When you consider how much SEO impacts SEM, many people compare the rank of keywords as well as website engagement for multiple channels. If you want to compare basic performance, there are beneficial benchmarks. However, before you begin crunching numbers, it is useful if you perform an analysis to help ensure that your quantitative results are properly interpreted.
Here are five things that should be considered between paid and organic search for a “give-and-take” type effort. Together, these help to create the groundwork for a comprehensive search strategy.
#1: It’s Not Always About Paid vs. Organic Search
Comparing channels can cause you to prioritize one over the other for certain search queries. The question is: does there have to be a tradeoff every single time? If there is unclear user intent, such as broad non-branded search queries or some branded queries, it is generally advantageous to have online visibility for both.
Organic search tends to align with users while they are in the stage of awareness. However, paid search can as well, as it tends to focus on searchers who have the same, or very similar, queries, yet are currently ready to make a decision.
It is your job to set the stage for your paid and organic search. You need to create coverage that is complementary of one another so that it reaches all relevant audiences or you need to pursue the exact same audience in an efficient and effective manner.
#2: Understand the Entire SERP Landscape
While it is helpful to compare your paid and organic results, you must do it with the context of your audience. If you fail to do this, then you will miss out on valuable intel and perspective on your results. Incorporating the data from your results is crucial for a thorough analysis of your paid versus organic search.
When you the initial organic results appear lower within the SERPs than the high rank suggested, things can get a bit tricky. At the same time, if meta search results, paid listings, shopping, etc. that appear beside paid results, then the paid ads tend to no longer control the prime position.
As far as understanding on-site happenings, the advertisement messaging and results for organic search are essential. If you are experiencing a lack in performance, this could be a result of misalignment of what users are seeing in the SERPS and the landing page experience as opposed to the paid vs. organic search dynamic.
Let’s take a look at the search results for destination hotel searches, such as Hawaii luxury hotels.
In these results, you can bet that the sponsored search results are dominated by online travel agencies, which can lead most to focus their efforts on organic search. Of course, it is important to realize that meta search results and hotel price advertisements (Google) could appear just below paid search results, which could lead to low paid performance.
As a result, web users could steer clear of paid results, while also pushing organic results even further down. Therefore, there is no longer one alternative to clicking on paid advertisements in search results (which was once only natural search).
In addition, what was once a #1 organic result probably isn’t anymore. This is because that top organic search result will likely be well below the fold and likely the fifth or sixth result that a searcher sees.
This, of course, will vary by search engine because the platform is different from Google to Yahoo to Bing. Therefore, one must take a different approach with each search engine.
When it comes to paid search on Google, there will often be attractive opportunities compared to costlier plays. Now, when it comes to organic search, the SERPs tend to contain various listings as opposed to Google requiring a separate breakdown.
#3: The Analysis Should Be Split Based on the Device
Mobile traffic share continues to grow at a rapid pace; therefore, it makes sense that you should be splitting your organic vs. paid analysis by the device. Mobile is – or at least it is set to very quickly become – the largest traffic-driving device across multiple verticals. Despite this, though, when it comes to site engagement, the desire tends to lack when we begin comparing mobile devices to desktops as well as tablets.
The short-term cost of advertisements for mobile search vs. organic listings is higher, so it opens up an opportunity for SEO to jump in the front. Micro-moments are becoming increasingly popular in SERPs, and the search results on mobile devices are more different than ever before than desktop results, which is where most have historically focused their organic vs. natural search analysis.
With mobile-first search upon us, it’s time for us to step away from a desktop-focused analysis and look more toward mobile-focused analysis – for our own benefit.
#4: Utilize Metrics That Have Proven Successful
Before you can move forward with your analysis, you need to take a look at the metrics that you are using so that you can determine which ones are the most important and actionable. You will want to make use of a multiple metrics approach instead of focusing on the single success approach.
- Conversation Rate – One of the most insightful metrics that must be considered is the success and cost of every site visit. The rest of the metrics will then provide you with clues as to why certain performances are observed and how it can be improved.
- Visits or Clicks – An identified opportunity needs to be able to be detected as being scalable enough to enhance your overall business. If the opportunity has limited impact in terms of traffic, then the investment is simply not worth it since the impact would be too small when it comes to your bottom line.
- Bounce Rate – This is often overlooked when it comes to paid search, though it is frequently used in search engine optimization. It is a very good sign if the intent of your user is aligned with the message of your search result as well as the content of your landing page.
- Page Views, Time on Site, Pages/Visit – Combined with the bounce rate, it is important that you are familiar with the amount of time that a user spends on your site and the amount of content that they have read. This data helps you in terms of your conversion metrics. Are users not converting after they are consuming a significant amount of content? Maybe users aren’t bouncing, but they simply aren’t finding what they are looking for/needing. Or maybe your conversions are incredibly strong and your page views are high. This provides you with an incredible opportunity to look at the content of your landing page and decrease the site journey.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR) – If you see that your opportunity for traffic is higher than visits, then a good metric to utilize is CTR because it can keep those opportunities on the dial. You can get a significant boost in site traffic with the slightest optimization in SERP language.
- Rank/Position – Your analysis is not complete until you consider SERP rank/position. This particular metric has the ability to give you insight about performance, but it doesn’t necessarily need to focus only on rank. It can also maximize site traffic and conversions without ranking in the top paid or organic search positions. Even if you are a couple of listings away is enough to jump for joy because it means that you are making progress!
#5: Categorization of Keywords
With all of the above information in mind, it is now time to identify actionable groups of keyword terms that you can begin prioritizing.
- Organic with Zero Paid Presence (or Vice Versa) – This is a prime candidate for testing on your channel that is seeing zero activity. Research has shown that conversions and site traffic are greatest when a website has coverage from both areas. You never know – you may actually be a bit surprised to find out which channel surpasses the other.
- Searches with Presence in Paid and Organic Search, with One Outperforming the Other – Here, you will need to use a mixture of metrics in order to prioritize one channel above the other. Sponsored tactics, particularly if you are dealing with generic keyword terms, are often constrained budget-wise, which makes non-branded search strategies significantly reliant upon organic tactics. Compared to paid search results, natural search results aren’t very influenceable. As a result, sponsored SEO is the ideal complement, such as when consider device-specific or location-specific efforts or results impacted by short-term seasonality in the behavior of the user).
- Presence in Organic and Paid Achieved, Yet Unsatisfactory – This is unanticipated, but it is something that can happen – where neither the organic or paid channel is the obvious winner.
Once you fully understand your landscape, you need to take the time to establish various objectives for both organic and paid channels because neither one can succeed on their own. In order to succeed, it is important that you have tactics that are properly aligned, complementary strategies, and processes for metrics that you regularly monitor. With all of this, you will be set up for success regardless of what the search engines decide to do next.