PPC vs. Organic SEO

August 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Search Marketing

Are you engaged in any active Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? What about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising? The fact is you should be working on both.

Both channels should work in conjunction with the other, sharing information between each to further enhance the overall sales return. That is what it is all about, getting the biggest bang for your buck at the lowest risk.

I can’t count the number of times I hear others say that PPC doesn’t work and costs too much. They tend to opt for SEO over PPC because they feel SEO will drive traffic at a less costly rate — but that is a mistake in judgment … more on that below.

PPC when run properly is a very valuable asset to all businesses. If you are losing money on pay per click you are likely not operating it correctly. SEO is also a very important component to business needs, but it should not be the only method you rely on for traffic generation either.

Consider the following example scenario.

You decide not to run any PPC advertising and in place of it put all your traffic generation eggs into the Organic SEO basket. Your efforts have you enjoying a nice ride at the top of the engines, your sales are high and life is good. You wake up one day and for some unknown reason your sales have not only dipped, but have come to an almost screeching halt. Doing some research you find out that the search engines unleashed some new update to their algorithms and with that update, your previous high flying rankings are now non-existent — and your sales are paying the price.

The risk is real. If you were running PPC in conjunction with Organic SEO this hit would not be as significant, and furthermore, you could quickly “buy” your way back into the search results and pick up pretty much where you left off until your natural rankings recover.

You shouldn’t wait to run PPC. As with SEO, many factors in pay per click rely on time and performance. For example, Quality Scores are affected by performance of ads / keywords and the more historical data you have the more opportunity you have to better those scores. Higher Quality Scores mean you can pay less for higher positions in the search engines — even when your competitor is bidding more than you for that same keyword.

Now if you are one of those who think you can wait for the organic SEO to fail and then at that time buy your way back into the engines with PPC, you’re slightly mistaken. Yes, you can have traffic up and running within a few hours at the most. But the price you will pay for that traffic is going to be higher and the learning curve of what works to convert and what doesn’t will still be something that can only be determined with time.

Here are some pros and cons regarding PPC and SEO:

Pros of PPC Advertising

  1. You have more control over paid search traffic.
  2. Targeting your ideal customer is easier.
  3. You can have quality traffic running to your site in just a few hours.
  4. Your traffic will continue to flow as long as your budget allows.
  5. Changes you make to your campaigns are active within hours and thus testing creative, landing pages, etc… is easier.
  6. Taking advantage of limited time opportunities to drive traffic (like holiday sales, back to school, etc…) is easier.

Cons of PPC Advertising

  1. Can get out of hand quickly and bust your budget if not setup and monitored properly.
  2. Can be a challenge to work with if not versed managing PPC campaigns to some degree.
  3. Depending on the type of system you use to set it up / run it, can be difficult with larger numbers of keywords, ads, and ad groups.

Pros of SEO:

  1. Can be more cost effective than PPC (but not always!)
  2. Can help you increase rankings for keywords that might otherwise be out of budget in the PPC channel.
  3. Indexed pages of your site stay in the search engines forever (providing they are not “dropped”).

Cons of SEO:

  1. Testing creative, landing pages, etc… is harder. Changes you make to your campaigns take time to work their way through the system (weeks, months, etc…) and by the time they are active, it’s likely too late to take advantage of any “would be” opportunities.
  2. Here today, gone the next. You could be #1 in Google (or any other engine) one day, and be non-existent the next.
  3. Traffic slows (or stops) as your search rankings drop and it can take time to recover those ranks.
  4. Harder to target and qualify your ideal customer.
  5. Time is your friend here (but that’s not always a good thing.) Things in the SEO world just take time.
  6. No guaranteed placement.

PPC and SEO are both effective means of delivering traffic to your website and arguments can be made for each as to their effectiveness. The fact is if you’re not running both, you’re limiting your potential for growth and increasing your risk. SEO should be seen as an ongoing marketing objective with “long term” results. PPC should also be an ongoing marketing objective with “short term” results. Combine them both, and the two traffic generation methods can work as a well oiled unit, delivering not only a continual flow of visitors to your site, but increased sales as well.

Got anymore insights? I’d love to hear them. Voice your opinion below.

5 Ways to Instantly Increase ROI of Your Pay Per Click Campaigns

July 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Search Marketing

Increase Paid Search ROIRunning a profitable paid search campaign can be an art. Although many believe you must have a complete understanding of the search engines in order to be successful however, this is not always the case.

Increasing your return on investment from paid search is not as difficult as it may seem. It is true, you need to consistently keep a watchful eye on your analytics and always be aware of your opportunity vs. expense. Despite that seemingly daunting concept, you can run a successful paid search campaign if you pay attention to the right metrics.

Having said that, with a little knowledge at your fingertips you might not become an expert at paid search but your efforts will deliver a positive ROI if you follow the following 5 tips.

1) Focus on Conversion Rate not Click Through Rate (CTR).

Too often people focus on how many visitors (clicks) they receive from a paid search campaign. It is their belief that the more clicks they get, the more sales they should get. To make matters worse, there are companies out there who actually measure paid search success on CTR (click through rate) alone.

Any of these beliefs is a recipe for disaster. These methods often result in spending more money than you actually make on paid search. In other words, you spend more advertising dollars than you generate in sales.

To correct this problem, you should focus on the Conversion Rate metric as it pertains to sales generated when running paid search. This is a more realistic indicator of whether your campaign is moving toward success or not.

The formula for calculating conversion rate is:

Completed Actions (sales) / Total Number of Visitors (Sessions)

One reason many people overlook this metric might be because in order to calculate your Conversion Rate metric you often need to install the proper tracking code on the thank you page of your website. For ecommerce sites this is most often the page a customer arrives at after completing a successful sale. The tracking code placed on this page gathers data on completed actions which as I have illustrated is used to calculate conversion rate.

All major paid search providers have code similar to this at your disposal. For Google Analytics this is called “conversion tracking” and is obtained from within your Google AdWords account. This tracking number is different from that which is provided to you through the use of Google Analytics alone.

Your conversion rate is a measure of unique visitors to completed actions on your website. Alone it will not guarantee you make money from your efforts, but combined with the remaining elements outlined below, it is one of the key metrics toward running a successful paid search campaign.

2) Know your Value per Visitor.

Your Value per Visitor is the revenue you generate from each pay-per-click visitor to your website. In other words, it is a measure of how effective your website generates sales from the visitors it receives. The higher your value per visitor, the more effective your website is at converting them into sales.

You calculate your value per visitor using the following formula:

Revenue Generated / Total Number of Visitors (Sessions)

Value per visitor can be confusing for many. Take for example a site with a value per visitor of $.95. Given this measurement we could accurately say that the site owner makes 95 cents for every visitor who arrives at their website. It gets confusing for some because they ask “how can I make $.95 for each visitor when not every visitor buys from me?”

The answer is found in the way the metric is perceived. It shouldn’t be looked at as each visitor actually completing a “transaction” with your site, but rather each visitor being worth an amount that ideally should be less than your CPC (cost per click).

To further illustrate, if your Average CPC was $1.25 and your value per visitor is just $.95 then you are losing $.30 for each visitor you drive to your website! In other words, you spend on average of $1.25 to get one click that is only worth $.95 to you. At this rate you will never profit and should consider reworking your paid search campaign, hiring an expert ppc marketer, or shutting it down until you can do one of those options.

3) Keep your Average Cost per Conversion in check.

Your Average Cost per Conversion (sometimes called Cost per Action) is the average amount of funding it takes to generate one action (a sale in the case of ecommerce sites.)

It is calculated using the following formula:

Advertising Cost / Total Completed Actions

In its simplest form, your average cost per conversion should be lower than your average order value or you are losing money.

To illustrate, if your average order value is $35 and your average cost per conversion is $40 then you lose $5 each time a sale is completed on your site. In other words, you are spending $5 more in advertising than you are receiving from a sale.

This one can be hard for many to see as they look at only the end result … the completed sale. They neglect the advertising cost which went into achieving that sale and therefore often end up continuing to run paid search campaigns which are not profitable to their business.

The exception to the rule is a company who has built in average lifetime value of a customer and is willing to lose money or break even on the first sale in order to gain future sales from that same customer. With careful planning and proper implementation this strategy can successfully be used to build a viable business online.

4) Use long tailed keywords and exact match instead of shorter more generalized keywords and broad match.

When internet users begin their search for more information on a product or service, they often use what are called general or broad keywords. They do not know exactly what they are searching for but do know they need more information on a given item of interest. As a result, the keywords tend to be shorter and more general.

Searches result in terms like “shoes”, “running shoes” and “nike” for example. While these terms would likely return data relating to a given product type, they would likely not return data on a specific shoe.

These terms would yield traffic on a broad level with all visitors looking for information yet few looking to buy. Not only would these search terms yield broad scale traffic, but they would come at a high price. Often times the more broad the keyword is, the more competition there is for it and the higher CPC you will pay.

Consider now the user that has already done their research and is ready to buy. They have performed all the searches, learned what is the best running shoe for their needs, and are now in the hunt to find out where they can get it.

As the user narrows their search and has gathered more data about a given product their search shifts to a more exact methodology. They begin to use what are called long tailed keywords to find more specific results. Terms like “Nike airmax running shoe” or “Nike airmax size 7 running shoe” are used.

You can see just by looking at the search terms utilized, the user is more qualified to buy. They know exactly what they want and now they want to know where to get it.

Although there will be competition for these keyword types, the competition will likely be less than what is seen at the broad level. As a result, you’ll achieve lower CPC prices and in turn more qualified traffic by bidding on these types of “long tailed” terms.

5) Build smaller lists of keywords targeted across more specific ad groups and campaigns.

One of the most common mistakes made by non-experienced paid search marketers is “dumping” large lists of unrelated keywords into a few ad groups across a few campaigns.

While this tactic may save you time, it will ultimately be the iceberg that sinks the ship in the end. Trying to save time and money in the beginning will only result in losing money at the other side.

Take your time upfront, perform your due diligence and structure your paid search campaigns to take advantage of the opportunities that smaller, more targeted keyword groupings can do. In case you are asking “what can they do?” here’s a list.

  • Provide more control over ad presentation.
  • Increase click through and typically increase quality of traffic.
  • Increase quality score.
  • Increase relevancy.
  • Increase Quality Score which decreases bid cost and increases placement.

Paying attention to these 5 tips might not make you an expert at paid search, but it certainly will put you on the right track toward achieving higher ROI from your efforts.