Companies starting digital marketing efforts from scratch are frequently torn by this simple question: PPC or SEO? More and more, clients commonly start with PPC strategies, while SEO is viewed as a medium-term strategy.
Many companies frequently lack either the digital assets or the domain authority to immediately compete in SEO. Until companies can reconcile these obstacles, it’s a good idea to get PPC campaigns in place as quickly as possible.
Many Services + Minimal Bandwidth = Pilot SEO Program
This strategy is particularly effective for campaigns with a wide number of service offering or products. A hospital might have 30-50 core services that vary distinctly in nature such as endoscopy, mammography, pediatrics, primary care, and psychiatry.
The vast majority of organizations simply don’t have the bandwidth and resources necessary to create the content, imaging, video, web development, socialization, PR, and links required to rank for numerous service lines. Especially for organizations new to SEO (or ones trying to fight their way into a competitive market), it frequently makes more sense to focus efforts on less than a handful of keyword groups and start a pilot program.
Using PPC data as the backbone to an SEO Pilot
One of the hidden benefits of PPC data is that it brings great clarity to the SEO strategy. PPC campaigns have the benefit of providing a mountain of performance data in a short period of time. Within 30 days of running a pilot PPC campaign, a company can quickly understand the keywords that drive actual revenue, not just unique visits and rankings (which are meaningless metrics without revenue).
What Metrics to Look for
Look for ad groups that have strong volume-level metrics (high impressions and clicks), engagement-level metrics (high CTR, low bounce rate, and high time on site) and conversion-level metrics (strong conversion rates, low cost/conversion, high ROI).
These metrics should answer the following three questions that every marketer needs to know to be successful:
- Is there enough volume to justify SEO efforts?
- Are consumers interested in the business proposition?
- Is it possible convert leads/sales at an efficient price? (There is a direct correlation between CPC price and organic competition.)
Mapping These Keywords Back to Search
By this point, you should hopefully have an idea of your strongly performing PPC service lines. Next, it’s important to investigate the SEO landscape to see the level of competition for these types of keywords. SEO Quake is a great free tool that will provide invaluable data, such as the number and type of incoming links that facilitate top rankings. If top ranking competitors have an abundance of incoming links to the ranking page, it might not be the best starting point for a pilot program.
In general, try to find soft spots (keywords that drive volume and revenue without requiring 20,000 incoming links). Additionally, look at the type of pages and domains that rank within this space? If mostly news, strong brands, or .gov sites rank within the space, it might not be the right keyword to target for SEO.
SEO Now Becomes More ROI Targeted
Once a company has a clear understanding of the opportunity gaps that exist within a marketplace, SEO reinvestment suddenly becomes much less of a guessing game. It also becomes much easier to project financial gains based on the more accurate search volume. The question of “how much should I invest?” suddenly becomes quite obvious based on the total revenue created by search-network PPC campaigns.
The figure below is a high-level illustration of how one might strategically integrate this data:
As can be seen above, Keywords 13, 14, and 10 represent extremely high opportunity, whereas Keyword 6 represents great long-term opportunity. In this example, link building, content, and asset management should clearly take priority around these high opportunity keywords.
While PPC data isn't perfect, it has the power to fuel SEO campaigns with the following:
- A more accurate understanding of monthly search volume (especially within specific regional parameters).
- Integrated ROI data for highly refined keyword research.
- A strong understanding of effective ad copy that can potentially be integrated in body content, title tags, and meta descriptions.
- Effective call-to-actions based on keyword type.