How SEO Can Lower Paid Search Budgets & Create FAQ’s
How SEO Can Lower Paid Search Budgets
Oftentimes I’m asked, “Why should I invest in paid media when I already rank in position one for many organic search results?” Well, to answer that simply, investing simultaneously in PPC and SEO can and will result in an incremental rise in your brand’s bottom line. And we have the data to prove it.
The main synergy between the two lies in monitoring two factors: advertising spends shows and rankings. Whether your goal is to lower cost per click (CPC) or increase total traffic, SERP (search engine results page) position can inform how we manage paid search ads. At our agency (ZOG Digital), our teams work without silos and integrate performance data regularly. In analyzing a few accounts further as a sample set, we began to identify a correlation larger than previously understood between ad CTR (click-through rate), organic CTR and cost per click for the keywords.
To verify the connection between organic and paid search, we tracked high-traffic keywords and their positions across both channels. While both have the innate ability to show success in their own right, our data points out each positively influences the other.
SEO and paid search need to work together
Optimal online marketing campaigns all come down to the key performance indicators. Once an SEO campaign begins, it can take time to set in and see results. Paid search’s core strength is that it allows for short-term performance with better visibility on specific queries. What binds them together is visibility on a SERP — with the right tools, marketers can influence position against competing results.
It’s no secret that SEO is more sustainable long-term, but it can take a long time before results are realized. A PPC (pay-per-click) tactic can help to offset limited SEO results at the early stages of an SEO campaign; it also informs keyword and content strategies for organic keyword targeting and content development.
With well-informed and properly implemented optimizations, organic positions will rise. Once they move up through page one, we’ve identified numerous ways in which PPC costs reduce naturally and how they can be strategically managed.
Improve CTR and decrease CPC
At ZOG Digital, we see a clear performance increase when brands employ both PPC and SEO. For example, after evaluating our book of business, we found that accounts implementing both PPC and SEO strategies saw a higher click-through rate for both organic and paid search efforts — as well as lower cost per click in paid search. Specifically, we organized the data by keywords — we have keywords with active search ads, keywords with search optimizations (organic rankings) and keywords with both active tactics.
For non-branded keywords that have both a paid and organic presence, we saw a CTR of 8.93 percent for paid search and 5.10 percent for organic search, across all positions. When we isolate the tactics, paid search CTR is 8.08 percent, while organic search sits at 4.48 percent. By just looking at those numbers, we can see that keywords with a presence on both paid and organic results yield a combined incremental CTR.
Also shown in the graph is cost per click (CPC), where paid search alone sits at an average CPC of $2.06, whereas the CPC for keywords with an organic presence sits at $1.18.
In analyzing this drop in CPC, we found that nearly all paid keywords with an organic presence had a higher Quality Score than paid keywords without an organic presence. This could occur as a result of higher CTRs from greater SERP exposure and/or richer content. It could also result from keyword relevance gained from landing pages optimized for organic search. Regardless of why PPC quality score is higher for overlapping keywords, the justification exists to apply a keyword strategy that incorporates both paid and organic tactics.
An incremental increase in CTR and reduced CPCs can certainly be beneficial, but as search marketing practitioners, the natural tendency is to do something with this data and improve performance even further. We’ve found that one of the most effective paid+organic optimizations comes from adjusting bids and ad positions based on organic visibility. This isn’t an optimization practice that can be applied to all overlapping keywords, but with some data filtering and testing, CPC costs can be reduced further.
Our team tests and analyzes ad positions against multiple organic positions on the first page; these tests have proven that competitive keywords with costly CPCs can often be efficiently targeted by reducing bids and dropping ad position when a client is ranking in the top few organic positions. This is not a blanket strategy, and keywords need to be tested, but we’ve found the best approach is focused on a balance between incrementality (clicks) and cost (CPCs).
Monitor SERP competitors closely
But it’s not enough to just monitor and synchronize your work for an account. You have to track your competitors, too. Without direct access to their analytics or ad platforms, you’ll never have a clear picture of what they’re doing, but you can estimate by manually monitoring the SERP with specific insight reports, and by using third-party tools.
Within AdWords, you can access the auction insights report. This report allows you to evaluate domains that are currently bidding on specific keywords. It provides a snapshot of your competitive landscape.
You can also use the Domain vs. Domain tool within SEMrush to analyze competitors’ search engine presence and backlinks. If you need to use this tool to get more granular, you can map out a SERP footprint to have an analysis on more specific competitors.
You’ll be able to identify relevant keywords and terms that you should consider bidding on, but it’s up to you to take that information, evaluate your own internal data and strategize on how to allocate budget.
Today, you can find FAQs on all types of websites, from local “Main Street” shops to global multinational corporations and everything in between. FAQ pages help people find answers to questions — and in doing so, can help improve customer service and the user experience.
They can also reduce the number of times a customer support person has to answer the same question over and over, freeing them up to deal with more complex questions or issues (or better yet, sales).
For small manufacturers, a general FAQ page can provide answers to standard questions such as:
- how to place an order, or if a minimum order exists.
- what credit terms are.
- how to schedule a tour of the facility.
- how shipping works (e.g., “Do you ship worldwide?”)
- what your industry certifications are (e.g., ISO.)
- how you handle custom orders or applications.
But FAQs can cover much, much more than standard business questions; they can also provide information related to products, services, and processes.
For example, doing a search for, “Metal stamping frequently asked questions,” turns up a fair number of FAQ pages for various companies, but I particularly like this one from Advantage Fabricated Metals. Their FAQ section includes seven FAQ pages relating to their processes, as you can see in Figure 1. Nice!
What my agency likes about FAQs like this is that they deliver so much value — especially with regard to content and search marketing. They can be repurposed, they can improve organic search rankings, and they can even be used in your AdWords campaigns.
Benefit #1: FAQs can be repurposed for e-newsletters, social media and more
Because they’re so easy to create, FAQ pages make fantastic cost-effective content for small manufacturers — and the reason is that they don’t require the outside expertise of a copywriter or marketer.
Since the content generation lead time is considerably shortened, you can go from concept to “live content” in a matter of hours or a day or two versus weeks or months.
What I like about FAQs pages, however, is that they can be repurposed, an important benefit for small manufacturers on tight marketing budgets.
E-newsletters. For a client that offers specialized services for metal parts, we first created content for an e-newsletter and then repurposed it into an FAQ for the website. But you can start with an FAQ web page and repurpose it into an e-newsletter article or create a brief Question/Answer blurb for the newsletter and link people to the full page.
Social media. Repurposing FAQs for social media is easy: simply take a question/answer and use it to create content specific to the platform (e.g., Twitter or LinkedIn). Don’t forget to include a link back to the FAQ page!
More detailed PDFs. While doing research for a client on a specific topic, I came across a very nicely formatted PDF from a competitor’s website. The PDF had been formatted to look like a four-page brochure and included all the FAQs, plus illustrations relevant to the topic I had been researching. The benefit of a PDF like this is that prospective buyers can save it to their desktops and/or print it out.
Posters. Whenever I walk into client work areas, I’m always surprised by the number of posters hanging around. No, not NASCAR or other sports, but posters provided by suppliers that contain useful industry information (thus they tend to hang around for a long time). Not to mention they usually also contain the supplier’s name and contact information (just saying).
You can take the information on an FAQ page, repurpose it into a poster, and then have it available on your website for download — just the way Search Engine Land does with its “What is SEO?” FAQ and Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. Or you can make the poster gated content and use it as a lead gen piece the way Neumont University does with its Elements of Technology poster. (Love this idea — so clever!)
Benefit #2: FAQ pages can help with organic search rankings
A small manufacturing client wanted to increase the company’s exposure for a specific product it manufactured. After some preliminary research, we discovered the information provided by other industry websites, including Wikipedia, was downright terrible and highly inaccurate.
Based on our findings, we created multiple FAQ pages related to the topic and grouped them together on the website. In total, we created three new FAQ pages and then linked the existing service and product pages to them and vice versa. We also used the FAQs as the basis for the monthly newsletters and content for social media.
That was back in October. Today, the company shows up for Google organic search, using the specific product phrase, at positions 5, 6 and 7 (plus a showing in the image block) and for Bing organic at positions 3 and 5. It would have been much harder to achieve these rankings with only the product page.
Because they’re so precisely focused on one topic, FAQs almost automatically “optimize” themselves for search. And because they offer useful information, they can help build links over time.
Benefit #3: FAQ pages can be used as site links for AdWords
At my agency, we don’t like seeing content serve only one purpose; so when this same client initiated their AdWords program, we used two of the FAQ pages for Sitelinks. We were pleasantly surprised to see one of the Sitelinks get clicks — in fact, it got 10 percent more than the standard RFQ Sitelink we had also included (because “everyone else had one”).
Moral: Don’t be afraid to try something new — and test everything. I’m often surprised at what works and what doesn’t for each client.
When used together, SEO and PPC move from two channels into one to help achieve clear outcomes: more qualified traffic and budgetary efficiency. As with any search marketing initiative, regular testing is required, but the results will exceed the effort, and the insights gained will help marketers consider search opportunities in new ways. FAQ pages are the unsung workhorses of content and search marketing. While any company can create FAQ pages, they’re particularly beneficial for small manufacturers because they’re easy to create and provide maximum bang for the marketing buck.
By Thomas Stern & Dianna Huff