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Is there a perfect mix of SEO and PPC for an e-commerce website?

Wed, 12/02/2014 - 00:00

Many people approach SEO and PPC as completely separate strategies for an e-commerce website. While they are different in many ways, they are also two sides of the same coin: namely search. They should, therefore, be used in conjunction to achieve the best results.

I was recently faced with this question from a client: Is there a ‘sweet spot’ for SEO and PPC interplay/integration for an e-commerce site? I was not sure how to respond to this question, as it is something requiring a lot of testing and time. That being said, after a few hours of number crunching and data digging, I came across a few of interesting results.

When I started scratching around in Google Analytics, the first question that came to mind was whether PPC ads are redundant or simply a waste of money - if a site is ranking well organically.(By ‘ranking well’, I am referring to the top five results on page one of the SERPs ).

This is not necessarily the case.

The answer is dependent on the competitive environment that your e-commerce store is operating in. If the environment is highly competitive, it stands to reason that the keywords generating the most conversions will also be very competitive, therefore it is not a good idea to stop PPC ads when you are ranking well organically. We need to remember that Google is in constant flux with algorithm and general search updates. At any point, your competitor can increase their SEO budget, resulting in more effort used to target a particular organic keyword. This means your rankings could fall relatively easily. The absence of good rankings and PPC ads for a competitive keyword could have a negative effect on online sales for a particular product or product category. It is therefore best to run both PPC ads and an organic SEO campaign. The best mix of the two needs to be determined, though.

Furthermore, PPC ads can be ‘switched on’ at any point. In the unfortunate situation where organic rankings to drop, you can re-introduce PPC ads for that particular keyword or ad campaign. In this situation, the e-commerce site can stop PPC ads when they are ranking well organically for a particular keyword. If organic rankings begin to drop, they can simply introduce the PPC ad again.

Another question that came to mind was whether an e-commerce site should run branded PPC ads for their business. This question has two answers, depending on the brand awareness of the site or company, as well as the available budget.

One thing to keep in mind is that your e-commerce website will always rank well for branded search queries.

Secondly, conversions from branded traffic are generally far higher than non-branded searches as the user knows what they are looking for. So taking this into account, if your site has strong brand awareness, you are likely to receive a large number of branded queries though Google. Because your brand will rank well, your site will be in the top three positions organically.

The question is then, is it worth it to have PPC ads running for branded terms? Are you wasting advertising money by doing this?

There are many factors that should be taken into account when trying to answer this question, however I am only going to look at competitors. If your competitors are bidding on your brand as a keyword so that their ad will appear above yours, then yes, it is a good idea to bid on brand. If this is not the case and you have a small PPC budget, then it is not necessary for you to bid on brand. However, if you have a larger budget and are not too comfy disabling the brand ads completely, then I would recommend that you reallocate more of your budget to non-branded ads and see if this makes a difference to the monthly figures. By reallocating budget, you will be able to test the different combinations of organic SEO, branded and non-branded PPC ads.

At the end of this exercise, I was not able to come up with an exact formula for integration between PPC and SEO, but I was able to advise my client by looking at their industry and competitive environment only. Now they will go through the testing phase to see which combination work better and, hopefully, I will be able to report back with a full theory once the results are in!

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