6 Ways PPC Can Help SEO

Posted on Oct 11th 2011 in
Using PPC to help SEO

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is one of the best methods of gaining instant traffic to your website. However, PPC mediums such as Google AdWords can be expensive and a lot of money can be wasted if you don’t effectively optimize your AdWords campaigns. There are a lot of fantastic free resources to help marketers use PPC effectively (e.g. AdWords Help Centre, PPC Hero, and PPC Mom).

A correctly optimized PPC campaign can be a fantastic promotional and sales generative tool in its own right, but this is not the limit of its value. When online marketers don’t use their PPC data to assist them with their SEO campaigns, they are effectively missing a lot of additional valuable opportunities which are right in front of them.

The following six tips will help online marketers make more of their SEO efforts by applying what they learn from their PPC campaigns.

1. PPC Adverts Can Help You Choose Effective Meta Descriptions

Google AdWords (and most other PPC mediums) allow advertisers to split test multiple ad variations to see which performs better. Several ads can be tested alongside each other and specific details such as the highest click-through-rates (CTRs) and the best converting ads can be identified.

By testing multiple call-to-action phrases within your PPC ads (i.e. “buy”, “purchase”, etc.) and specific unique selling points (“cheapest”, “trusted”, “reliable”, etc.) you can identify the ad text combination which offers the best CTRs/conversion rates. This information can be extremely valuable when used to create persuasive meta descriptions for your webpages (commonly used by search engines on search result pages to display preview snippets for a given page) as it is likely to improve your click through rate on natural search listings too.

2. PPC Keyword Impressions Can Help Present Accurate Traffic Volumes

The AdWords External Keyword Tool gives you useful estimations of the search engine traffic for keywords that you wish to target for both PPC and SEO purposes. Unfortunately, the data it supplies are just estimations and discrepancies between the actual search volumes and the estimations it offers are regularly evident.

PPC can be used to accurately identify the ‘actual’ traffic volumes for a specific search term you simply need to ensure that your ad is displayed on the first page of Google. Whenever a user performs a search on Google for the specific keyword that triggers your advert an impression statistic is logged within your AdWords dashboard. Assuming your AdWords budget and keyword bid are high enough to ensure your ad is always displayed on the first page for this search term then you will receive accurate data on the actual number of times a specific keyword is searched for. The longer your ad is displayed on the first page the easier it is for you to get average search volumes across multiple days/weeks.

There are a couple of points relevant to this approach which are worth noting:

  • If your ad appears on the second page of the search results then you will have skewed information as the impression share of searches which display your ad won’t be representative due to a lower number of people navigating past the first page of results.
  • If you want to know what the search volume is for specific keywords you will need to use exact match keyword data (i.e. ensuring the search engine only displays your ad when the exact keyword you are bidding on is typed into the search box). When you are using exact match keywords you eliminate the possibility of Google displaying your ad for search terms related to the keyword you are bidding on. More information is available on AdWords match types here.

3. Broad Match Terms Can Help You Understand How Google Identifies Synonyms

Although exact match keyword data is very useful to help identify actual traffic volumes, broad match keyword targeting provides a lot of actionable data which can be applied to your SEO campaigns also. Broad match keyword targeting allows your ad to show on similar phrases and relevant variations. The search query report within the AdWords user interface allows you to identify all of the related keyword terms which your ad appeared for.

This information can be very useful to identify new keyword opportunities which you might not be targeting within your SEO campaigns. You can also use this information to gauge what Google thinks is relevant to your targeted keyword and optimize your webpages to include these terms. This will assist your SEO efforts by sculpting your webpages to include related terms and synonyms. This process is better known as optimization for Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).
For more information on the topic of LSI I would recommend reading:
Google Semantically Related Words & Latent Semantic Indexing Technology

4. The External Keyword Tool Can Give You an Insight as To How Google Sees Your Site

As already discussed, the External Keyword Tool is a useful tool when you are analyzing the approximate keyword search volume for specific terms. However, you can also use this tool to get keyword ideas related to a particular webpage (www.yourdomain.com/some/page) or all keywords related to a particular domain (www.yourdomain.com) by analyzing web pages rather than keywords within the tools search options.

This is an effective way of seeing what terms Google feels are relevant to your site (you can search using your competitors web pages too). By analyzing this information you can identify whether there are discrepancies between keywords which you are optimizing for and those which Google sees your pages are relevant to. This information can be used to help you focus your optimization efforts to improve the on-page SEO relevancy of specific terms you are targeting.

5. PPC Display Partner Sites Can Be Worth More than Just a Conversion

Google AdWords offers you the option of displaying your ads on its display network. My site is example of a display network partner as I serve Google Adsense ads on it. You can select specific websites in the Google Display Network where you’d like your ads to appear, or you can select a set of keywords related to the product or service you wish to advertise. Google will serve your advertisements on sites which it feels are a good match to the keyword groups you have chosen.

The Display Network offers advertisers a great method of exposing their brand to a large volume of potential visitors. Google AdWords reports allow you to find out which Display Network sites your visitors come from and whether or not they performed an action (e.g. purchase, download, signup, etc.) which you deemed to be a conversion.

By analysing this data you can identify the best websites on the Display Network which send targeted traffic to your website. With this information to hand you are in a position to contact the owners of these sites and look for mutually beneficial opportunities. If the referring site is a forum or blog then you can contribute to it (through ethical forum posting or blog commenting) in order to develop inbound links for SEO benefits and potentially send more visitors to your site.

6. PPC Traffic Can Help You Design the Perfect Page Before You Receive Organic Traffic

Split testing your landing pages is a vital aspect to any successful PPC campaign. You can bring targeted visitors to your website by split testing your advertisement messages to identify the best CTRs; however, to get the best return on investment (ROI) you need to do all you can to encourage visitors to perform the action you want them to when they are on your site.

In some situations you might not have a strong enough organic search position to bring enough traffic to your site for a particular keyword to allow you to run a quantitative landing page experiment.  However, with PPC you can quickly bring very high visitor numbers to multiple landing pages to identify which one (page) brings the best conversion rates.

By using a ‘multivariate testing’ tool such as the (free) Google Website Optimizer you can split test multiple landing pages and identify which variation offers the best conversion rates. By applying what you learn from your PPC specific landing pages to those pages on your site which you are focusing your SEO efforts on, you can be confident that when your keyword positions improve, the increased traffic will result in the best possible ROI.

PPC can do more than just help SEO

The six tips listed above can help you make your advertising dollar stretch further and provide you with long term SEO gains from what can be relatively short term PPC campaigns. However, what you learn in PPC should be applied to more than just your SEO campaigns. PPC strategies allow you to test multiple messages and quantifiably measure which calls-to-action and unique selling points work best. The most effective messages should be applied, tested, and tailored within all of your online (and offline) marketing communications to offer you the best ROI across the board.

About the author
My name is Barry Fenning and I am the Webmaster of this site. Please feel free to follow my Google+ updates. To keep up to date with my SEO tips follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or through my RSS feed.
2 Responses
  • Mark Asquith on October 13, 2011

    I definitely agree with this, especially points 1 and 3.
    Ads which I have put on the Display Network, have led to knowing which sites are best to post blog comments or forum posts, leading to more inbound links, which are proven to convert!

    Reply
  • Use a ppc campaign, especially adwords to see entrance search terms. Gives you a good idea of what people are actually coming to your site for. Then you can create blogs and pages to optimise for them. Discovering long tail niches like this is worth a small ppc investment while you strategise your seo.

    Reply
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