Katharina Scholtz

Aaron Wall on Holistic SEM

by Katharina Scholtz


Aaron Wall of SEO Book.com.Search guru Aaron Wall of SEO Book.com is back on GottaQuirk to answer some questions. Our own search fundis - Heidi, Shaun and Suzan - were given the chance to pick his brain on the topic of running a holistic SEM campaign. Enjoy! 

What is the number one mistake clients/people make when integrating PPC and SEO campaigns?

The biggest mistake is that they try to use the same pages for all the queries. Your PPC pages should be conversion oriented, but if your market is competitive you may need to create some informational pages and market them to be able to rank against some of the top competitors.

There is a view that a client's SEO and PPC campaigns should be carried out by two separate agencies. Especially if they are a client with a large budget and who require specialised expertise in each area. What are your views on this?

I think you can learn a lot from each…SEO helps you find longtail PPC keywords, PPC helps you determine what areas to focus your SEO efforts on. If they are both done by external teams then someone internally should have the job of trying to integrate the feedback from each to ensure market knowledge in one helps drive the other.
Some new tools like http://www.google.com/sktool/ make it easy to get a glimpse of what is going on, but the more informed each party is about your conversion data and what is working well for you, the better they will be able to help you achieve your goals.

How do you go about measuring ROI on an integrated SEM campaign, when there are so many different elements to it? If Social Media generates traffic or augments SEM campaigns, should it be factored into ROI calculations?

On our blog Peter Da Vanzo recently focussed on how hard it is to calculate the value of Social Media. I think the best way to look at Social Media is to think of it in terms of link generation and how much ranking boost those links might give your site. By looking at it in this manner you focus on the aspects that are a bit more concrete and chalk up any branding benefits as a free bonus.

Calculating the value of link is a non-trivial engagement, but once you know the value of a top ranking and survey the competition using a tool like SearchStatus you should have a good idea of how strong the competition is and what you need to do to get to the top.

Should your PPC and SEO efforts overlap and focus on the same key phrases or should there be a clear division?

Many of the keywords certainly should overlap, but there can be significant deviations as well.

If a keyword is too competitive for you to compete with in organic search but profitable on PPC you should go after it. As an example, filters like geo-modifiers make it easy for local businesses to buy some of the generic keywords that they could never compete for in organic search.

The opposite is also true. If a PPC keyword is too expensive for you to compete because only 10% or 20% of people searching for it are interested in your offer, you can still go after that keyword in organic search. Using negative keywords in PPC helps you filter out some irrelevant traffic, but with organic search you don’t need to do that…a 1 in 5 chance of being relevant that is still free is worth going after.

Building a lot of content helps you rank for a wide array of keywords that might not be worth the effort of targeting and managing in PPC. Some of the better keywords can be fed across, but in a recent Google post Google wrote that 20% of their search queries are queries they have not seen in the last 90 days. You can’t access all that traffic with PPC unless you are using a savvy combination of phrase match, broad match and negative keywords.

Once a site has a strong presence on the organic SERPs for specific phrases, does it make sense to continue running a PPC campaign on these phrases?

Absolutely. Even though they are near each other it is easy to think of them as different marketing distribution channels. As an on demand marketer you want to be wherever the consumer’s eyes are.

The one exception to this, as pointed out by my wife (http://ppcblog.com/is-display-advertising-getting-the-shaft/), is brand bidding on your own brand…if you are the only person bidding on your brand and you own the brand in the organic search results, it is probably more cost effective for you to manage your organic listing presentation rather than to pay Google for people that were already looking for you. Though even for your own brand a PPC campaign can make sense if you have competition in the AdWords ads or have a rushed seasonal offer you need to promote right away.

Is it worthwhile to invest time optimising for search engines besides Google given that Google has such a strong position in terms of global traffic?

I generally optimise for Google and hope to pick up the other engines as well. But if something is working particularly well in another engine and is driving nice conversions I would not ignore it. If you have an enterprise level site it might be worth looking into Yahoo! Search Submit Pro (http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/srchsb/).

What effect do you think Google's trend towards personalisation of SERPs have on how people implement a holistic approach to SEM?

I think SEO will still include components of link building and keyword research for a long time to come, but I think personalisation adds value and exposure to sites that do any of the following:

  • Frequently advertise.
  • Build brands.
  • Add community, news, conversation tools, and/or other interactive features.

Sites that exist mostly as a brochure are going to be in the hurt locker.

Do you think search engine marketers put themselves at any disadvantage by using and allowing Google Analytics and benchmarking (i.e. making that information available to Google)? Do you know how many people or what percentage of websites now use Google Analytics?

I have no idea what percent of people are using Google Analytics. They keep adding features that make it more tempting to try (like their advanced segmentation http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2008/10/google-analytics-releases-advanced-segmentation.html ), but when possible I would opt away from using them. While testing it might be worth using them to gather feedback, but with Google sharing more data with the public (and your competitors) I can’t see how you win by sharing more of your data with Google.

Will SEO still be around in 10 years time? If so, how do you think it would have evolved?

I think it will become more integrated as part of the publishing and marketing process. It will not have as much value as a stand-alone field, but for decades it should have value as part of the workflow in online publishing and online marketing.

Do you see any possibility of Google adopting a Baidu model, where companies can pay to receive advantageous positions in ostensibly organic listings?

I see it being more indirect… where perhaps you can buy an ad in Google Maps or a particular Google Product Search ranking, and then have some of these sorts of universal search tools popped right into the organic results.

At the same time I see the AdWords ad units expanding where they can. A couple great examples of this are the extension of AdWords ads to include product images, while also promoting Google Checkout and the Google Merchant Search Beta test.

Some people say that SEO is an "acceptable" form of spamming the SEs. What effect do you think such "SEO spam" has on performing holistic SEM? How would Google's response to "SEO spam" influence holistic approaches to SEM in future?

I am pragmatic in my views. Everything comes down to risk and reward. I think if something has an exceptionally high ROI, is easy to do and is focused on influencing search engines then eventually the market will get regulated. This can happen in a number of ways…

The price or cost can increase (as happened with PPC click prices and the cost of domain names)
The technique can become considered black hat and thus to some degree regulated either algorithmically or manually.

There are a lot of profits in pushing the limits on some fronts, but the risks can be significantly lowered by building a direct audience and building other marketing assets like a brand. Leveraging those and adding in a bit of SEO is typically worth a lot more than having a purely mechanical approach. Those who are in the centre of social networks will have more sustained profits than those who try to game everything.

As a general rule of thumb I try not to cede any moral authority to search engines. They show ads for things like “cheat on your spouse” so I am not sure they have earned the right to be deemed morally superior. 

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