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A Marketer’s Thoughts from the SMX West Trenches

March 12, 2008

Recently, Pauline and I were at the SMX West conference in Santa Clara. The event was well attended, and we'd both recommend the SMX conferences to anyone interested in the search marketing industry. In fact, if you're looking to learn some SEO/SEM stuff that is more complex, SMX Advanced in Seattle is coming up in June.  

Pauline attended numerous sessions at SMX and will be writing about her experiences for the newsletter every now and then.  Here's her first article for your reading pleasure.- Jill


A Marketer’s Thoughts from the SMX West Trenches
By Pauline Kerbici

A few weeks ago, I attended a session at SMX West that addressed how to defend your paid-search budget.

As marketers or small business owners, you may be faced with defending certain line items within your overall marketing budget. Even though it's hard to measure results, traditional print advertising rarely needs to be defended anymore. So it can be perplexing that paid search, which is practically "traditional" these days, still does. And to make matters worse, paid-search budgets now have to compete with all the shiny new advertising vehicles such as mobile, local, video and social networking! Therefore, even when you have experienced a positive ROI with paid-search ads, you may still find that you have to defend it.

Define Your Goals

Before heading into the session, I thought, “Well, this is an easy one. When defending your budget you just have to know your numbers, right?” Sort of, but I was getting ahead of myself. Adam Jewell of NetPlus Marketing got me back on track by simply saying, “Clearly define your online goals and what success means.” This makes perfect sense and it’s different for every site. Some goals may bring in leads, sales, and registrations or simply bring in more traffic to build brand awareness.

Know Your Numbers

First and foremost, you need to provide the numbers and data to state your case. Nothing is more telling than the facts. Call a meeting with the decision makers and show them the cost per acquisition (how much each new customer costs to acquire). This is an exercise we do monthly at High Rankings and it really helps us determine what marketing initiatives are working and what’s not. A simple comparison chart of what it’s costing to bring in leads can be a great eye opener. Over time, you should see some trends that will provide you with even more ammunition to help your company’s success.

Beyond the Session

When the presentations were done I was about to call it a day, but my ears perked up when hearing Brian Combs of Apogee Search say, “Doing SEO first doesn’t work.” I thought this was interesting, so after the session I asked him to elaborate. 

Here’s what Brian said:

“I’m a big lover of natural search/SEO, but it has real limitations. Most notable is the amount of time it takes to show results. You pick your keywords, optimize your pages/content, and build links as needed. Three to six months later (or longer), you attain the needed rankings and traffic starts to roll in.

"Then, and only then, do you find out that you picked keywords that just don’t convert (to leads or sales or whatever).

"If you run a paid search campaign first, you can find out whether keywords convert or not in a matter of days or weeks (depending upon your sales cycle). Then you can begin your SEO efforts knowing you’ve picked the correct keywords.”

Brian has some valid points, but I was happy to hear Kchitiz Regmi of Milestone Internet Marketing offer a different opinion. He believes that SEO and PPC go hand in hand.

Here’s what Kchitiz said:

“For any business to get the maximum online return, they need to focus their efforts on both natural as well as paid searches. Natural and paid search are not exclusive to one another. To illustrate my point, we had a client that was ranking #1 on organic results for their own name. However they felt that there was no need to run PPC campaign for their name as they already had very good positioning. But after convincing them to also run PPC for their own name, we managed to increase their ROI by 4X. So, I feel, better ranking on SEO and PPC will lead to a better ROI.”

So, what do you think? Paid search first and then organic? Or both at the same time?

Pauline Kerbici
Director of Marketing
High Rankings


Post Comment

 Darryl Payne said:
I believe that you have to do both from the start. Paid search is the best way to see hands on what keywords bring generate clients/sales. But it may take a few weeks or months to get a good statistical sampling on which to base your actions. So, in the meantime you can be building links and adding your best guess keyword content. Content on the site can always be tweaked with keywords you learn from the paid search.
 Joe Bray said:
Generally speaking, I think using paid search is always a good idea. But also, I think that every website goes thru a 'life cycle' with paid search, so that on the first day of your new website you have to use PPC to get some initial traffic. Meanwhile, you are feverishly working on the SEO. Then for a fully mature website, it might not need PPC at all.

Of course, at any point along the way, you have to evaluate the ROI for the PPC cost - let that be the determining factor.
 Lois said:
With an established site, you do need to carefully evaluate the ROI for PPC costs as, especically if you are already getting good positions in natural search results and/or your search terms are v. competitive and it's therefore costly to run PPC ads, this may not be a good investment.

It would be interesting to know of any research that's been done on how people use search, i.e. do most look first at natural search results (as I do - it seems logical that sites that rank well for what you're looking for would generally be better than those that have simply paid for ads - or does not everyone think this way?)
 A. C. said:
I agree with Paula that they are 2 complementary marketing tools - natural search is "free" (not counting the cost of resources need to make/maintain a good, SEO-friendly site), and therefore somewhat more trusted than something that is an ad, but it is also subject to what is going on with competitors for those same words, so not completely in your control. PPC is great for very specific terms and for getting eyeballs for very competitive keywords that may be very hard to get a high Google ranking for. PPC is also great new sites that are waiting to be indexed by Google or climb up the Google ranks.
 Jill said:
Because my website is new, just over 4 months old, I opted to start a PPC campaign from the start. My goal was to be splitting proceeds from the sale of my ebook at about 50-50 with Google within 3 mos. So far so good, and in fact it's closer to 70 (Me) - 30 (Google) now. The information I get from Google is priceless in helping me optimize the site for a higher organic ranking, which I know takes time and patience. For me, it's both for the foreseeable future.
 Ros Garavaglia said:
There's no doubt in my mind SEO & SEM compliment each other. With SEO it's difficult to get organic listings for every keyword you consider to be say in your top 10 list. SEM ensures those keywords are working for you.

Just the other day a prospect commented about one of our client's sites saying, "every time I do a search I see xxxxx, they're everywhere, I want some of that!

The site he was referring to has great organic ranking and Adwords ads. Both drive traffic to the site. It's great for Branding!
 David Temple said:
Great post Pauline. Because it's difficult to get good keyword demand here in Asia, we often run a paid campaign first and then use those learnings for seo. In particular we are looking for converting keywords and not just ones that drive traffic. Having lisings in both the paid and organic serps creates great brand lift and better engagement.
 Lauren Sorensen said:
BOTH - Definately! One feeds the other and vice versa.

The clicks I get from PPC are mostly as a result of a list of keywords that *I* type in. The analytics from organic hits tell me what the *Browser* typed in.

So, I find the most profitable terms from PPC and use them in my on-site organic optimization efforts. Similarily, I use the keywords that the browser typed in and add them to the PPC campaign. Eventually, if I've done my work well, the two lists look very much alike and I can start to reduce my PPC spending.

Oh, sure, you COULD do one without the other, but why would you want to? It's like having a PB&J sandwich without any milk!