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Total Search Marketing Optimization: Testing Paid vs. Organic Search


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This presentation on search engine marketing (SEM) testing scenarios looks at how you can structure a test across the search marketing funnel. In particular, it focuses on the interactions between paid search (PPC) and natural search (SEO) as well as multi-touch/cross-program attribution. Key takeaway: integrate your search engine marketing (SEM) programs in order to realize more efficiency in spending and greater insights into customer behavior and total marketing impact.

Presented as part of Vanessa Fox's "Demystifying Online Attribution" panel at SMX Advanced 2010 in Seattle on June 8, 2010.

You can learn more about Jonathon Colman at

Published in: Technology, Business

Total Search Marketing Optimization: Testing Paid vs. Organic Search

  1. Demystifying Online AttributionTOTAL SEARCHOPTIMIZATION Jonathon D. Colman Internet Marketing Program Manager Natural Search Engine Optimization (SEO) REI – Recreational Equipment, Inc.
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  7. Barriers to progress in search marketing1. Marketing programs that operate in silos  Doesn’t allow for sharing customer insights, tools, reporting  Cannibalization of results, diminished impact of the whole  Leads to duplicate, incomplete work and unproductive competition2. Giving credit where credit is due  Last-click analysis lessens cross-program collaboration, effectiveness  Delays insights into customer behavior in the “media mix”3. Advertising costs  No budget can support CPCs that increase without limit  Takes budget away from other strategic programs, new opportunities8
  8. Solution: a Total Search Optimization strategyBy integrating your search marketing programs, you will:  Drive sustainable traffic and sales  Gain insight into customer behavior over multiple visits  Save budget for other strategic efforts and new opportunitiesBut wait – there’s more!  Test for efficiency in paid placements  Test for priorities in non-paid optimization  Increase competitive advantage9
  9. Total Search Test #1 of 3: Correlation between paid and natural search10
  10. Results of a controlled paid search “surge” Traffic Time Paid Search11
  11. Results of a controlled paid search “surge” Traffic Test: Increase paid search spending on top-of-funnel Time keywords to drive more Paid Search awareness and traffic.12
  12. Results of a controlled paid search “surge” Traffic Time Paid Search Natural Search13
  13. Results of a controlled paid search “surge” Hypothesis: No impact on natural search. Traffic Time Paid Search Natural Search14
  14. Results of a controlled paid search “surge” Traffic Time Paid Search Natural Search15
  15. Results of a controlled paid search “surge” Results: Increase in natural search traffic. Traffic Time Paid Search Natural Search16
  16. Correlation test methodologyHypotheses  Increased spend at top of the funnel will bring customers back for direct response  No impact on natural searchResults  Significant lift in natural search traffic  Sustained natural search increase after advertising spend returned to nominal levelsNext steps, additional testing  Analyze customer intent of natural search visits  Conduct additional targeted spends at top-of-funnel  Tip: Leverage internal political “pull” of paid search program to GTD17
  17. Total Search Test #2 of 3: Subtractive placement in paid search18
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  20. Opportunity: You own 50% of center-column real estate above the fold. Test: Reduce spending to determine if non-paid programs will see lift.21
  21. Subtractive placement test methodologyHypotheses  Savings realized from reducing maximum CPC  Increased traffic in non-paid programs  Question: Enough sales to make up for lost revenue?  Question: Lower qualification of visitors?Results  Not enough traffic or sales to make up for lost revenue  Significant drop in conversion when using only non-paid programsNext steps, additional testing  Test greater variety of seasonal terms across the funnel  Test additional levels of cost reduction/paid search ad positioning  Tip: Optimize natural search snippets to drive greater conversion22
  22. Total Search Test #3 of 3: Additive placement in natural search23
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  25. Opportunity: You have the top paid search ad and it’s high ROI, but still spendy. Test: Increase natural search visibility to realize cost savings in paid search.26
  26. Additive placement test methodologyHypotheses  Increased natural search traffic, decreased cost in paid searchResults  iCrossing study shows +53% lift in total clicks when a brand appears in both top paid and natural resultsNext steps, additional testing  Target seasonal terms across the funnel where ad costs are high and non-paid listings are invisible  Test messaging of high-conversion paid search experiences for use in natural search page content  Test ROAS of adding paid search ads for high-performing natural search terms without paid search coverage  Tip: Track lift in natural search impressions, CTR for test terms in Google Webmaster Tools27
  27. Key takeaways of Total Search testing strategy Integrate your search marketing programs Optimize spending for cross-program efficiency Measure results across paid and non-paid search programs Reapply saved budget to strategic initiatives, testing Impress your boss, take a long weekend, and go camping28
  28. Many thanks!Let’s continue learning together: • E-mail: • Twitter: @jcolman • Web site: 2929