Thursday, January 19, 2006

PPC and SEM - Working Together

I recently received an email that asked me to discuss the possible synergism between PPC and SEM. A couple of days later I decided to survey the web to see what others had to say on this topic. I wasn’t able to find anything. Almost all the articles I found were addressed the question: PPC vs. SEM, which is better?

It’s not a question of which is better. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. The question is, how can both work together to maximize profits. (Or to best achieve marketing goals.) I see PPC and SEM working together holistically in a relationship in which each fills in where the other is weak. They can also be used such that each builds on the knowledge gained from the other.

A key advantage of PPC is the speed with which your message can be online, and the flexibility it offers in allowing you to change your ad copy and keyword targeting. For example, if you are overstocked on certain items and plan to run a sale, PPC allows you to get your message out the day the sale starts. You can control the specific text of your message, and the position at which it appears on search result pages. With SEM a new page about the sale may show up in the SERPS (search engine results pages) within 24 hours, 24 days or never—and you have little control over the descriptive text or position in the SERPS. In addition, when the sale is over you can immediately remove the PPC ad, while the organic listing may continue to show up for many months.

A key advantage of organic SEM is that once your page is appearing in the SERPS, it can require little effort to keep it there. While you continue to pay for each click on your PPC ad, your pages that show up in organic SERPS will bring a steady stream of qualified leads at no cost to you.

This points out how PPC and organic SEM work together. Let’s say you are releasing a new product. Your web designer has created some fantastic new pages that feature the new product, but it will be awhile before they start showing up in search results. You can use PCC to immediately drive traffic to pages about your new product until the new pages start showing up in organic search results.

If you already have a page showing up in a top spot in organic SERPS for a targeted keyword, do you need to have a PPC ad for the same keyword? Research has shown that having a PPC ad on an organic SERP that includes a link to your web site, can significantly increase results. In this case you need to write the copy for the PPC ad so that it targets a portion of the market not targeted by the description the search engine has chosen to use. That way you pick up people who saw your organic listing, but who were not motivated to click on it by the associated description.

For example, if you sell widgets, the organic description may say that you offer three types of widgets. In your PPC ad you can say that customers get a free widget with the purchase of $100 in widget supplies.

You can also use information gained from your organic SEM to help target and optimize your PPC campaigns. For example, your web log files are one of the best places to find out what keywords are being used to find your web site. You can use this information in putting together your keyword list for your PPC ads.

On the other hand, PPC ads provide immediate feedback on what keywords are working and which are not. You can see how much traffic each keyword gets, and what percentage of that traffic clicks on your ad. You can change your ad copy and measure the effectiveness of different copy, and various offers and calls to action. All of this information can also be used to help you target your SEM efforts.

For example, you may test three variations of ad copy and find that one in particular gets a good response. You can then modify a page your web site to incorporate similar copy. Keep in mind, however, that in PCC the interaction between the ad copy and landing page is very important. However, a PPC landing page may not be well written from an SEM view. Don’t blindly use what works in PPC and expect to get good SEM results.

Looking at this from the other side, you may find that a certain web page is drawing an excellent organic response, possibly even from a market you did not know existed. You can take your organic experience and use it to target PPC ads at new keywords and market segments.

Using information gained from PPC to aid your SEM efforts requires information. That means you need to be tracking activity on your PPC landing pages and beyond. I’ll discuss how to do that in a future article.


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