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How To Improve Lead Quality Without Backend Data

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How To Improve Lead Quality Without Backend Data

Integrating backend data into digital marketing initiatives is a gamechanger for performance.

But what can you do when backend conversion data is unavailable or unreliable?

How can marketers optimize lead quality and higher margins without explicit insight into which keywords and audiences have the most value?

This article will walk you through some indirect ways in which you can optimize for lead quality in Google Ads, despite not having the ideal data passback with your digital advertising platforms.

First, let’s review why this is so important.

Why Optimize For Down-Funnel Events Or Margin?

Before we get into strategies, let’s first align on why this even matters. What’s the harm in just optimizing toward a lead event or transaction?

This visualization below is one our agency uses when communicating the need to blend backend data to inform campaign strategy and decision-making.

Note that while this example is specific to B2B, B2C advertisers generally will have a progression toward revenue, as well.

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For example, B2C ecommerce could have a Click > Add To Cart > Start Checkout > Create Account > Complete Order flow.

 Image provided by Closed Loop, December 2021

As the above shows, the path to revenue has several milestone stages, including Clicks, Leads, MQLs, Opportunities, and Closed/Won.

Most advertisers these days are savvy enough to realize that optimizing for the lowest cost click/website visit will lead to low-quality, fat tail keywords that don’t produce impact down-funnel.

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However, due to the technical hurdles required to blend backend and front-end data, I often find advertisers stopping at leads when optimizing.

Not a big deal? Think again.

Here’s an example that solidifies what an impact shifting your focus lower in the funnel can bring:

deeper-funnel-metricsImage provided by Closed Loop, December 2021

On the surface, Campaign A has far stronger performance when evaluating based on leads.

However, the gap widens lower in the funnel to the point where the cost per sale for Campaign A is over 5x of that of Campaign B.

So, What Do I Do About It?

You should not wait until the ideal state solution is deployed before optimizing toward lead quality.

Offline data can take time to get integrated into Google Ads and other platforms.

However, you can still take meaningful steps to start moving the needle in the right direction while that integration is being worked on.

Before we get into those steps, let’s look at the ideal data state.

The Ideal State Of Backend Data

The ideal scenario for optimizing toward backend data includes:

  • Hidden fields are set up on all of your website and native lead gen forms to pass the platform identifier (GCLID, FBCLID, etc.) into your CRM record.
  • Offline Conversion Tracking (OCT) integrated fully into Google Ads and other supporting channels (Microsoft Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn).
  • Values calculated and assigned to each conversion point.
  • Value-based bidding enabled in-platform.
  • Backend data blending across channels via a daily, automated CRM export (assuming not all ad platforms you are running on support data passback) to enable cross-channel, full-funnel reporting.

While this may sound straightforward, my experience is that it takes many advertisers a long time to get to this point, given the need to involve stakeholders from multiple departments.

Here are tangible steps you can take to optimize for down-funnel events while the ideal state is being worked on.

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Stage 1: The Low Hanging Fruit

Perceived Keyword Intent

When optimizing to lead, the search terms that trigger said lead will vary greatly in quality.

Assuming limited budgets and a desire to improve down-funnel results, you should evaluate keywords (and campaign budget allocation) based on perceived intent, as well as tangential signals that identify quality, such as engagement signals ported in from Google Analytics.

If share of voice (SOV) is lower-than-ideal for strongly performing, high perceived intent terms, consider decreasing exposures on terms with a low perceived intent or poor tangential signals.

Don’t let higher cost per lead numbers scare you.

If you identify keywords with higher perceived intent, despite higher cost per lead, consider adding an “intent multiplier” for leads triggered from certain keywords and audiences.

Pro-tip: Apply labels when making adjustments so that you can easily filter for changes made at specific points in time.

This will enable you to make updates quickly to that data set in the future (e.g. If your monthly budget increases and it makes sense to activate a tranche of keywords previously paused).

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Pre-Qualify The Click

Marketing 101 tells us that the higher the CTR is, the more aligned your targeting and messaging are.

However, one should not blindly optimize in efforts to maximize CTR.

Your ad copy is one of the easiest levers you have at your disposal when trying to improve the quality of your leads.

Think through the attributes that make up a high-quality lead, then tailor your ads to speak to those personas.

For example, if you are a B2B advertiser attracting enterprise IT prospects in the Retail vertical, call out things like “Enterprise IT Solution for Retail” in your headline.

Tailoring will decrease the ad’s relevancy for some searchers.

However, you’ll free up the budget for audiences better aligned.

By clearly identifying who your product or service is for in the copy, you’ll weed out those who aren’t good fits, such as SMBs and manufacturing companies.

Utilize Audience Layers

Google Ads has a wide range of affinity, in-market, detailed demographic, and custom audience options available to advertisers.

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By applying audience layers to your campaigns, you can bid up or down (manual bidding) or include or exclude via RLSA campaigns.

Stage 2: Leverage First-Party Data For Audience Building

Regardless of whether your CRM is connected to your advertising platforms, it still holds customer and prospect records that are highly valuable to you as a marketer that you can extract.

Here are three ways you can fully leverage that data.

Nurture Using CRM Data

You can improve down-funnel lead quality – especially in sales funnels that extend beyond a few days – via lead nurture initiatives across display/programmatic, YouTube, social, and search.

A marketer’s job does not stop at the lead stage.

An organization must stay top of mind throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

Marketers should be working with sales in evaluating (often via a lead scoring system) which leads in their system have promise.

Then ensure that they and the organization’s buying committee (via ABM), are being saturated with both brand and thought leadership content to keep you top of mind and to build more authority.

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Marketers should also collaborate with sales to evaluate promising leads (using a lead scoring system) and ensure they, including the organization’s buying committee (via ABM), are nurtured with content marketing to maintain brand awareness and industry authority.

While Google does not offer ABM solutions, you can target specific companies and functions within said companies via the Microsoft Audience Network, LinkedIn, and other providers.

List Building Using CRM Data

Major ad platforms offer list upload options (via phone, e-mail, or mobile app ID) to seed Similar To/Lookalike audiences.

By thinking through your list upload segments, you can target people who have attributes similar to your most valuable lists (e.g. top customers).

On the flip side, you can upload lists for groups of low-quality prospects and customers, then exclude them from your targeting (all bid strategies) or bid down if using a manual bid strategy.

You don’t have to use that list for explicit targeting. It can also glean insights into your customer base or as a seed list for Similar To or Lookalike audience creation (keep reading!).

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Target Modeling Using CRM Data

In addition to explicitly targeting and/or creating a lookalike-based audience using a list upload, both Google Ads and LinkedIn have audience insight tools that can help you identify additional audience segments that align with your best and worst customers.

In Google Ads, head over to your Shared Library > Audience Manager > Your Data Insights.

Here, you will be able to select an audience (upload, pixel, YouTube-based), then see how that audience indexes against a control group (e.g., US population; Bad lead list) across dimensions like age, gender, parental status, location, device and most importantly, Google affinity and in-market segments.

Here’s a look at that report, using a “Closed/Won” list:

audience segmentation on Google Ads Screenshot from Google Ads, December 2021
audience segmentation on google adsScreenshot from Google Ads, December 2021

Once you have some insights, you can decide how best to apply the insights across your campaigns. This could be via bid adjustments, value rules, inclusions (RLSA), or exclusions.

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TL;DR: Use Customer Match uploads to feed Google Ads (and beyond) your customer data, then utilize that data through inclusions, exclusions, and attribute modeling.

Pro-tip: While you can manually upload lists to platforms, consider tools like Zapier, Salesforce Advertising Studio, and Liveramp to automate this update process better and improve match rates.

Stage 3: Use Conversion Values To Inform Bidding

The holy grail to strive for is OCT-based conversion points + value-based bidding. Even without OCT data, using value signals in your bidding decisions can still be a net win for performance.

Here are three steps to maximizing conversion value usage.

Step 1: Assign Values To Each Conversion Point

Don’t worry about providing the system with a perfect value when getting started. The goal is to establish values that will nudge the algorithms in the right direction.

Down the road, these values should be based on the value multiplied by the conversion rate from that action to the transaction.

Step 2: Test Into Value-based Bidding (Max Conversion Value/tROAS)

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When first getting started, you should set your tROAS targets equal to the CPA of your legacy bid strategy.

The goal here is to shift to value-based bidding without undue volatility and then start improving efficiency and/or scale by adjusting tROAS target.

Step 3: Use Value Rules

New to Google Ads in 2021, this feature allows you to add, subtract and multiply any conversion value based on audience, device or location.

For example, imagine I want to target enterprise IT decision-makers but don’t have OCT, so lack visibility into what drives performance beyond the lead.

Even without backend data, I intuitively know I want the algorithms to:

  • Bid higher if in a Similar To audience based on-site engagement.
  • Bid higher if Google buckets them into an In Market: Enterprise Software bucket.
  • Bid higher for those who work at enterprise companies.
  • Bid higher for those located in San Francisco, CA.
  • Bid lower if they work at a small company.

Translating that into value rules looks something like this:

value rules on google ads exampleScreenshot from Google Ads, December 2021

With value rules, you can use tools like Google Ads Data Insights along with findings pulled from LinkedIn Detailed Demographics reports, first-party personas, and customer data to tell the algorithms to serve ads to those prospects of higher quality.

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Wrapping Things Up

Integrating first-party data to inform audience building and bidding should be at the top of your priority list.

Incorporating backend conversion data via OCT can be challenging, but it is a worthy endeavor to strive toward.

Remember these methods when improving lead quality without using OCT while you lay the groundwork for direct data passback.

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Featured Image: Brovko Serhii/Shutterstock




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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.

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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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