In part one, we discussed some practical implications of combining your SEO and PPC efforts in ways that make the most of the strengths of each, layered together rather than mixed, like the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Further research has shown the existence of peanut butter and jelly mixed together in the same jar, but I hold that, much like the pre-packaged, frozen PB&J, it’s contrary to the laws of nature and, thus, my metaphor still holds.
More important than combining the two efforts, effective (or tasty) as it could be, the way the two are measured together and separately can be far more important than getting the two to work together. This is especially true given that the way they’re measured determines the way they’re combined.
Measuring PPC and SEO together is most important for monitoring big changes in your PPC or SEO results, magnified tenfold for efforts around your brand and another tenfold for established brands. For example, buying branded keywords for the first time or making SEO changes that will allow your brand to have a more prominent place in search results is likely going to cause a massive swing on the other side. High-traffic non-brand terms can also cause this, but it’s your brand that often holds the key to massive, mysterious changes.
Outside of catastrophic changes, ongoing comparisons can provide critical insights into how shifts in your paid spend or improving rankings are feeding your total search presence. Did that bump in spending on a group of high-traffic non-brand keywords push more visits to the site, or did it largely steal from natural? And what must you do to get both?
The Key: Combine and Compare
Obviously, watching them both means monitoring paid and natural traffic and — as applicable — orders, units, leads, revenue, signups, etc. Two columns of data alone, however, still won’t paint a complete picture.
Start by combining the two into a ‘total search’ metric. Now you can look at how all search engine traffic grew year over year and how each segment has grown in relation to the other by comparing it:
- Versus Itself: Do the two combined add up to positive growth (or, if you’re having a tough year, at least a higher growth rate than before)? This can be checked with a simple year-over-year comparison of the figures, and lets you know if your combined search presence is at least moving in the right direction as a result of your efforts.
- Versus Total Search: Did intentional changes in one result in actual growth for that sector versus a lift for search as a whole? This can be seen by dividing natural and paid search each by total search to find its share or contribution, and comparing that figure to the previous week, month, or year.
If the growth was strictly for your paid or natural segment, its share should increase. If your search program as a whole experienced growth (products coming into season, changes made to the other side, etc.), this number will remain close to the original figure.
Good Month for Search, or Just a Good Month?
Even more importantly, compare this growth to how your site as a whole grew for the same time period, either by placing the two growth percentages side by side, or by measuring search’s total share or contribution to your total site metric. Many times, individuals leading your advertising channels like search will lay claim to stratospheric growth for a given time period, without knowing that the site as a whole might have driven a similar level of growth because of completely separate efforts, and thus shouldn’t necessarily get the knee-jerk reaction of increased budget.
Most of the time (and especially with agencies, who are very easy to leave out of the loop), this particular error is committed without malice, as the search team doesn’t necessarily have access to the big picture. You can avoid this issue and get a more accurate analysis of results by sharing all of your data and results across your entire team.
Similarly, a low growth or flat month might actually be light years ahead of where the site as a whole finished — meaning that further investment would be wise.
Everything You Can Learn
Watching these two channels together helps you make good decisions, be it about PPC budget allocation or about long-term SEO strategies and how to truly combine your efforts. Siloing them destroys their context and can quickly leave you with soggy bread or an overly sticky bite — one way or another, a ruined sandwich.