With over 71% of B2B buying decisions starting with a Google search, it’s no wonder the marketing world is obsessed with getting to the top of search engines.

Higher rankings > More Traffic > More Leads > More Sales

Unlucky for some, ranking highly in search results pages (SERPs) in 2018 is much harder than it was 7 years ago. Algorithm updates mean quick black hat SEO hacks no longer work, and it takes time and money to rank at the top.

With this in mind, smaller companies need a way to quickly identify SEO opportunities, so they can rise through the SERPs without wasting resources on dead-end campaigns.

Using PPC to dominate SEO

Even though PPC and SEO are two parts of the same puzzle, they are seldom used in tandem. SEO departments get on with their job, PPC’ers with theirs, and the only time they talk is to discuss who gets the attribution for which lead.

Sound familiar?

The crazy thing is, all insights SEOs need to make awesome campaigns can be pulled from AdWords data. From keyword research to website flow, AdWords can be used as a tool to boost all SEO efforts. This post explores 5 ways PPC can contribute towards your SEO strategy.

Purchase intent

If you’ve ever spent time ranking a product page for a keyword that doesn’t convert any users into sales, you know the frustration. You’ve dedicated time into a SERP boost, and the only metric you have to show for it is traffic.

I’m not saying traffic is bad, but you only have a finite number of product pages, and these pages are designed to drive business. So if they aren’t then you’ve got a problem, and the issue could be that your pages are ranking for the wrong keywords.

PPC campaigns are great for quickly testing the purchase intent of keywords. For example, a company who sells landing page software may be torn between optimising their product page for two primary keywords:

Landing Page Builder vs Website Page Creator

Regardless of how similar these terms are, there’s a strong possibility that one phrase carries higher commercial intent. So before optimising your page for one of the above, run a single keyword adgroup (SKAG) in AdWords, and see which one produces the most conversions. The one which produces the most conversions is the winner, and therefore the keyword with the highest purchase intent.

With over 85% of click results being on organic results, if you can generate a good ROI from your target keywords using paid ads, then ranking highly in organic search is going to supercharge your success.  

PPC is the quickest way for SEOs to predict the financial returns of the campaigns they are about to embark on.

Boosting rankings with killer meta

It’s no secret that click-through-rate (CTR) is an important ranking Factor. Google Engineer, Paul Haahr, said so himself at a conference (kinda):

To paraphrase: RankBrain (Google’s most recent algorithm update), promotes pages which get high CTRs and demote pages which don’t. They also test low ranking pages at the top of Google, and if they achieve high CTR then they stay there.

In short, if your meta-tags are not awesome, then neither are your rankings. The problem SEOs face when writing a meta-tags for a new page is the majority of what is written is guesswork. You can look at competitors for guidance, but there is no way of knowing if you copy will receive the best possible CTR.

Again, AdWords solves this.

AdWords allows you to experiment with meta-tags and descriptions. And by continuously testing paid ad variations you are able to quickly determine which copy which is going to drive the best results.

Simply, PPC takes the guesswork out of optimising your meta-tags and gives your page the best chance to quickly jump up the rankings.

Dwell on conversions

Similar to the CTR, dwell time and user experience play a large role in how high your page ranks.

If your website solves the user’s problem, Google likes you, if it doesn’t, then goodbye page one. Rather than waiting months to see if your new organic searchers are fulfilled by your website, you can test your users’ behaviour flow using an AdWords campaign.

To do this, navigate to your Google Analytics account and go behaviour > behaviour flow.

Next, click on the drop-down and select advertising > adgroup.

 

This graph illustrates how your visitors interact with your website.

If there is a clear conversion path then chances are your SEO efforts will be successful. However, if you see a lot of red drop-offs on your landing page then it’s time rethink what your customers are actually looking for.

PPC acts as a way to expedite user experience research and allows you to make modifications to your landing pages and flow. So when you start to move up the rankings Google keeps you there, and more importantly, you turn those browsers into leads.

Long-live PPC

There’s a perception that PPC is a short-term strategy, and SEO drives results in the long term.

The problem is that Google is forever pivoting towards favouring their paid search options. Today, if you are ranking #1 in the organic search you’re still 5th from the top (at best).

Once more, B2B buying cycles are expanding as more alternatives present themselves. In fact, it’s likely the users will visit the website 3-5 times before becoming a lead.

To make sure you capture these prospects back to your site, it’s important to think about your SERP impression share. If you leverage PPC as well as SEO, you can appear twice on the same results page. Increasing the likelihood of receiving that precious click.

As mentioned earlier, organic rankings achieve 85% of the clicks, but what about the other 15%? If you integrate PPC and SEO, you are able to reach the whole market, not just part of it. It will also start to build the perception of industry authority and credibility with the searcher.

More importantly, if the worst does happen and Google decides to drop your organic rankings, at least you have a fallback. While PPC isn’t a simple beast, it’s far easier to get your ads shown than it is to climb and retain the top organic spot.

Think of PPC as your security blanket.

The PPC conspiracy theory

Now, what I’m about to say has never been proven, but is something I’ve noticed.

*audience holds breath…*

The better your AdWords campaigns perform, the better your organic search rankings are.

More specifically, when my PPC conversions increase, my lower ranking pages seem to rise through the SERPs.

It could be a coincidence, but it appears Google wants to reward those sites who are performing well on their paid medium. And it makes sense – if my website is showing relevancy for paid users, why wouldn’t it be the same for organic ones?

That’s one theory.

The other is, that whilst optimising my web pages using the AdWords data my site’s dwell time improved and better matched the intent of my visitors. Consequently raising my SEO results.

Either way, I’m not the first to nice this. Moz recently released a video which suggests that, much like PPC, SEO also has a quality score. And seeing as over 60% of Google’s algorithm is a complete mystery to the everyday marketer, I’d be surprised if SEO didn’t receive any data from its paid-counterpart.

While it’s not set in stone, creating well performing PPC campaigns could be buying you good grace from the Google Gods.

Conclusion

The 2018 SEO game isn’t a quick or easy one. But RankBrain is on a mission to reward those going about it properly.

Instead of wasting time, and going after top rankings for keywords that won’t impact your bottom-line, test your SEO campaign in AdWords first. This will quickly give you an indication of how successful your SEO campaign will be, and allow you to plug any fundamental issues with your site.

If you’re looking to create a positive SEO ROI in 2018, there’s really no better way.