When paid search emerged into the main stream in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s it was triumphed as a user-friendly replacement of the often confusing and technically-demanding strategy of natural search optimization (commonly called, “SEO”). As such, paid search opened new doors for entrepreneurs to visitor traffic to their websites that produced cost –effective leads and sales.
Unfortunately, as with most new technologies, as demand increased, competition reduced the early-adopter advantage and today the greatest rewards from paid search are derived by advertisers with the strongest strategic edge. Even more unfortunate though, through the ascent of paid search’s popularity, many entrepreneurs and business owners lost their focus on integrating natural search optimization into their marketing mix.
An effective search engine marketing strategy must combine the benefits of paid AND natural search. By building a paid and natural search marketing strategy, entrepreneurs and business owners create a “profitable” synergy that generates greater performance and higher ROIs then either paid or natural search can as individual components.
The key concept is to build an integrated campaign that leverages each individual strategy’s core benefits.
For example, with natural search there is no “click cost” therefore no budget unlike paid search which requires both. On the other hand, natural search is more complicated than paid search in establishing exposure for targeted keywords and across search properties.
By understanding these benefits, you can develop a powerful and profitable search engine marketing strategy. Consider these three “leverage points” when designing your integrated paid AND natural search strategy:
1. Setting up an instant keyword performance “Test Lab”.
Because paid search enables quick setup, extensive keyword selection, control over the ad and landing page copy and control over the landing page offer, it must be the first step for any new search marketing strategy and an integral part of every existing one.
Before focusing your efforts on optimizing natural search using titles, descriptions, keywords and web page offers that from your perspective “logically” seem to be the most relevant for your target market, test them first using paid search.
By using paid search to “test” and evaluate, you can determine:
• What ad copy attracts “qualified” visitor click-throughs and incorporate it into your natural search listings through title and descriptive tags, body text and other SEO elements.
• What landing page offers (and calls-to-action) generate the highest conversions and include these offers in your naturally optimized web pages.
• What paid search keywords have the highest visitor volume and strongest website conversions and focus your search engine optimization efforts on optimizing these keywords.
• Also test new keywords that indirectly may attract your target market. For example, if you sell IPod and IPod accessories add keywords to your paid search campaign like “home stereo” and other associated “music device” keywords that are replaceable with an IPod docking device like the new JBL speaker system.
By attracting a target market to your paid search ad you not only offer a “brand” alternative to their buying consideration but also a chance to close a sale. If the new keyword attracts visitors and if you ultimately convert a few to sales, then optimize this keyword for greater branding exposure in the natural search listings.
If you have established natural search listings, then you can “flip” this strategy around and use your web analytics system to identify natural search keywords that generate sales on your website. By using your natural search keyword results to guide your paid search keyword selection, you are assured a higher probability of conversion.
2. Maximizing Your Average “Cost per Lead or Sale”
Because natural search has no “direct click cost” unlike paid search, you can regulate your paid search “keyword bid positions” based on the ranking of your natural search listing for a particular keyword.
For example, if you have a top 10 position for the keyword, “real estate” in the natural search listing results, then you have the opportunity to back-off on your bid position and reduce the paid search cost associated with a naturally well-optimized keyword.
Another example is if you have a top three natural search listing and appear at the top of the search engine results page. IN this case, you can bid for a fourth, fifth or sixth position or even a seventh or eighth position for your paid search keywords. This will enable your natural search listing to capture the “above the fold” exposure while your paid search listings grab exposure “below the fold” and across the “right margin”. By using this strategy, you will have greater opportunity capture the “eye movement” patterns of your visitors.
Keep this in mind: if your target “cost per sale” is $25 then by combining paid and natural search efforts to leverage their financial benefits, you will be able to bid higher in paid search for core market keywords while securing low cost visitors and resulting sales from your natural search efforts. The outcome is an average cost per sale across natural and paid search that fits your overall website objective.
3. Leveraging “perceived relevance” to drive website conversions.
Beware of how search users perceive the “relevancy” of paid and natural listings when developing your integration strategy. Relevancy plays a significant role in converting paid and natural search visitors. As a standard “rule of thumb” the higher the relevancy of the ad and landing page to the visitor’s needs, the higher the probability of closing the sale.
A study conducted by iProspect, Survey Sampling International, WebSurveyor and Stratagem Research as presented in a ClickZ.com article dated April 30, 2004 showed the following:
Most Relevant Search Result
(Determined by % of Search Engine Users)
Search Engine Natural Search Paid Search
Google 72.3% 27.7%
Yahoo! 60.8% 39.2%
MSN 28.8% 71.2%
AOL 50% 50%
Although this data is “dated”, it provides a glimpse into a very important concept between natural and paid search marketing. Mainly that your integration strategy should consider how your target market perceives relevancy and how you can play off of it. Overall, the most effective strategy is to build your natural and paid search listings across your primary keywords and across all major search engines. This builds relevancy and credibility in the eyes of your target market.
By establishing a search engine marketing strategy that integrates the core benefits of natural and paid search, you have the opportunity to build a profitable synergy that skyrockets your sales and reduces your costs. Keep these strategies in mind when planning your search engine marketing strategy and you will achieve higher results for your website.