How To Combine SEO & PPC Keyword Strategies For More Effective ROI

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At Estudio34, we have a powerful mix between SEO and PPC, which helps us be more effective at optimizing spending and targeting.

So, start by building a communication plan before creating your next digital strategy. Focus on leveraging some of the learnings from one another.

Step 2: Define The SEO & PPC Problem To Solve

First, you and your teams should ask yourselves:

  • Are we paying for PPC traffic that we could have secured through SEO?
  • Are we multiplying the effect of growing traffic by doubling up the results of PPC and SEO in tandem?
  • Would I achieve the same conversions if I didn’t cover searches on both channels?
  • Is my conversion rate for the same query higher on PPC or SEO?

Once everyone from your SEO and PPC teams has provided answers, it will be easy to create the perfect roadmap of keywords for each team.

An Example Of How To Overcome Keyword Overlap In SEO & PPC

Sometimes, it’s easier to learn by example, so let’s travel through a real marketing problem that we had to solve.

In this instance, a grocery retail client had a simple yet very common problem: a high dependency on branded and non-branded terms in their paid campaigns.

The client’s objective was to leverage their SEO efforts in order to reduce exposure on paid channels.

The hypothesis was that if you target key PPC terms you could easily get organic visibility for, you could stop bidding on them and consequently stop cannibalizing SEO through paid search.

It is worth stating that, in our case, there was a huge dependency on branded terms. As you may have experienced, spending on PPC keywords for which you have good organic rankings can make good business sense to protect coverage on a more crowded SERP.

In order to illustrate it in a very simplistic manner, this is how PPC keyword targeting versus SEO would normally be set:

The SEO Strategy

We try to define specific terms (AKA: chunky middle, even long tail), and we move towards broader terms (AKA: Generics), thus grouping many keywords in buckets (groups in SEOmonitor).

Ex.: Wooden toy kitchen: Global Search Volume 11.4K

The PPC Strategy

We try to define broader terms (AKA: broad match), and we move towards specific terms (AKA: exact match), thus grouping many keywords in buckets (AdGroups).

Ex.: Wooden toys OR Toys: Global Search Volume 53.5K

The Result

You can see that one will be more specific (PPC) over time, whilst the other is specific from day one but relies on getting good visibility in order to harness any impact.

The next thing to uncover is what happens when you have good visibility (rankings) for it.

Step 3: Try The Estudio34 Method

These steps are the real, proven pathways to how the Estudio34 team combined SEO and PPC data to improve their search visibility while optimizing budgets for both channels.

Step 3.1: Identify Where & How Cannibalization Occurs

Once you’ve made it to this method, you and your PPC team should be actively communicating and sharing data.

Without actively collaborating with your PPC team, you might not even be aware of cannibalization issues.

In this context, cannibalization refers to SEO and PPC targeting the same keywords and competing for traffic instead of being leveraged together. When that happens, search results might include your own competing landing pages, which can lead to lower conversions or dispersed traffic.

Where Does Cannibalization Often Occur?

PPC teams might bid on terms without knowing the SEO side. Or SEO professionals might inherit this structure from day one without realizing it’s happening.

Because the point of this strategy is to benefit cross-channel through keyword overlap, we started the analysis from paid keywords to then cross-reference with SEO data.

How We Stopped SEO & PPC Keyword Cannibalization

First, we pulled a list of PPC terms that were generating clicks and no conversions over a period of three months – this allows you to group them by search queries (SQR report).

Note that the timeframe may differ from business to business due to the volume of data and actual spending in the given period. You should test with date ranges to see how many terms meet the criteria. You don’t want to be swamped in rows of data, but rather have actionable and measurable options.

To solve the “not provided” issue and get conversion data at the keyword level, our team at Estudio34 leveraged SEOmonitor’s Organic Traffic module. SEOmonitor brings all the keyword data from Search Console enriched with sessions and conversions from Analytics by using their common ground: the landing page.

Once we had the hit list from the PPC team, we uploaded these to the rank tracker as new keywords.

Image by Estudio34 using SEOmonitor.com’s keyword groups, November 2022

We recommend doing this in a separate group, mainly because the visibility for the group can be measured and excluded from potential forecasts if needed.

Next, it was time to identify overlaps.

Step 3.2: Filter Out Search Terms That Rank In The Top 3

For our case, we looked at keywords in position 3 or above.

We did it manually as we didn’t want new terms to be added unless we said so, but in SEOmonitor, you can set smart groups, meaning that anything that falls into your filtering option will be automatically added and updated.

Image by Estudio34 using SEOmonitor.com’s advanced filters and Smart groups, November 2022

Step 3.3: Filter Out Keywords With Ads

We continued our filtering in SEOmonitor’s rank tracker so as to leave out keywords that also have an ad showing for them.

Theoretically, this check is unnecessary because we pulled out the terms from PPC campaigns.

However, it’s good to know in case you need to do it the other way around. Bear in mind that certain terms may not be picked up in some instances as it depends on your aggressive bidding and when the tool snapshots the SERPs.

Image by Estudio34 using SEOmonitor.com’s advanced filters, November 2022

Over time, you’ll also get Seasonality, and SERP Features Visibility details.

These are incredibly useful because whatever terms you decide to test may well have no impact if, seasonally speaking, they are not relevant.

Image by Estudio34 using SEOmonitor.com’s search and SERP data, November 2022

Step 3.4: Test Your New Keywords

Start by defining the landing page for which a certain query ranks.

The landing page will help determine how much traffic was coming to it organically and thus if it increases or decreases. Likewise, we can assess conversions that may have been generated from that landing page. Note that we are making concessions, as there are cases where a landing page may be serving the discovery phase purely, so conversions may not affect the overall result.

Now, you can start testing.

You may be tempted to pause campaigns to see the impact on organic traffic. However, this is not advised, mainly because you could be affecting your top line. How you go about it can help mitigate any risk associated with revenue loss.

Target individual keyword testing by:

  • Adding these keywords as negative keywords on an exact match basis on your campaign or campaigns (subject to how these are configured).
  • Running this for 7 to 14 days. Again, subject to the volume of data previously mentioned, this may have to be longer.

Because we have the organic traffic to the ranking URL, we have a snapshot of the before and after effects of negatively excluding keywords from PPC campaigns.

Compare the following for the timeframe tested versus the previous period: 

  • Traffic from PPC to the landing page in question.
  • Traffic from SEO to the landing page in question.
  • CVR for landing page per channel: PPC and SEO.
  • Revenue/Transactions or Goals from both channels.

Look for patterns like:

  • Improved return on ad spend (ROAS) in your paid campaigns. This is because the terms excluded were supposedly not converting but were generating clicks (a consideration to be taken into account is that these may have been for discovery purposes, thus low conversion).
  • SEO traffic increases — that should be the right trajectory if the overlap was indeed helping PPC.
  • Conversions. This one can swing either way. The ultimate check is higher conversions. However, for some terms of landing pages, conversion rate and thus conversions may decrease. Why? Because you are capturing SEO traffic but it might not convert as well as when Paid was active. That can be your exception, so doubling up could make sense, or simply PPC would perform great on its own.

What to do based on the previous patterns:

Retain the excluded terms if all three instances are met positively – meaning:

  • More SEO traffic.
  • Better ROAS (as you decrease spend).
  • Higher SEO conversions.
  • Same total or more (PPC + SEO) conversions.

If there are what-ifs involved and the client has concerns, here’s what to do:

Tackle concerns with an actual agreed-upon action plan.

As a means of mitigating potential sales loss, the first question to ask is if SEO traffic converts worse than when targeting the query on paid. Our recommended action was to revert back to that term and dig into specifics: Are the landing pages the exact same? What can be taken from the paid campaign to improve UX on the SEO page?

This is where the second benefit of this activity comes to play: leveraging the on-page optimization and clear targeting of a landing page used in PPC to target an SEO term and landing page, as follows:

  • Content on the paid landing page was better focused at conversions.
  • Ad copy can serve meta descriptions.
  • Ad copy titles can help the meta titles for CTR (be careful here because it may affect ranking fluctuations).
  • The wrong page was ranking for the term at hand, meaning paid search told us what landing page would be better suited.
  • You do need to double up, but only on certain times or days of the week, based on which stage of the process you’re in.

With this client, we learned that the best results came from switching the exact terms that included the brand. Mainly because they had a competitive cost and good conversion rates.

With generic terms, the results were a mixed bag. Yet it’s reasonable to state that on expensive terms, if you have good SEO, it will be an almost certain win.

Step 3.5: Evaluate The Results

For this client, we targeted a test with 1,300 terms with an average cost per click of 0.12 euros. Generating 20,000 clicks over the two weeks tested saved around 4,800 euros per month.

SEOmonitor Can Help You Zero-In On SEO Performance

As we saw from Smith and the team at Estudio34, taking an integrated approach to SEO and PPC might be useful for data-driven experiments and cutting waste on both channels through:

  • Understanding keyword overlapping and cannibalizing results.
  • Learning what works best in each channel and optimizing the other (specific terms, landing pages, meta descriptions, etc.).
  • Being mindful of how and when to leverage a specific tactic.

With SEOmonitor’s data granularity (daily ranks for desktop and mobile as standard) and solution to the not provided, the agency could zero in on SEO performance and understand every change.

Plus, having advanced filtering capabilities, they could set up a mix of groupings to track carefully.

This is just one of the many ways SEO professionals leverage SEOmonitor to be more effective in their workflows.

Join us, and agencies like Estudio34, in our quest to help SEO professionals focus on what matters.

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