PPC Testing for SEO

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed a couple things in the search space:

  1. Keyword tools are unreliable
  2. PPC traffic can show some valuable search trends 

Well here’s the point: PPC and SEO help to inform each other consistently. There are reasons why SEO and PPC should always be in cahoots: On the SEO side, a simple look at the analytics queries that come through and spend time on site are usually from keywords that are relevant and have a value. If there is evidence that some terms that show up organically on page 2 or deeper in the SERPs are getting hit are are converting, then these are that have value for PPC. We can immediately pay PPC to be seen next to the top ranking organic sites showing for these competitive terms. Of course, because this is PAID traffic, and because CPCs can be so wildly different for each industry or vertical, ROI calculations should be applied constantly.

Now, it gets interesting. On the PPC side, and before SEO goes to work creating targeted landing pages, title tags, keyword rich content on the site, etc., wouldn’t it be great if there was an idea of ROI that stood independent of search volume statistics? Well, unfortunately this is the risk of PPC at every turn in the game. Yes, there are competitive analysis tools, bid optimizers, keyword research tools, and on and on… These amazing tools, while infinitely helpful for a modern marketer, just do not round out the actual field of search. When it comes down to it, every search is still based on user-generated content, and this content, even if sometimes predictable, is just as often counterintuitive. I propose that while entering an SEO commitment, you should be testing the viability of the keywords you want optimized on your web pages by employing PPC. This way you can build out the particular keywords on the main targeted pages of the website while keeping tabs on the PPC keyword statistics which perform best for your site’s ROI. Through Google, this should be done in a couple ways:

  1. Use your usual keyword research tools to come up with a nice grouping of unique keywords in order to test how they react in the live market. Remember to only use the exact match option for these keywords, be sure to bid them to a desired position, and most importantly, make sure content network is set to “off”. Obviously this could get pricey as you want to ensure that your keywords show up before the fold on page one and keep in mind that you want enough data in order to make decisions, but this method will give you an idea on how often your keywords are currently queried and how well they convert for your site.
  2. Set up a separate ad group for testing. This adgroup should be phrase matched and include peripheral keywords that are more open ended. Pull a Search Query Report every week or so. Depending on volume and conversions, this adgroup should yield a bit of information. Use these newly found keywords that have converted for your site in the exact match campaign – overall, you may be surprised by what has brought in revenue.

Remember to continue to test new keywords, and certainly don’t forget to put a good spin on your ads. Don’t forget to test ads and don’t stop coming up with new approaches to test. After a couple of months you can take your PPC metrics and compare them to your old keyword research tools… odd how PPC traffic and traffic estimate tools seem to vary so much sometimes.

Now, you can take both statistics into account when optimizing your pages – using PPC to find keywords that are actually profitable for your site can save a tremendous amount of time on the SEO side. There are times when the highest volume keyword that a site could rank for is not the most profitable, and these are the times for which we need to test. Suddenly the PPC advertising budget can become an investment in a long term search strategy.