I was thrilled to see the joint GroupM and Nielsen research published recently on the UK Search Marketing Landscape. If you missed it, Danny Goodwin’s blog post, “Organic vs. Paid Search Results: Organic Wins 94 Percent of Time” is a great summary. With this study, marketers and search marketers have, for the first time, vendor-neutral data containing evidence of organic search click-through rates (CTRs).
As a quick recap, the research concludes that 94 percent of searchers click through on organic search results, and that the top three positions in Google earn 61 percent of the clicks. These numbers aren't far off the numbers I’ve used for years when describing the importance of SEO in a marketing budget as well as ranking on Page 1 for the keywords prospects are searching on to find your organization. The GroupM and Nielsen numbers simply (and strongly) validate the importance of an on-going SEO strategy.
A significant disconnect, however, continues to exist between the impact that SEO can have on impressions, click-throughs and lead generation compared to PPC and the representation each receives in a typical marketing budget.
Take Forrester’s U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast, for the years 2011 to 2016. Marketers are spending and will continue to spend, on average, 88 percent of their search marketing budget on paid search campaigns to access just 6 percent of the available click-throughs, and 12 percent on organic search in attempts to reach an astounding 94 percent of the available click-throughs.
I’m not the first person to point out this imbalance, nor will I be the last.
I find it useful for marketers to visualize the difference in available CTRs from SEO versus PPC. Before the GroupM and Nielsen CTRs were published, I used Optify’s CTR data to apply to monthly search volume for a given keyword. The chart below depicts the daily estimated number of clickthroughs for the keyword phrase “HR Software” in Google.com, Google.ca and Google.au across Page One and Page Two of the SERPs.
Based on the research, data available and assumptions below, an HR software company attempting to rank for this keyword should expect, if they were occupying position one in Google for the term “HR Software”, 24 clickthroughs per day from SEO and just two from PPC; three clickthroughs from SEO if they were in position six or seven for the same term and nothing from PPC.
Think of this more as a model for comparison rather than an exact answer since there are so many uncontrollable factors surrounding a keyword. (Read: Five Forces of Keyword Competition)
In this model, one must also consider the difference is resources (time and money) required to increase positions in SEO versus PPC. With SEO, the input of time and money is uncertain, however, the results are longer lasting. With PPC, one can instantaneously gain a top position, but it can disappear just as quickly without a trace of ever being there.
2120 monthly searches * 94 percent = 1992 * 36.4 percent /30 days = 24 daily clickthroughs for position #1 in Google.com for the keyword "HR Software"
The purpose here isn't to convince marketers to shift their marketing spend, nor is it intended to discount one marketing tactic over the other. (I believe there is a time and a place for all marketing tactics within a given strategy). The purpose is simply to take a closer look at SEO as a line item in a marketing budget and other marketing tactics that affect SEO.
SEO as a Line Item in your Marketing Budget
Marketers are spending more on SEO than they realize when they also have the following line items in their budget:
- Content Marketing
- Social Media
- Video Production
- Public Relations
These marketing tactics affect a web presence and organic search rankings and can have a significant positive impact on SEO including: rank, backlinking, social signal generation and fresh content, but are often not included in the traditional SEO budget.
SEO cannot be done without content creation in the form of on-site content optimization and off-site optimization (i.e., blogs, press releases, case studies, how-to guides, videos, etc.), yet content marketing is often a separate line item from SEO, and unfortunately a lot of off-site content isn't optimized for SEO.
A client case study, for example, can have a significant impact on SEO rankings if it is deliberately optimized for keywords driving traffic and socialized for the purpose of organic search ranking.
It is worth noting that according to the Custom Content Council, marketers spent $16.6 billion on electronic content marketing in 2011 and the trend is continuing.
Social media and SEO are very much separate line items in a marketing budget, but content socialized at the page level through Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube generates social signals which can positively impact SEO and an organic search ranking.
The most direct link between SEO and social media is Google+ and Search plus Your World. If you haven't yet started to build out your personal and business Circles, please do. A piece of content shared through your Circles has an opportunity to be found by your followers through Search plus Your World – before your competitors’ content is found.
Video can be a secret weapon in an SEO strategy given that YouTube is the second busiest search engine and your prospects want to consume your content in video format. Many organizations are specifically itemizing video creation in their marketing budget. If the video content is optimally tagged, it can dominate in both YouTube and Google proper for the keywords the video has been optimized for.
Many organizations have a PR budget that doesn't factor into their SEO budget. So although PR efforts may be impacting SEO, they could be positively impacting it even further if the PR content was optimized for keywords driving traffic.
Press releases that are written specifically for a keyword that is converting targeted traffic will be more impactful on lead generation efforts given that Google gives priority to fresh, relevant content and will likely list the press release in its News section if it is distributed through the proper channels (e.g., Marketwire, Businesswire, PRWeb, etc.).
Stop Underestimating SEO in Your Marketing Budget
SEO today consists of more than just backlink building and on-site optimization. Content marketing, PR, social media and SEO go hand-in-hand, and the investment in one tactic can positively influence the outcome of another.
If you're an SEO professional, but not yet involved in your clients’ social media, PR and video production efforts, talk with them about the importance of bringing these tactics together for the overall benefit of SEO.
If you're a marketer and are working with different professionals or employees on each of these tactics, it's worth your time to bring the different disciplines together in attempts to optimize all content across your web presence for keywords that are driving targeted traffic and conversions.
SEO as a line item in marketing budgets is typically underestimated. The gap between what marketers spend on SEO versus PPC is not as significant as Forrester indicates. Those marketers and SEO professionals who attempt to execute SEO in a silo will never get the results they expect (especially not overnight).
My marketing budget has a line item called “Optimized Content Marketing Strategy” with sub categories that include:
- Content Marketing
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Paid Search
This approach will give you a better chance at reaching the top of Google for your converting keywords and the opportunity to enjoy awesome organic click-through rates!