SEO and SEA channels are key components in the digital marketing mix for most companies, but there is often a lack of a joint marketing strategy.
The SEA manager doesn’t know what his SEO colleagues do, and vice versa. Is it the same for you? Then you are now faced with the challenge of linking these topics together!
In our first Full Search article, “SEO & SEA synergy: myth or reality” by Elodie Descatoire and Thomas Quélin, the topic of Full Search is broken down into the aspects of marketing analysis, technical analysis and performance analysis, giving the reader a simple introduction to the topic. Building on this, this article presents concrete use cases that give an idea of how Full Search can be approached operationally in day-to-day work.
In the first step, this article deals with the delimitation of the SEO and SEA channels and how they can be profitably combined in a full search approach. Through detailed Full Search Use Cases, various use cases are then presented in which the disadvantages of one channel are offset by the advantages of the other and ultimately resources and budget are used efficiently.
Differences between the channels SEO & SEA
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Advertising (SEA), are clearly distinguished from each other. However, since both take place in the search results pages (SERPs), it always makes sense to consider them together.
The paid SEA ads marked as such by the reference “ad”. Shopping ads also contain this type of designation. The ad placement is done according to the auction system with billing, which works via a cost-per-click method. Thus, the advertiser incurs costs for each click on the ads.
SEA measures can create short-term visibility for a domain, which can be seen in the form of SEA ads above the organic search results in the direct visual field of users.
They can create additional value for users through special ad extensions. Moreover, SEA managers have extensive control over texts and ad extensions. Dedicated analyses of individual campaigns, ads or keywords are possible.
The area under SEA ads includes the so-called organic search results. These can be displayed in different variants. Either as a normal search result, also called a snippet, as a rich snippet or as a featured snippet. The placement of the organic snippets is determined by the ranking of the URL for the searched keyword. The ranking position of the URL is influenced by several factors that can change with each Google algorithm update. Just like SEA, the SEO channel has its own advantages. A SEO-optimized website brings with it increased visibility in the long term through better findability in the SERPs, as well as resulting website traffic. Users who are skepticals about ads or do not see them due to an ad blocker also click in organic search.
Full Search Approach
Although both channels, SEO and SEA, take place in the search results and offer answers to users’ search queries, in reality, they are often considered separately.
However, there is great potential here to fully exploit the advantages and disadvantages of each channel through a joint strategic orientation in the form of a full search approach.
A full search approach considers both areas hand in hand, thus ensuring optimal coverage of the SERPs and thereby creating increased visibility and stronger performance with efficient use of budget.
Figure 1: SEO and SEA hand in hand: Optimal SERP coverage and creating visibility and performance require a strong full search approach
Why do we need a full search approach?
In practical use, there is often an overlap of the optimisation approaches and increased use of budget and resources, as the channels are optimized separately. Due to the separate optimisation of both areas, it is quite possible that SEO and SEA managers optimize the same keywords and that resources and budget are not optimally used.
By combining both channels into a full search approach, optimisations can be realized in the short, medium and long term.
Due to increasing competitive pressure and rising CPCs in SEA, it is also becoming more and more necessary to use the budget as efficiently as possible. Therefore, a full search approach should be used.
Full Search Use Cases
Full search use cases can be found everywhere along the customer journey. Depending on the funnel step, different cases can be used, which users can encounter in different phases of the customer journey. In the following, some use cases and solutions are described that underline the importance of a full search approach.
An improvement in visibility is to be achieved through the use of coordinated SEO and SEA measures. The aim is to present one’s own company as prominently as possible in the search results pages on Google. This can be achieved through the so-called multi-listing effect, in which the company appears in the Google Ads section and the organic search results. The multiple listing of the brand increases brand perception and leads to increased customer trust in the brand. This case is used particularly often for brand keywords.
For the SEA channel, it is advisable to bid on one’s own brand, because, in addition to the advantages already mentioned, such as the high-quality impression of the brand and the trust, the competition prevents being present in the ads solely for these relatively cheap and at the same time high-traffic keywords to intercept users. In addition, the conversion probability is higher when users search directly for a brand, which also speaks in favor of bidding on one’s own brand.
In the SEO channel, it is more difficult to position oneself for top rankings for generic keywords. Ranking for brand keywords often happens automatically and rarely requires a targeted brand strategy. For both channels, this case for improving visibility in the SERPs is relatively easy and inexpensive to implement and therefore forms the cornerstone of a full search strategy.
Testing meta data in SEA
SEO optimisations of metadata such as title and description always go hand in hand to improve the organic ranking, strengthening the website’s traffic and ideally increasing the conversion rate. Since crawling and indexing of the changes to the content by Google do not take place immediately, but always takes some time, the content should not be changed too frequently. The development of the performance can also take a few days so it is not possible to determine directly whether the optimisations have the expected positive influence.
To ensure that changes to metadata lead to a performance uplift, short-term tests can be carried out in SEA in advance. Based on the results, it is then evaluated whether an adjustment of the metadata in SEO makes sense.
To start the implementation, the text modules are defined in the testing phase, taking into account character restrictions. Then suitable ad groups with sufficient traffic volume and a test period are selected. Subsequently, A/B testing in the form of ad variations is created, which are evaluated in terms of CTR and other engagement KPIs.
By using this full search case, thanks to the cooperation of both channels, an established decision can be made as to when the implementation of new metadata in SEO makes sense and when the expected performance uplift will fail to materialize.
Efficiently prepare content for featured snippets
A comprehensive full-search strategy includes identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the individual channels to develop targeted measures for successful marketing. The recently rolled out Google Helpful Content Update once again underlines the importance of high-quality content that meets the users’ search intent. Especially with information-driven search queries, the SEA channel often reaches its limits, while the SEO channel can perform at its best here. The third Full Search Case pursues the goal of eliminating the weaknesses of the SEA channel through targeted optimisations in SEO with regard to information-driven search queries so that companies are present in the SERPs for all types of search queries if possible and can thus cover all phases of the customer journey.
(What, Where, Why, Who) questions are often not or only partially covered by SEA measures, but are all the more frequently answered in the SERPs in the form of featured snippets. With featured snippets, Google has developed a way to offer information in the SERPs in many different ways. These highlighted snippets can, for example, play out answers to questions directly in the SERPs as so-called position zeros. These can be displayed in the form of text, videos, lists and tables. For your website to be considered for featured snippets, the content should be prepared accordingly. The relevant topics can be identified through keyword research and then created as content in the form of questions and answers. For Google to display the content as a featured snippet, the questions should be marked as H-tags and the answers should be short and concise. In addition to continuous texts, key points and tables are also suitable as content formats.
Information-driven search queries are not uncommon for products or services that require explanation. This full search approach is therefore particularly suitable for early phases in the customer journey that is not yet conversion-oriented. If the user is already in the conversion phase, the search queries can be answered by targeted SEA ads.
SEO and SEA landing pages
This Full Search Case also deals with the different types of search queries and their relevance within the funnel steps of the customer journey. As the previous case made clear, channels can serve different types of search queries better or worse. This full search case aims to pick up users more efficiently by using separate and continuously optimized SEO and SEA landing pages and to fulfill their expectations and search intentions in the best possible way.
While SEO covers informational search queries, in particular, SEA is best suited for conversion-oriented queries. This should also be reflected on the landing pages. SEO landing pages are characterized by informative pages that are useful for users who are still in the orientation phase. The use of questions ((What, Where, Why, Who) and explanatory content is well suited for SEO landing pages and the use of featured snippets in the SERPs. SEA landing pages, on the other hand, are more transactional and contain less detailed information. The aim here is to lead the user as close as possible to the conversion and only highlight the most important USPs once again. The SEA landing pages should therefore only serve keywords that are clearly conversion-oriented. The SEO landing page should rank for all other keywords in the SERPs. When using SEO and SEA landing pages in parallel, you should make sure not to engage in keyword cannibalisation. For this purpose, SEA landing pages should be provided with a “noindex-tag” so that no organic ranking can take place.
This full search case ensures a higher conversion rate in the long term, a sustainable improvement of the ad rank and a more efficient use of the media budget.
Support website relaunch with SEA ads
While the previous cases focused on keyword strategy, the customer journey and content, the following full search case deals with the specific application of a relaunch. A website relaunch is always accompanied by opportunities and risks. The moved content needs to be crawled and indexed by Google again, which can lead to short-term performance and ranking losses in SEO. This full search case aims to temporarily compensate for these relaunch-related performance losses by using SEA campaigns to prevent losses in visibility and efficiency. In the case that SEA measures have already been taken, the initial effort is rather low. By increasing the budget and booking additional keywords, support can be provided in the short term. If no SEA measures have been taken so far, the initial effort is higher and requires more preparation time.
Full Search Dashboard
Monitoring is essential so that the measures taken can be evaluated and adjusted. The goal of the last full search case is therefore to create a correctly designed tracking system, to define the right KPIs and conversion goals, and to use cross-channel measurement to monitor performance. For a comprehensive view and evaluation of the performance, the use of a holistic full search dashboard is recommended. In addition to data from the Google Search Console, the Google Ads report “Paid and Organic” can form a solid basis for good data comparison.
The impact of the listed Full Search Use Cases as well as further measures can be made visible and measurable over time within the dashboard. Depending on the use and target group of the dashboard, the KPIs should be decided individually.
Conclusion of the Full Search Cases
The six cases showed how much potential is contained in a full search approach and how many low-hanging fruits can be fetched here. Be it the improvement of visibility through multi-listing effects, metadata for pre-testing in SEA, optimized content for the use of featured snippets, separate SEO and SEA landing pages for better matching of search intent, SEA ads that support website relaunches, or cross-channel measurement for monitoring performance in a full search dashboard.
The cases presented address different topics, but pursue a common goal. It is about recognising the potential of the channels and integrating them specifically into a full-search strategy. The joint full-search strategy also avoids cannibalisation between SEO and SEA.
To be able to use the potential, an internal awareness must be created that there is more than just one’s own channel. Do the SEO and SEA managers in your company talk to each other? Are strategies aligned or is a joint strategy being pursued? If not, the first step should be to create awareness of the other channel and encourage communication and exchange. Looking beyond your own channel and uncovering new synergy opportunities are the foundations of a successful marketing strategy.
Implementing a full-search strategy not only ensures the further development of employees in terms of new skills across their own channel, but also brings very clear benefits for companies such as increasing the efficiency of campaigns and minimizing costs in the marketing mix. Review your internal processes and your marketing strategy and start your journey for a full search approach!