Co-Optimization Makes Search Marketing More Efficient

SEMSEOCropBy now it’s a fairly common trope of digital marketing that different channels shouldn’t exist in separate silos – the overall efficiency of customer acquisition improves when the various channels cooperate with one another. But what exactly does this mean in practical terms?

Two of the channels that can benefit most from working together are organic and paid search.

An obvious drawback of paid search is that you have to pay for every click. In organic search, those clicks are ‘free.’ Anyone who has experimented with AdWords knows how easy it is to blow a lot of money if you don’t maintain a very strict AdWords budget.

Instead of blindly – and wastefully – targeting the same keywords, they can maximize efficiency by co-optimizing: targeting separate keywords and compensating for each other’s weaknesses.

Avoid Cannibalizing Keywords

It’s important to avoid keyword cannibalization, which happens when a paid ad and an organic result show up on the same page for the same keyword. In this case, you are essentially competing against yourself – and wasting money.

You can save money by not running paid ads for keywords the site already ranks well for organically. If the organic result is near the top of the first page and has little competition, there’s a good chance the people who end up clicking on the paid ad would just have ended up clicking on that organic result anyway.

Creating an attractive paid ad that diverts people from an organic result is a waste of money, even if it leads to clicks and conversion. The PPC budget should be spent targeting keywords for which the site does not rank well organically.

PPC Should Compensate for Organic Weaknesses

The long-term strategy for every site should be to extend its organic reach as far as possible, encompassing every viable keyword from the most competitive to the long-tail. The problem is that organic success requires content, which takes time to create.

For new sites, PPC can be an effective way to target a larger number of keywords immediately. However as the organic operation grows and starts to encompass more keywords, the paid operation should retract to focus only on the most competitive keywords for which it is very difficult to rank organically.

As this process is going on, the performance of the paid ads can influence the direction of organic efforts. For example, if a paid ad is receiving good click through rates, try to recreate its copy in the snippet that shows up in an organic result for that same keyword.

Co-Optimization Can Aid Data Collection

Co-optimization isn’t just about saving money. It can also be a great way to collect data. As Moz’s Rand Fishkin pointed out in a recent Whiteboard Tuesday, coordinating paid and organic search can help combat Google’s recent decision to make all organic search terms (not provided).

Search marketers know that one of the most important ways to measure progress is to distinguish between branded and non-branded search terms. Now that Google has severely limited the organic keyword data available, this has become hard to do.

One solution is to use AdWords to bid on branded keywords and phrases with a relatively broad match. This will allow you to see branded keyword data from the impression data. If branded searches are growing, it gives you some idea that an increase in search traffic is the result of natural branded keyword growth and not non-branded SEO work. On the other hand, if the branded data is flat but search traffic is growing, you know the growth is non-branded.

There’s little to lose by coordinating paid and organic search. Not only does it save money by decreasing cannibalization, it can provide important data that can make your marketing even smarter.