desktop impressions for Google non-brand searches among RKG clients.  The article makes an argument that this could be due to Google not showing as many ads on each page.  The argument is valid with additional data presented in the article.  This brings up the question, why would Google show less ads?

With less ads on the page, Google could see an increase in CPCs as there is more competition for space on the first page.  The graph below shows this concept as the first page minimum bids have increased over the past year.

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Could an increase in competition be the reason behind Google’s changes?  There have been a lot of changes within the industry that have hurt Google or could hurt them in the future.  Last year it was announced that Yahoo was replacing Google as the Firefox search provider.  In addition, an article was written about eBay moving their mobile search ads from Google to Bing.  Although desktop ads were not mentioned, future projections have mobile ad spend as the bigger opportunity for the future.

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This year we saw Yahoo and Bing announce a new agreement that has allowed Yahoo to continue investing more in its new Yahoo Gemini platform.  The new agreement states that Yahoo is allowed to serve 100% of their mobile traffic through Yahoo Gemini (or any platform) as well as 49% of their desktop ads.  As Yahoo Gemini continues to expand, it has the ability to take additional traffic away from Google.  More recently, rumors about Apple creating its own search engine continue to appear.  If this happens, it will be another factor to hurt Google’s growth in mobile traffic.

Could Google be making proactive moves due to changes in the industry and competition?  Do you think Google is trying to raise CPC’s in order to hit future revenue goals even if they lose part of their current share of online searches?

Designing a Successful Website

When designing a website, the use of a core model can help obtain better results.  Ida Aalen wrote an article on the process of identifying the components of the core model and additional supporting pages.  The overall idea is to identify core pages that can help the company and visitors achieve their objectives.  This can be outlined with the worksheet below.

Core worksheet

The worksheet leaves room for a couple of core ideas and objectives.  Ida goes on and talks about the importance of prioritizing the core content identified.  This step is much more important today than it has been over the last couple of years due to the increase of mobile traffic.  Recently, Google has announced that mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic.  This is extremely important for website designs as people act differently depending on the device being used to search online.

Recent data from SimilarWeb shows the difference in customer engagement broken down by desktop and mobile devices.  The photo below shows that consumers visit more pages and stay on a site longer when they use a desktop device.

Device comparison

With the shift in consumer device usage, it’s more important to get the right information to the customer quickly before they leave the website.  Making sure core pages are easily accessible is also important as a study has shown that 76% of consumers view websites that make it easy for customers to find information as the most important factor in a website design.  A company should always think about the customer experience when designing a website.  Do you recognize when websites have or don’t have core pages easily accessible?

The Importance of Emerging Technology

Earlier this year, Google officially announced that there are more searches done on mobile devices than on computers in ten countries including the United States.  With companies understanding where they can reach their audience, spend on mobile devices is expected to increase.  In fact, eMarketer is projecting that mobile ad spend will be higher than desktop for 2015.  The graph below demonstrates this information and the continued projections through 2018.

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In a world where companies are driven by data, it is interesting to compare mobile conversion rates to other devices.  Marin Software shared a report that showed this information for Q4 of 2014.  The graph below shows that mobile conversion rates were lower in all channels represented.

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With this information, it will be emerging media that allows the spend projections to come true.  Companies need to understand the true impact of their mobile traffic.  Google is one company that is trying to tie this information back for their customers.  They are doing this through their estimated total conversions tool.  In order to enhance this information, the company is now trying to tie store visits in addition to cross device conversions.  Many attribution companies are also attempting to solve for this missing data.  This information is important to companies and it will allow them to increase their spend on mobile devices as they try and capture the growing mobile audience.