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Drive Online Sales With These 5 Search Optimizations

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Drive Online Sales With These 5 Search Optimizations

Remember when you had to leave the house to go shopping? What a hassle that was.

But then, way back in 1982, Boston Computer Exchange was launched as the first ecommerce site and the convenience of shopping in your underwear was born.

Today, electronic commerce, the buying, and selling of products and services on the internet is a massive part of the global economy.

In 2021, more than 2.14 billion people worldwide bought something online. And in the U.S., ecommerce sales for just the first quarter of 2022 totaled $250 billion.

We’ve come a long way from those early days of local used computer sales.

These days, you can find everything from shoes to mechanic services to $5,000 heart-shaped potatoes for sale with just a few clicks of the mouse. And nearly every business of every type has a website through which they’re selling their goods and services.

And while that’s really good for shoppers, if you’re an ecommerce retailer, that means you’re facing a lot of competition.

How do you stand out? How can you not only get people on your product pages but turn them into customers? It’s no small task.

But you’re in the right place.

In this article, you’ll find five essential ways you should optimize your ecommerce website for maximum exposure and ROI. Ready to get started? Scroll on.

1. Your Homepage Is Where The Heart Is

Your most-trafficked page, it’s often the first thing any visitor to your website will come across.

It sets the tone for your business, starts the conversion funnel, highlights sales or new products, and directs people to other parts of your site.

Of course, we’re talking about your homepage. And the first step to optimizing your ecommerce site to maximize sales is to make sure your homepage is living up to its weighty role.

Make Navigation Easy

One major issue you’ll want to tackle immediately when optimizing your homepage is navigation.

You want to make it easy and efficient for visitors (and search engine crawlers) to find your content. There should be clear direction as to where the content they want lives.

And a key part of that is using a prominent navigation bar.

In addition to helping users quickly navigate between parts of your site, the navigation bar is also a great opportunity to highlight specific parts of your website, for example, your best-selling product line.

Your homepage also should have an effective and prominent tagline.

Your tagline is a short, usually eight- to 12-word phrase that connects your company with its audience.

Sometimes mistakenly called a slogan (slogans are campaign-specific, taglines are brand-specific), taglines are something too many ecommerce retailers overlook – which is a mistake.

Many first-time visitors to your website will only give it a quick scan.

A descriptive and memorable tagline will help them quickly understand what your site is about and compel them to dive deeper. This leads us to our next point:

Content Is Still King

At the end of the day, content is still the single most important factor of your homepage or any page for that matter.

People are using the internet to find a particular product or solution.

If you offer what they need, you can convert them into sales – provided they land on your page and not your competition’s.

That starts with search engine optimization (SEO). And SEO starts with keywords.

Identify which words and phrases your target audience is looking for and include them organically in your copy. (That is, don’t force them where they don’t belong. This is called keyword stuffing and it can negatively impact your Google ranking.)

Have trouble identifying which keywords are most important? Search Engine Journal has a webinar that will help you determine and implement a keyword research strategy.

There are also a number of free tools you can use to help you decide what language needs to be included on your homepage.

Once you have your keyword strategy down, you can sit back and relax and watch the sales come rolling in, right? Of course not. You’re just getting started.

Next, you should think about the visual assets on your homepage.

Are you using generic stock photos to add visual interest or are you using this valuable web real estate to promote products? Smart ecommerce website operators will choose the latter.

You don’t need to include images of every single product you offer (and in fact, that’s probably a terrible idea), but using prominent images of your best-sellers on your homepage is very important. And make sure clicking on these images directs users to that product’s page.

Don’t underestimate the importance of using internal links. Create links to your most important pages directly from your homepage.

This could be a product category page or a link to your best-selling item. They could be in the navigation bar, the page’s footer, the content, or some combination of the three.

Another best practice is to make sure you’ve created a breadcrumb trail users (and search engine bots) can use to find their way back to the homepage.

For some examples of what a great homepage looks like, click here.

2. It’s All About The Products

The purpose of your ecommerce site is to make sales.

To achieve this, your product pages need to compel visitors to make purchases. Your product pages give you the perfect opportunity to control the narrative around each item you’re selling, which can make a big difference.

Here are some tips to make your product pages exceptional.

What’s In A Name?

Words can be very powerful. Your goal is to use that power to influence buying decisions. And that starts with your product titles.

It sounds deceptively easy, but it takes practice and A/B testing to get right.

Exactly what works for you will vary based on your industry, product, and audience, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Use the right language. This doesn’t mean companies selling in Portugal should make sure all their product descriptions are all in Portuguese (though that is important), but rather that you’re using the same type of tone, words, and expressions your targets are. Write so the audience can understand you. And don’t forget your keywords!
  •  Use the right format. This will probably take some trial and error but is worth the effort. Find the length and the format that resonates the best with your potential customers. For example, you may find your perfect format is brand + size + color. Other factors you may include based on performance and product include product line, color, flavor, model number, and package size/quantity.
  • Make your description complementary. Every product title should have a corresponding and complementary product description. Using search keywords, write an interesting description that avoids generic platitudes. For best results, remember the old copywriting adage: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” That means your descriptions should focus on the benefit to the customer, not the features of the product.

Get Meta

The meta description is the small blurb of copy that shows up under a link to your website in search engine results.

This is often your first opportunity to attract a customer.

The better your meta description, the more likely a searcher will click through to your site. And that dramatically increases your chances to make a sale.

Use keywords in your brand’s unique voice to create effective meta descriptions.

Make sure you’re specifically targeting the product’s targets with each page’s meta description, rather than using a general blurb about your company.

For more tips on creating the type of meta descriptions that generate traffic, click here.

Show Them What You’ve Got

Product images are vital because they show shoppers exactly what they’re in the market for.

The first thing visitors to your product pages will notice, they draw attention and trigger emotions in viewers. They also help them subconsciously envision the impact they will have on their lives.

Show them different aspects of the product, including different angles or “action shots” of it in use.

A video is also a useful tool, though not everyone will want to watch even short clips, so use them as complementary features.

Images are also a factor in your SEO ranking – and can both help and hurt you.

To ensure you’re getting the most from the visuals on your product pages, you should optimize your images for faster loading.

Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry, we’ve got just the thing. Click here for six tips for optimizing images for your ecommerce site.

Make Sure The Price Is Right

While bells and whistles that differentiate your product from the competition are nice and can play a role in purchasing decisions, many times, what determines if you get the sale is one thing: pricing.

But it’s not always about having the lowest price.

In fact, charging too little for your products can hurt the perception of your brand, as customers will assume they’re getting what they paid for, that is, cheap junk.

Try to find that sweet spot where you make the highest profit from the most sales.

And to help customers overcome analysis paralysis, give them side-by-side pricing comparisons.

This helps facilitate decision-making by allowing visitors to compare their options in one place. And nothing makes a price seem lower than showing it right next to a premium option that significantly costs more.

Another trick, which you’ve undoubtedly already aware of is so-called “charm pricing,” or ending prices with $.99.

The rational part of the customer’s brain knows there’s no real difference between a product that costs $299.99 and another that costs $300, but studies have shown most people judge prices by the leftmost digit. Use this psychological trick to your advantage.

Don’t Take Our Word For It

There’s a reason Amazon features reviews so highly on its product pages – they work.

Consumers trust and rely upon the opinions of people who have already bought your offering.

But, did you know customers who interact with reviews are 58% more likely to convert? That alone should be enough to convince you to add them to your product pages.

Other Tips

Another thing you don’t want to neglect on your product page is calls to action (CTAs).

The first thing most salespeople are taught is if you want the sale, you must ask for it.

Make sure you’re providing clear CTAs on your product pages, for example, a large button that reads “Buy Now.”

And if you sell out of a particular item, do NOT deactivate the link.

By keeping it live, you avoid it being identified as a broken link and dinging your SEO score. Simply indicate that this product is currently out of stock.

3. Don’t Ignore Usability

If you want to make sales, your ecommerce site must be user-friendly.

Without well-designed UX/UI (that is, user experience and user interaction), people will navigate away before you can pitch your product, let alone make a sale.

Minimize your bounce rate by ensuring your homepage avoids common UX pitfalls.

Solve Your Technical Issues

Before you do anything else, you need to make sure your website loads quickly for every user.

Within three seconds, and ideally less, your homepage should display its content to visitors.

If not, users, especially mobile users, are likely to become frustrated and look for another digital merchant.

For more information on how to evaluate and speed up your loading time, this article can help.

And speaking of mobile users, your site absolutely must be responsive.

Phones accounted for 54.4% of global web traffic last year and that number keeps growing. If your homepage isn’t responsive, you’re losing potential customers.

Consider How Your Site Is Being Used

While not everyone will use your website the same way, there should be a general path most users follow.

Identify this and make sure the steps are clear. And remember, from time to time, people will get lost. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for by including a search bar.

Don’t forget to tell your company’s story.

The “About Us” page is more than a chance to brag about how great you are, it’s also a chance to share your history, your values, and your services.

For more tips on creating a top-notch About Us page, check out these examples.

And sometimes, your customers will need to speak to a real person, whether over the phone or via email.

Make sure you have a contact page that doesn’t require a lot of searching to find. Make sure your phone number and email address are listed, so you can be reached with questions, concerns, exchanges, and the like.

4. Blog Your Way To Sales

Does your ecommerce site have a blog? It should.

And no, that short-lived personal blog about inconsistencies in the Star Wars universe you ran 10 years ago isn’t going to cut it. You need a dedicated business blog discussing topics relevant to your products and customers.

There are several reasons blogging is important, not least of all from an SEO point of view.

Creating new posts means you’re creating new content, which signals to search engines your site is active. It’s also a means to generate those all-important backlinks.

A quality blog also helps establish your reputation as an authority in your niche, contributes to your brand image, and even decreases bounce rate.

Make your blog an asset to your ecommerce site by creating and implementing a good content strategy built on three key factors: people, technology, and process.

And remember, your blog is your chance to show off your personality. Because it’s a more informal conversation with customers than other, more rigid marketing materials, you can have more fun.

Create the kind of posts that show you’re passionate about your products and happy to share your expertise.

And don’t forget the social media share buttons (which are also an excellent idea for product pages). This allows people to spread your posts outside of your normal audience, generating more exposure and ideally leading to more sales.

Looking for inspiration? Here are nine ecommerce companies doing blogging the right way.

5. Build A Solid Structure

We’ve touched on different aspects of your ecommerce site’s structure so far, but it’s so important it deserves its own section.

One rule you should live by is that all your content should be accessible to visitors within three clicks from your homepage.

Any more than that, and you run a very real risk of customers abandoning the journey.

On that note, your purchasing process should be as streamlined as possible.

Use the minimum number of pages possible to complete a transaction and keep your checkout page simple and straightforward.

Make sure it is always clear to customers where they are in the checkout process.

Have you ever noticed how many e-retailers use the shopping cart icon in the top right corner of their pages? That’s because it works. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Make sure your URL structure is logical and easy to follow.

For example, a product web address of www.example.com/manufacturer/category/item will get more clicks from search engine results pages than www.example.com/01178/iadtttkyu.

Build your entire site around a solid, easy-to-find, easy-to-navigate sitemap, and make sure it’s optimized to be indexed by search engine crawlers, so your pages show up in search engine results.

Finally, because you’re dealing with financial transactions, make sure you’re using adequate security measures.

Make sure your ecommerce site is hosted on a secure platform and consider adding two-factor authentication to prevent purchases made with stolen user credentials.

You should only collect and store the personal data you need.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, there is no one magic bullet that will work for every ecommerce business.

What works for an organic dried mushroom merchant is not guaranteed to work for a video game reseller. And what works for the video game store may not work for a beauty brand. It’s up to you to find what works.

However, armed with the knowledge you’ve gained in this article, you should be prepared to begin taking steps to optimize your own ecommerce site.

Above all, remember what your site is trying to accomplish: selling specific products to specific targets.

If you can keep potential customers in mind, while tweaking some technical things to boost your search engine results and smooth out the customer journey, you’re doing all you can to set your business on the path to success.

Happy selling!


Featured Image: fizkes/Shuttertock

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Getting to the top of Google can be quite slow. Especially so for small, new websites. And the competition can often be too strong, which makes it quite unlikely for you to outrank your rivals in the first place.

Well… if you can’t win, change the rules.

There’s a very simple trick for getting search traffic for the keywords that you want to rank for—without actually ranking for them.

Enter…

One of the most common pieces of marketing advice is to “go fish where the fish are.” Whatever product or service you want to sell, you have to follow three simple steps:

  1. Figure out who your ideal customers are.
  2. Find the places where those people are hanging out online.
  3. Go to those places and find ways to promote your product.

Quick example: if you want to sell fitness gear, it would be good to figure out how to tap into the r/Fitness community on Reddit, which has over 12M members.

What does it have to do with SEO though?

Well, whatever search traffic you want to drive to your own website… someone is already getting it to theirs, right? And their website is not necessarily your direct competitor.

If you own a bagel joint in Singapore, you definitely want your website to rank in Google for “best bagels in Singapore.” But the pages that actually rank for this keyword are listicles, which give readers a bunch of different suggestions. So your job is to get featured in as many of those top-ranking listicles as possible.

Ranking for a keyword with your own website isn’t the only way to get customers from Google. Getting featured on other pages that rank for this keyword is incredibly effective too.

I call this tactic “second-hand search traffic”.

The underlying idea is not new though.

You might have heard of the concept called “Barnacle SEO,” shared by Rand Fishkin back in 2014. There’s also a concept called “Surround Sound,” coined by Alex Birkett. And another one called “SERP Monopoly strategy” by Nick Eubanks. There’s also a reverse concept, called “Rank & Rent.”

The idea behind all of these tactics is practically the same: if a page gets a lot of relevant search traffic from Google—you have to try and get your business mentioned there.

1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything
Source

But that’s easier said than done, right?

Why would anyone bother to feature your business on their website?

Well, one simple answer is money.

If a website owner can make money from mentioning your business on their page, there’s a good chance they’ll do it. This money could come in the form of an affiliate commission or a flat fee for an annual or permanent placement. Sometimes these things can also happen as part of a broader partnership deal.

Getting listed for free is very, very hard. Especially so if you’re not already a big and respected business that people naturally want to feature on their website.

And yet—it’s not completely impossible to get listed for free.

Case in point, we just published our own “best SEO conferences” post, in order to rank for relevant search queries and promote our upcoming event, Ahrefs Evolve Singapore.

And then we went ahead and reached out to all websites that rank for the “best SEO conferences” keyword and asked them to add Ahrefs Evolve to their listicles. So far 10 out of 17 featured us on their pages, without asking for any payment whatsoever.

1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

The most straightforward way to execute this strategy is to compile a list of highly relevant keywords (with high business potential scores), pull all the top-ranking pages for each of them into a spreadsheet, and start your outreach.

But there’s one other fruitful source of pages to get second-hand search traffic from. These are pages that are linking to your competitors, while getting a decent amount of search traffic themselves.

Here’s how to find these pages in 3 simple steps:

  1. Put the website of your competitor in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the Backlinks report.
  3. Apply the “Referring page > Traffic” filter.
How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for AnythingHow to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Here’s an example of a page I found while trying this out for the ConvertKit website:

1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

As you can see, this page is not about “email marketing” (the primary topic you’d go for, if you wanted to promote an email marketing tool). And yet, this page is receiving 2.6k visitors per month from Google (as estimated by Ahrefs), and it recommends a bunch of email marketing tools to its readers.

So if you own an email marketing tool—like ConvertKit—you definitely want to get mentioned on that page alongside your competitors.

The moral of this story is that you should look outside of the topics that are immediately relevant to your business. Any page that gets traffic and mentions a competitor of yours should become your target.

And Ahrefs makes it super easy to find such pages.

That’s it.

I hope you found this tactic useful. Don’t sleep on it, because there’s a good chance that your competitors won’t.

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

For the SEO industry, the Google documents leak offered an important view behind the scenes. Although the leak was not a blueprint of how the algorithm worked, there was considerable confirmation that SEO professionals were right about many elements of the algorithm.

From all the analysis and discussion following the leak, the one insight that got my attention was how important the brand is.

Rand Fishkin, who broke the leak, said this:

“Brand matters more than anything else … If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: “Build a notable, popular, well-recognized brand in your space, outside of Google search.”

Mike King echoed this statement with the following observation:

“All these potential demotions can inform a strategy, but it boils down to making stellar content with strong user experience and building a brand, if we’re being honest.”

Mordy Oberstein, who is an advocate for building a brand online, posted on X (Twitter):

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand.”

It’s not the first time that “brand” has been mentioned in SEO. We began to talk about this around 2012 after the impact of Panda and Penguin when it first became apparent that Google’s aim was to put more emphasis on brand.

Compounding this is the introduction of AI, which has accelerated the importance of taking a more holistic approach to online marketing with less reliance on Google SERPs.

When I spoke to Pedro Dias, he said, “We need to focus more than ever on building our own communities with users aligned to our brands.”

As someone who had 15 years of offline experience in marketing, design, and business before moving into SEO, I have always said that having this wide knowledge allows me to take a holistic view of SEO. So, I welcome the mindset shift towards building a brand online.

As part of his X/Twitter post, Mordy also said:

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand” (a lot of which is the direct result of @randfish’s & @iPullRank’s great advice following the “Google leaks”).

As someone who has straddled the brand marketing and SEO world for the better part of 10 years – branding is A LOT harder than many SEOs would think and will be a HUGE adjustment for many SEOs.”

Following his X/Twitter post, I reached out to Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Brand at Wix, to have a conversation about branding and SEO.

What Do SEO Pros Need To Know About ‘Brand’ To Make The Mindset Shift?

I asked Mordy, “In your opinion, what does brand and building a brand mean, and can SEO pros make this mindset shift?”

Mordy responded, “Brand building basically means creating a connection between one entity and another entity, meaning the company and the audience.

It’s two people meeting, and that convergence is the building of a brand. It’s very much a relationship. And I think that’s what makes it hard for SEOs. It’s a different way of thinking; it’s not linear, and there aren’t always metrics that you can measure it by.

I’m not saying you don’t use data, or you don’t have data, but it’s harder to measure to tell a full story.

You’re trying to pick up on latent signals. A lot of the conversation is unconscious.

It’s all about the micro things that compound. So, you have to think about everything you do, every signal, to ensure that it is aligned with the brand.

For example, a website writes about ‘what is a tax return.’ However, if I’m a professional accountant and I see this on your blog, I might think this isn’t relevant to me because you’re sending me a signal that you’re very basic. I don’t need to know what a tax return is; I have a master’s degree in accounting.

The latent signals that you’re sending can be very subtle, but this is where it is a mindset shift for SEO.”

I recalled a recent conversation with Pedro Dias in which he stressed it was important to put your users front and center and create content that is relevant to them. Targeting high-volume keywords is not going to connect with your audience. Instead, think about what is going to engage, interest, and entertain them.

I went on to say that for some time, the discussion online has been about SEO pros shifting away from the keyword-first approach. However, the consequences of moving away from a focus on traffic and clicks will mean we are likely to experience a temporary decline in performance.

How Does An SEO Professional Sell This To Stakeholders – How Do They Measure Success?

I asked Mordy, “How do you justify this approach to stakeholders – how do they measure success?”

Mordy replied, “I think selling SEO will become harder over time. But, if you don’t consider the brand aspect, then you could be missing the point of what is happening. It’s not about accepting lower volumes of traffic; it’s that traffic will be more targeted.

You might see less traffic right now, but the idea is to gain a digital presence and create digital momentum that will result in more qualified traffic in the long term.”

Mordy went on to say, “It’s going to be a habit to break out of, just like when you have to go on a diet for a long-term health gain.

The ecosystem will change, and it will force change to our approach. SEOs may not have paid attention to the Google leak documents, but I think they will pay attention as the entire ecosystem shifts – they won’t have a choice.

I also think C-level will send a message that they don’t care about overall traffic numbers, but do care about whether a user appreciates what they are producing and that the brand is differentiated in some way.”

How Might The Industry Segment And What Will Be The Important Roles?

I interjected to make the point that it does look a lot like SEO is finally making that shift across marketing.

Technical SEO will always be important, and paid/programmatic will remain important because it is directly attributable.

For the rest of SEO, I anticipate it merges across brand, SEO, and content into a hybrid strategy role that will straddle those disciplines.

What we thought of as “traditional SEO” will fall away, and SEO will become absorbed into marketing.

In response, Mordy agreed and thought that SEO traffic is part of a wider scope or part of a wider paradigm, and it will sit under brand and communications.

An SEO pro that functions as part of the wider marketing and thinks about how we are driving revenue, how we are driving growth, what kind of growth we are driving, and using SEO as a vehicle to that.

The final point I raised was about social media and whether that would become a more combined facet of SEO and overall online marketing.

Mordy likened Google to a moth attracted to the biggest digital light.

He said, “Social media is a huge vehicle for building momentum and the required digital presence.

For example, the more active I am on social media, the more organic branded searches I gain through Google Search. I can see the correlation between that.

I don’t think that Google is ignoring branded searches, and it makes a semantic connection.”

SEO Will Shift To Include Brand And Marketing

The conversation I had with Mordy raised an interesting perspective that SEO will have to make significant shifts to a brand and marketing mindset.

The full impact of AI on Google SERPs and how the industry might change is yet to be realized. But, I strongly recommend that anyone in SEO consider how they can start to take a brand-first approach to their strategy and the content they create.

I suggest building and measuring relationships with audiences based on how they connect with your brand and moving away from any strategy based on chasing high-volume keywords.

Think about what the user will do once you get the click – that is where the real value lies.

Get ahead of the changes that are coming.

Thank you to Mordy Oberstein for offering his opinion and being my guest on IMHO.

More resources:


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4 Ways PPC and SEO Can Work Together (And When They Can’t)

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4 Ways PPC and SEO Can Work Together (And When They Can’t)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your pages to rank in a search engine’s organic results.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is a form of online advertising where advertisers pay a fee each time someone clicks their ad.

There’s no conundrum between the two types of marketing. You don’t have to choose one or the other; the best companies use both.

Here’s how they can work together and produce magic:

Creating SEO content is the process of figuring out what your target audience is searching on Google and aligning your content to their search intent.

To start off, you need to find out what they’re searching for. The easiest way is to use a keyword research tool, like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Here’s how you might find keywords for a hypothetical coffee equipment store:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a relevant keyword (e.g., “coffee”)
  3. Go to Matching terms

Go through the list and pick out keywords that are relevant to the site. For example, the keyword “how to grind coffee beans” seems like a good keyword to target.

The keyword "how to grind coffee beans" and relevant SEO statsThe keyword "how to grind coffee beans" and relevant SEO stats

Once we’ve chosen our keyword, we want to know what searchers are looking for specifically. Sometimes the keyword gives us an idea, but to be sure, we can look at the top-ranking pages.

So, click the SERP button and then click Identify intents to see what searchers are looking for:

The Identify Intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerThe Identify Intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

We can see that searchers are looking for techniques and methods to grind coffee beans at home, and especially without a grinder. If we want to rank high, we’ll likely have to follow suit.

Those are the basics of creating SEO content. But doing just this isn’t enough. After all, the quote goes, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”

This applies to your content too. You don’t want to create into a void; you want people to see and consume your content. This is where PPC comes in. You can run PPC ads to ensure that as many people see your content as possible.

For example, at Ahrefs, we run Facebook ads for our content:

An example of a Facebook Ad we ran for our contentAn example of a Facebook Ad we ran for our content

We also run ads on Quora:

Our Quora ads campaigns we ran for the blogOur Quora ads campaigns we ran for the blog

This way, we make sure that none of our content efforts go to waste.

Links are an important Google ranking factor. Generally speaking, the more links your page has, the more likely it’ll rank high in the search results.

But acquiring links is hard. This is why it’s still a reliable ranking factor. And it’s also why there’s an entire industry behind link building, and tons of tactics you can use, all with varying levels of success.

One way you can consider building links to your pages is to run PPC ads. In fact, we ran an experiment a few years ago to prove that it was possible.

We spent ~$1,245 on Google search ads and acquired a total of 16 backlinks to two different pieces of content. (~$77-78 per backlink.) This is much cheaper than if you had to buy a backlink, which according to our study, costs around $361.44.

(It would be even more expensive if you acquired links via outreach, as you would have to consider additional costs like software, manpower, etc.)

Retargeting allows you to target visitors who have left your website.

Here’s how retargeting works:

  1. A visitor discovers your article on Google
  2. Your ad management software sets a cookie on the visitor’s browser, which allows you to show ads to these visitors
  3. When the visitor leaves your website and surfs the web, you can show ads and persuade them to return to your website

Depending on where they are on the buyer’s journey, you can convince them to take the next step.

buyer's journeybuyer's journey

For example, if someone found your website via your article on the “best espresso machines”, it’s likely they’re looking to buy. So, you can set your retargeting ad to encourage them to visit your espresso machines category page.

On the other hand, if a visitor discovered your website from your “what is a coffee grinder” article, they might still be early on the journey. In that case, it might be prudent to encourage them to sign up for your email list instead.

Every site has important keywords. For example, besides our brand and product terms, critical keywords are “keyword research”, “link building”, and “technical SEO”.

Since these keywords are important, it makes sense to dominate the SERPs for them. You can do this by simultaneously running ads for them while ranking in organic search. For example, Wix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPs:

Wix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPsWix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPs

This is especially useful if you’re a new or smaller site. The keywords that are important to you are likely important to your competitors too. Which means you can’t compete with them overnight.

So, a good strategy is to target those keywords via PPC first, while investing in your SEO strategy. Over time, as you acquire more backlinks and gain more website authority, you’ll be able to compete with your competitors in organic search too.

While both channels are complementary, there are times where it may make more sense to choose one over the other.

When to choose PPC

If you fit these scenarios, it might be a better idea to go for PPC:

  • You’re promoting a limited-time offer, event, or launching a product. According to our poll, SEO takes three to six months to show results. If your event, offer, or launch is shorter than the expected timeframe, it’ll be over even before SEO takes any effect.
  • You need immediate, short-term results. If you need to show some results now, then PPC will be a better choice.
  • You have a disruptive product or service. SEO depends on figuring out what people are already searching for. If your product or service is completely novel, then it’s likely no one is searching for it.
  • Hyper-competitive SERPs. Some niches have competing sites with large SEO teams and deep pockets. Coupled with Google’s preference for known brands, if you’re in these niches, it can be difficult to compete. PPC offers a viable alternative for gaining visibility on the first page.

When to choose SEO

Here are times when it may make better sense to choose SEO:

  • Keywords are too expensive. Some industries, like insurance or finance, have cost-per-clicks (CPC) up to a few hundred dollars. For example, the keyword “direct auto insurance san antonio” has a CPC of $275.
  • Your niche is restricted. Certain industries or niches (e.g., adult, weapons, gambling, etc.) are prohibited or restricted from advertising.
  • You have a limited budget. PPC requires money to begin, whereas SEO can drive traffic to your website at no direct cost per visitor.
  • You’re building an affiliate site. Affiliate sites earn a commission when people buy from their recommendations. While it’s not impossible to build an affiliate site from PPC, it’s difficult to control the return on investment (ROI) since affiliate site owners cannot control sales conversion rates.

Final thoughts

There are cases where focusing on either SEO or PPC makes sense.

But most of the time, the best companies don’t discriminate between channels. If they produce positive ROI, then you should be using all marketing channels.

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