Posted October 30, 2006 10:30 am by with 2 comments

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By Y.M. Ousley

Every day, lots of search marketers make easily correctible mistakes that cost them time, traffic and conversions. This mistake is usually summed up in one of two ways: “I don’t bother with _____” or “______ is too expensive/time consuming/difficult to understand.â€?

Depending on your area of preference, that statement might conclude with PPC, SEO or Social Media. If you’re a whiz at managing paid search campaigns, an expert at obtaining top rankings in natural search results, or a MySpace marketing maverick, I’m not suggesting you change your primary focus – that would just be foolish. Even more of a mistake than abandoning your area of expertise for the hot new marketing trend though, is developing tunnel vision and ignoring the impact other marketing trends can have on your work.

The PPC Mistake

There are some people who swear by the power of paid search for good reason. As far as ROI is concerned, there are few media types that can hold a candle to the conversions a properly optimized paid search campaign delivers. Once you figure out which keywords convert best and which ads attract the most clicks, you’re often looking at customer acquisition costs that are significantly lower than those of banner advertising, pop-up ads or other paid placement options. “But I get all the free targeted traffic I can shake a stick at through natural SEO,” you may say. Here’s why you should still bother with paid search listings: they can improve your natural results and bring even more free traffic. “There’s no relationship between paid ads and organic listings though- the search engines told me so!” I’m telling you that’s not completely true.

Correcting the mistake:

Many SEO campaigns start with a visit to Overture’s keyword suggestion tool, or Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery when more extensive reports are needed. For a few savvy search optimizers, that’s not where keyword research ends. Before you start creating content or begging, borrowing and stealing ideas for getting more links, set up a PPC campaign in Google AdWords. Yahoo campaigns take longer to set up and don’t allow for the amount of testing that AdWords does, and while they have promising tools, right now MSN doesn’t have the volume to get results quickly. The first step towards improving your SEO campaigns with PPC is to take your keyword list and create ads based around them.

Let’s say I’m optimizing, a site that sells a wide variety of oranges. So far my keyword research has shown that Florida oranges, California oranges, organic oranges and blood oranges are popular search terms. I create ads for each term that look something like this:

Fresh Florida Oranges

Juicy, ripe Florida oranges

in stock and ready to ship

Cheap Florida Oranges

Only 10 cents for the freshest

Florida oranges online

John’s Florida Oranges

Delicious oranges online

with free shipping

The next step is to include the conversion tracking code AdWords provides on your confirmation page. In this case it could be a sales confirmation page. For sites that don’t utilize a shopping cart, it could be a confirmation page someone receives after signing up for a newsletter or updates. If your landing page doesn’t have an action for a visitor to take, create one.

Once that’s in place, and bids have been set, it’s time to let the ads loose. 24 hours is usually enough time to get initial results in, 3 to 5 days generally gives enough information to draw conclusions. Which keywords are receiving the most clicks? Which ads are most popular? These can all provide valuable insight for your natural SEO campaign. Let’s say according to our initial keyword research, Florida oranges were more popular than California oranges. After running an AdWords campaign for a few days though, we saw that people who clicked on ads for California oranges ads were more likely to actually make a purchase. Further investigation shows that the Fresh California Oranges ad received more conversions than any of the other ads. From this test, we’ve learned a little bit more about John’s target market. They’re more interested in freshness than price, and more likely to look for California oranges.

While there’s no harm in targeting other phrases (unless the traffic, clicks and conversion stunk), it helps to prioritize the phrases you focus on. From this PPC test, you would know that time would be best spent creating content around California oranges, and linking to that content, since that’s where you received the best conversion rate. You’d also know that the content should focus on the quality of the oranges, rather than pricing or John’s website. When writing your META descriptions, you could include a statement about how fresh John’s Florida oranges are. So even if you end up at #4 instead of #1, your description that pinpoints the customers you want could be more valuable than that site at number one that gets every Tom, Dick and Mary looking for Florida oranges. Thus your optimization efforts go beyond increased traffic, to increased traffic that converts well.

For social media campaigns, you now have proprietary information on what people are searching for, what they click on, and what prompts them to take action. Instead of chasing the bargain hunters that don’t buy anything, why not organize a group on your favorite social networking site for Fresh Orange Fanatics? Or maybe an article abut keeping oranges fresh during shipment would get bookmarked and attract new visitors. How about a competition for the best Fresh Orange recipe, where the winner is selected by traffic or votes? Think of the time you’d be wasting if you were going after the Cheap Orange crowd.

Try this for your next SEO or SMO campaign and discover what a few marketers already know: PPC can and should help your organic listings and social marketing.

The SEO Mistake

To read this portion of the article, please visit

[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If you’d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]