Run Your Established SEO Like PPC & Maximise ROI Long-Term
The biggest SEO improvements available are often a more profound shift in strategy that continues to deliver improvement day after day for the entire duration of your SEO campaign. One such strategy is taking the same weekly approach to auditing your SEO strategy using search query reports as a PPC manager would.
Two to three months into a new search engine optimization SEO campaign, many businesses see a major, one-time traffic boost as a result of technical fixes. URL consolidation, canonicalising inadvertent duplication, 301 redirecting legacy URLs, 404 tidy-ups, and multinational SEO localisation can all create significant performance boosts for poorly configured sites.
But the biggest SEO gains often require a more profound shift in strategy that continues to deliver improvement day after day, for the entire duration of your SEO campaign. One way to achieve this involves taking the same weekly approach to your SEO strategy as a PPC manager would for an SEM campaign.
SERP Query Reports
In PPC, your campaign lives and dies with your search query reports. Within these, you drill down into the queries triggering your ad and the landing page’s performance in converting the subsequent traffic. With these reports, you can adjust your PPC campaigns to become maximally efficient in a very short period of time.
You’ll flag keyphrases to add to your negative keyphrase terms, find those that perform well from broad or phrase campaigns to build into exact match with prioritised budget. Find poor converting URLs for matched terms to schedule for conversion improvement and build out budgets for terms with great performance and scope for growth.
In PPC, you might be running and adjusting your campaigns in light of these reports daily.
In SEO, we can achieve some of these optimisations using the SERP Query reports from Google Webmaster Tools on a weekly basis. I’ve written about these reports and their usefulness for SEO before, so I won’t reiterate the point.
What we can do using these reports, however, is often overlooked: we can treat our organic snippet like a PPC ad and build out variations of our calls-to-action (CTAs) to test for best conversion on a keyphrase by keyphrase basis.
Pick Your Fights: Segment The Tail
In most SEO campaigns, you will be doubling down your budget on mid- and long-tail terms, but your short-tail terms — the one- and two-word keyphrase terms that tentpole your niche / industry — are inevitably the terms that get the most attention from your client or boss.
SERP Query Reports are ideal for the short-tail.
Grab out your top impression terms that are important enough to fall into the top 50 terms in your industry. All of these terms are now your target for Query Reports. Match the terms against the URL version of the report from Google Webmaster Tools to get the current landing pages and schedule the most relevant of the following actions:
- If the landing page isn’t targeted to the target term, build one out and link to it from your homepage. (PPC equivalent: build out an exact match group for the term.)
- If your page is targeted to the term, but your conversion rate is below average for the ranked position, schedule a meta description refresh. Target a unique CTA that’s not also in a PPC ad targeted to the term. Try swapping out 2-3 different CTAs to find the best converting.
- Pull page engagement and, if relevant, e-commerce reports for the landing pages filtered for organic traffic. Is the page engaging/converting better than equivalent pages for organic? Look at the click path reports and see where traffic is exiting. Are you failing to follow up your organic CTA on the landing page?
- Consider PPC and Organic together. Are your CTA messages complimentary? Can the CTA be seen within three seconds? Use eye tracking or heat map tools when checking and consider page load times.
Long Term SEO Boost
Time invested in improved click-through rates (CTRs) pays for itself when it comes to SEO. Google weights its rankings to prefer SERP snippets that have positive CTRs against the average for its ranking. If you beat the average, therefore, you’ll get a direct ranking boost.
Achieve that across all your target top level terms and your whole domain will see a boost as even new target terms see you given a generous opportunity by Google to gain improved CTRs.
Take the logic of these strategies further and consider your page performance generally for combined Paid and Organic non-brand traffic: this type is typically between 68%-80% new visit session traffic. Converting or engaging this traffic is harder than repeat visit or brand traffic. When you consider that Google will penalise poor click behaviour traffic it’s obvious that doubling down on page conversion will reap SEO benefits over time too.
Taken together, these two aspects of SEO can easily deliver significantly improved performance for the highest traffic target terms in your campaign, making serious impact on your site performance.
And the best part? Your performance gain is cumulative and will continue as long as you execute your strategy.
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