Whether on Google, Bing, Amazon or other search engines: organic and paid results compete equally for the user's attention on the search result pages, implicating obviously that search engine optimization (SEO) and advertising (SEA) should be thought of holistically.
From the point of view of Wolfgang Schilling, founder and managing director of ad agents GmbH, a service provider for digital marketing, there are three scenarios in the use of holistic search marketing, which he explains using the example of the Google world.
But before discussing strategic considerations, he sheds light on the interactions between the two marketing disciplines: both SEA managers and SEO consultants are interested in powerful websites with content that optimally meets the needs of the user, and both sides bring complementary skills, knowledge and experience to achieve this goal, but the perspectives differ.
- SEO – content creation for search engines and users
The production of website content is the responsibility of SEO that focuses on building a page in such a way that it can be found by search engines and appears as high as possible on the search results page for relevant terms. The hard SEO currency is organic ranking. How good a page really is from an SEO point of view only becomes apparent after several months. It takes about half a year for the website to reach its full performance. Only then can it be reliably evaluated how the search engine evaluates the page, where the page ranks organically and whether it needs to be improved. Regarding user experience, which is closely linked to organic success, a SEO manager can use Google Analytics / Google Tag Manager, where quality information such as length of stay, bounce rate, scroll depth and click behavior of site visitors can be viewed, providing some hints whether the user’s needs are being met on the website or not.
- SEA – high-performance keywords and landing pages
SEA specialists try to provide users with concrete answers to their search queries and to satisfy their needs. In order to evaluate the relevance of the landing page and thus also the user experience, Google Ads offers the SEA manager some useful guidelines you should consider: At the keyword level, Google Ads indicates whether the user experience is below average, average or above average. If the user experience with the landing page is rated below average by Google, then it should be optimized, or a more suitable website should be linked. According to Google, the landing page experience is an estimate of how relevant and useful the landing page is to the user who clicks on an ad. Google does not reveal exactly which components it is calculated from. However, the search engine provides clues, for example, it takes into account whether the content of the landing page matches the advertised keyword. Usability elements and loading times also play a role. In short, the landing page experience is a useful metric to rank the accessibility and quality of a landing page in relation to a particular keyword. Not to mention that the user experience is an indication that also helps the SEO team with page optimization – long before the success of a page can be reliably evaluated via the ranking. Because the better the content of a page is tailored to specific user needs, the higher the likelihood of a better user experience and a higher quality score, which in turn can have a positive effect on the click costs in search engine advertising.
All parties benefit from strong websites: the organic ranking (SEO), the performance of campaigns (SEA) and especially the user. The interactions mentioned result in three strategies for holistic search marketing.
- Standing out with strong SEA & SEO
With strategically important keywords, it makes sense to show presence in both the organic and the paid ranking as users won’t be able to ignore the brand's offer and competition is defied. That’s certainly an ideal scenario, which unfortunately takes time (resources in SEO) and money (advertising budget in SEA). However, as described, both measures can benefit from each other and achieve better results more quickly in holistic processing than in isolated execution.
- SEA cost savings through strong SEO
In the second scenario, SEA costs can be saved for keywords where a brand has a strong organic ranking. The idea behind this is that the paid traffic shifts to the prominent, organic entry, which is an exciting thought, but unfortunately not always feasible, since competitors can siphon off users via paid entries. Because the belief that users consciously avoid paid results and wait for the first organic entry usually does not stand up to harsh reality. Especially in the mobile area, organic results are increasingly found “below the fold”, requiring scrolling to find the first organic entry. The convenience causes many users to avoid this and click on the ads – especially since searchers probably do not even know the difference between paid and organic listings.
- Rapid market launch of new topics and pages
It usually takes several months for new pages to develop their full SEO power and have a chance of gaining top positions. This can be too long if a company wants to communicate an important, current topic, but could be white spots, e.g., topics for which there is high demand but little competition on the search engines. Large brands in particular can benefit here, as they can displace small domains that already deal with the topic due to the trust of their pages.
The monitoring of SEO and SEA rankings naturally takes place using different tools. In the Google cosmos, for example, SEOs work with the Search Console to monitor organic success, the SEA specialists, on the other hand, use Google Ads. To bring both results together, and to keep an eye on the rankings efficiently, new solutions are needed, and one option is to export the data via an API interface. SEA and SEO key figures are then combined and visualized, for example, using Google Data Studio. In this way, the results can be quickly viewed on automated dashboards and connections can be tracked without constantly switching back and forth between the two systems. Because with all the advantages that arise from the holistic approach, the coordination work between SEO and SEA teams obviously also costs time. Which brings us back to the initial question of whether holistic search marketing is worthwhile – and the answer is yes. However, how the benefit is reflected for companies depends heavily on the respective situation: depending on the objective, companies can expand their dominance on search engine search results pages, improve overall visibility across all product areas or even allocate budgets more efficiently.
However, it is questionable whether, in times when organic results on mobile devices are increasingly shifting "below the fold", SEA should be avoided for cost reasons. It usually makes more sense to combine the skills and knowledge from both departments to achieve optimal results in each case. If we combine our knowledge and reliable data from both disciplines to achieve the common goal, the result is an optimal user experience. Holistic search marketing then leads to high-quality pages and campaigns that satisfy a clear user need – which has a positive effect on the organic rankings and the performance of the SEA campaigns.
By Daniela La Marca