The Organic and Paid Balancing Act

How do you define search? With social media, local, universal, and other new outlets maintaining their own search components, we may have to define the playing field a bit more broadly.

Even on the search results page, there are many different types of search listings. Just look at the Google search results for the keyword “savings bank.” In addition to organic listings, you’ll find sponsored links (both above and to the right of the organic listings), news results, book results, and two types of related search listings.

Search is complicated, but it’s still search. No matter how things change, a marketer’s goal is still to maximize search coverage. As SERP listings and functionality changes, there are still two types of listings that have weathered the storm and are still attainable for marketers: traditional organic listings and paid search listings.

Despite the sweeping changes brought on by universal search, the same rules still apply in the organic and paid space. By making sure your site stays above the fold in these two outlets, you can maximize your controllable visibility. After all, there’s no guarantee that news or video results will appear in your SERPs. It’s up to you to secure your own listings.

Research-Fueled Search Marketing

Paid and organic search listings work synergistically, providing entry points to your site and showing the user that you’re serious about search. They must be balanced carefully, however. Buy sponsored listings on keywords that may be difficult to obtain (or maintain) organic rankings for, and ease up on search terms for which your organic presence is firmly rooted. This will help you make the most efficient use of your marketing dollars.

Before you can maximize your paid and organic search campaigns, make sure your research data is correct. It’s rare to meet a new client with a properly configured analytics package. Out-of-the-box just doesn’t work. You need to tailor your platform to your Web site and marketing goals. Only then can you strike a solid balance between paid and organic.

Conversion rate is key. If your paid listing is converting better than your organic listing for a specific term, then it would be foolish to cut it out simply based on high organic ranking position.

Don’t assume that organic traffic converts the same as paid. The audience may have a discovery rather than conversion mindset and require different messaging to reach that point.

Site Redesigns and the Paid-Organic Mix

The interaction of paid and organic search is extremely important in times of site-wide redesign. Redesigns can be complicated and, if not properly organized, negatively impact organic search results.

Mentally prepare yourself for the long road ahead when redesigning. SEO recommendations must be included at every step of the design and implementation process.

Paid listings will help maintain visibility during the transition period. Changes that affect organic rankings may be slow to take shape, often taking several months. Paid listings can add much-needed support at these times.

Prioritize SEO recommendations, as clients don’t often reach a 100-percent implementation rate. If recommendations haven’t been implemented, then the potential impact on SERPs becomes much greater. Paid listings can only take you so far if you fall out of the rankings. Make sure that the big SEO changes get done.

Funding Search Marketing Campaigns

SEO drives around 75 percent of all search traffic, yet receives less than 15 percent of the collective search marketing budgets, according to a recent SEOmoz article by Rand Fishkin. Paid search receives less than 25 percent of all search traffic, yet is backed by 80 percent of search budgets. This means a lot of people haven’t aligned their organic and paid campaigns.

As paid search becomes more competitive, the cost of a listing becomes more expensive. Investing in SEO may help lessen the burden of high PPC expenses. Traditional thinking will tell you to shift your money around in reaction to solid organic rankings. However, focus on keyword conversions gained through paid and organic.

This is why analytics are important. We can speculate all we want on the synergistic interplay of paid and organic, but in the end we must defer to ROI.

The only way to ensure coverage in search is by strategic focus on paid and organic search marketing. The only way to ensure a solid return is by understanding what does and doesn’t drive users to the checkout cart.

Join us for a Search Engine Marketing Training in Boston, November 6 at the Hilton Boston Back Bay. Not only will you walk away with the knowledge and skills to be a successful search engine marketer, you’ll also jumpstart your career and enhance your professional know-how.

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