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Tips to Combine Paid & Organic Search Strategy

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Tips to Combine Paid & Organic Search Strategy


The SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is complex. Website links are surrounded by images, videos, shopping results, knowledge panels, “people also ask” results, local listings, and probably a dozen more experimental features Google and Microsoft are testing this week.

The good news is that marketers can optimize every SERP asset via either paid or organic search. The catch? Holistic search management doesn’t just magically happen on its own. 

Organic and paid search teams have no shortage of projects — features to test, audits to run, data problems to troubleshoot, bids to optimize, promotions to launch, and new content to implement. Add reporting, meetings, and staying on top of breaking search news and there’s often barely time to grab a coffee before diving into the next task. It can be challenging for each team to find time to engage with the other side of search marketing.

But fret not — today I bring you a solution! Below are three simple ways your organic and paid search teams can collaborate for impactful but not time-consuming results. Test them out, adapt them to your needs, and then build a regular cadence of engagement to continuously identify new opportunities to optimize all pieces of the evolving SERP.

1. Analyze page load speed through the lens of Google Ads

Site speed is a critical factor of user experience that impacts both paid and organic search performance. When pages load slowly—especially on mobile devices—visitors are much less likely to stick around, let alone complete a conversion. Google hasn’t exactly been subtle in their efforts to encourage site owners to prioritize faster page load times across the open web. As part of Google’s attempt to improve the user experience for searchers, landing page speed officially became a mobile ranking factor over three years ago, and landing page experience has long been a core component of paid search quality score.

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Google has provided many useful reports (such as Core Web Vitals) which enable marketers to diagnose and resolve loading speed issues, but there’s another excellent and underutilized data point hiding within Google Ads: mobile speed score. Located on the Landing Pages tab, this metric tracks how quickly each paid search landing page loads on a scale of 1-10 (10 being incredibly fast, and 1 being unbearably slow—thankfully, I’ve yet to encounter a 1 rating on any account I’ve audited). This score is updated daily, but it’s also maintained historically all the way back to May 15, 2018—and therein lies a key part of its utility. 

Other page speed tools only show the current load time, but for any landing page used in Google Ads, this data is available historically, meaning you can track how load speed has varied over time (and then graph it against other metrics, if you’re feeling particularly nerdy).

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Snapshot of mobile speed score in Google Ads from a recent account audit (URLs obfuscated)

Start by having the paid search team pull this report for a recent timeframe and invite the SEO team to compare it with their page speed analysis. Flag paid search landing pages that have low scores and high traffic, and prioritize them for optimization. Then set up an ongoing report that delivers this measurement to the SEO team so they can track the direct impact of their optimizations as measured by the Google Ads mobile speed score. Then try adding new landing pages to your Google Ads account based on the SEO team’s recommendations, and see how they rank on this report.

Which brings us to our next suggestion….

2. Review recently optimized pages that aren’t currently utilized in paid search

Ask a paid search team how long it’s been since they expanded their keyword list and you’ll either find a regular process or sheepish excuses. In a mature paid search campaign, keyword additions usually come from the outside in—analyzing search query reports to identify changing search trends, using keyword suggestion tools, or simply brainstorming new ideas. While these approaches are sound, collaborating with the SEO team unlocks another angle.

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Instead of chasing external trends, ask the SEO team to share a list of pages they’ve recently improved or launched. Compare the current paid search landing pages to this list, and identify portions of the site that you’re not currently sending paid search traffic to. Label them based on how closely they align with current performance KPIs and by the role they play in the consumer journey.

When you’ve found a page (or pages) you’re not currently supporting with paid search, consider integrating it in one of the following ways:

  • Does it complement your paid search strategy? Build out relevant keywords, or test sending some of your current keywords to this new landing page.
  • Does it provide a new and valuable way to connect with searchers overall? Try adding it as a site link to your core trademark keywords.
  • Are you unsure about whether it will even work for paid search? Try setting it up as the source page for Dynamic Search Ads to test what traffic Google sends to it and how those visitors perform.

And speaking of keywords and search queries….

3. Analyze the landing pages for paid search broad match keywords alongside the search terms report

You are using broad match keywords in your paid search account, right? If not, it’s time to test this much-maligned match type again. As part of the phrase/broad match modifier update in spring 2021 Google also tightened the focus and relevance of broad’s query matching. A few months later Google expanded the visibility of the search terms report, providing more queries that enable advertisers to interrogate and hone the performance of broad match even further.

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Buried toward the end of that February match type announcement was a very intriguing detail – broad match now explicitly includes landing page data as a matching signal. The implication is that great SEO will make broad match work even better.

Pull a recent search terms report in Google Ads (including the keyword column), then filter by match type to focus on only Broad match. Append the landing page to each keyword (using either VLOOKUP in Excel or your preferred data connection method). Then review these search terms and pages with the SEO team, analyzing which queries Google is associating with each landing page.

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While this is an intentionally limited view that doesn’t take into account other factors that fuel broad matching, it’s also a fascinating look at the queries Google is associating with these landing pages. Use this data to flag gaps where on-page content doesn’t appear to be triggering the desired queries, and re-run it after the SEO team makes changes to these pages to analyze the impact on search query matching.

Intentional, Ongoing Engagement

Unlocking the value of paid plus organic search and delivering the “1+1=3” story we’ve heard so many times is a key component of modern search marketing success. By launching specific, repeatable projects you can create a culture of collaboration that uncovers even more points of connection between SEO and paid search. And that’s not a hypothetical outcome—where do you think I got the above list? (Hint: We have brilliant, collaborative teams here at Brainlabs!)





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PPC

Retail Search is the New PPC

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Retail Search is the New PPC

“Amazon Ads, why?”. It all started for me back in 2018 when I interviewed some of the world’s leading PPC experts and surveyed award-winning paid search agencies. They were all doing Google Shopping campaigns but what about Amazon Ads? Very few of them invested there. 

Since then, Amazon Ads has caught up on both Meta and Google. The advertising revenue of Amazon represents 7% of its business. But those 7% already correspond to almost 20% of Google Ads. It’s on fire.

But it is not all about Amazon. When you dive deeper into the online retail marketing space, you quickly find out that retail search is not the only advertising lever there, and that Amazon is not the only player. Beneath the surface, you will find a a whole new world of what we call “Retail Media”: advertising during the consumer journey in retail sites, marketplaces and even beyond. It is both the digital version of trade marketing, it is the “paid search” of product search, and it is a challenger to programmatic advertising. And whereas Amazon is popularising it, there are plenty of other players in the market. Especially in Europe.

(Source: “State of Retail Media in 2022: Europe”, Innovell 2022)

State of retail media in Europe

We researched the retail media market for the newest Innovell report: “State of Retail Media in 2022: Europe” and uncovered an extremely dynamic business sector with phenomenal growth rates and new entrants every few months. There were 6 main reasons for the massive growth of retail media as we shall see below.

Obviously, the hypergrowth that ecommerce is experiencing makes the “media” itself grow, because that media is ecommerce activity. The more time consumers spend on retail platforms and marketplaces, the larger the ad inventory of retail media becomes. And as marketers, we know it quite well: users are spending a heck of an amount of time before they purchase something online, aren’t they? These online window shoppers are being monetized via retail media.

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And ecommerce platforms are pushing for it. Many retail sites are expanding from brand-centered ecommerce platforms to category-focused marketplaces. This has given unicorn start-ups such as Mirakl an amazing playground to develop in, as it provides the technical platform for that endeavour.

Along with marketplace investments come a desire to monetize, and retailers are looking to Amazon’s 5% of GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) revenue from advertising for inspiration. Another 5% of margin could make a huge difference in the retail business, where low margins and high volumes have long been the norm.

But brands are pushing retail media too. They were used to investing in trade marketing to stimulate retail sales, and the new digital version of digital advertising during the consumer journey has proven to be a sales activator too.

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From an organisational perspective, it is much easier to justify retail media investments with measurable impact than trade marketing budgets that are being poured into periodical retail negotiation to theoretically boost sales.

And finally, users are changing their behaviour too. We frequently hear of new surveys showing how users no longer start their product search journeys on Google but have shifted to Amazon. Users, of course, have erratic behavior and will start their journey in all sorts of places and even search simultaneously in several channels. One thing is certain though, product search is convenient and easy on Amazon and if you are a Prime member, your purchases will be delivered tomorrow. Retail search is on the rise for sure.

Show me the money

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Easy, you take budget from your Google Ads and Facebook campaigns and put them into Amazon, right? Well, not really. We found hardly any evidence of that happening. Those budget streams are rarely connected directly.

The quarterly reports of the other ad platforms are not showing signs of budget transfer either. During the past few years of Amazon Ads booming, Google Ads has been increasing its own growth too. And the recent difficulties for Meta were caused by something entirely different, namely Apple’s cookie gate. A recent study from McKinsey confirms this. It estimates that 80% of retail media budgets are likely to be “net new” rather than transfers from existing advertising budgets. (Source: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/busted-five-myths-about-retail-media)

Retail media is trade marketing digitally transformed

One of the sources for retail media funding is the shift from trade marketing. Trade marketing has existed almost since the outset of retail itself.

But where trade marketing is something that is often discussed in quarterly or annual distribution negotiations as a compensation form, retail media can be invested and optimized in real-time. And more importantly, its impact is measurable and can be put in relation to incremental value it generates.

(Purchase) data is the new oil 

Retail media has product search as its engine and purchase data as its fuel. We hear often enough that “data is the new oil”, but perhaps it is in reality purchase data, a refined form of data, which could show the real value of data, as it allows advertisers to perform high quality targeting.

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Most of the experts we interviewed for our report insisted on the quality and actionability of the data issued from retail. Both data from online ad platforms on marketplaces and offline from retail outlets capable of understanding the purchasing patterns via behavioural data.

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Retail media is a challenger to programmatic advertising

Retail search is already a new PPC contender growing faster than most of its competitors. But on top of that, the promise of audience targeting on the basis of purchasing data from the same retail media platforms is a potential contender to win the programmatic space. Remains to be seen whether the data really is that good. If indeed it is, the epicenter of programmatic advertising could well shift towards retail-data-driven platforms in the future.

On 19 July on Hero Conf London, we will dive deeper into retail media and explore the many local pureplayers, vertical marketplaces and hybrid on- and offline grocery chains occupying the retail media space together with Amazon in Europe.

We will also propose a five-step approach to winning on retail media for brands. It applies both to those who have not started their journey and those who are already active in retail media on one or more marketplaces.

In this session you will learn:

– What the drivers of “retail media” are

– What Amazon and other marketplaces have in stock for marketers in 2022

– If and how you should position retail media in your PPC strategy

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