SEO, PPC or Both? Search Strategies for Small Business
SEO, PPC, Remarketing, Local SEO, etc… How do you decide as a small business owner?
SEO and PPC are different tactics with different goals and different strengths. They work best when they work together. And yet, if your budget is limited it’s important that you make a strategic decision about which, when, and for how long.
Understand The Buyer’s Journey from Research to Purchase
Buyers go through specific stages in looking for a product or a service en route to becoming a customer. The first stage is usually “awareness” in which they begin to see the problem and define the search. They then move to a general research effort aimed at understanding the range of solutions. Buyers identify the competing products and services vying for attention. Finally, they will narrow down the field, selecting one direction, or another.
This is the buyer’s journey, or “buyer’s funnel.” Many more people visit your site than buy. The largest numbers enter any site while in the research stage, at the top of the funnel. During this phase, prospects will cast a wide net. As they get closer to a decision, fewer numbers come back to your site. Some have selected other solutions and some have changed their minds. Your challenge is twofold: Bring more people in at the top of the funnel, and widen the funnel. I.e. get more traffic, and turn more of them into buyers.
Conversion rates are low at the top of the funnel as visitors are just gathering information with broad searches.
In the middle of the funnel, visitors dive deeper, looking for specific solutions. Search terms are longer and more specific. They may use more specific geographic terms, and more descriptive industry keywords. They are looking for a match, or a small set of prospective matches.
Conversion are highest at the bottom of the funnel, where they are ready to make a decision with their wallets open. Ready to connect, or buy, or fill out an RFQ, a contact request, or even to pick up a phone and call. At this point, most visitors come directly to your site, no longer via search or social. Those who do, may now be using your name or some variant of it, in their search terms, or very exact keywords. They may include phrases that describe their preferred price range (especially for commodity products), or color, or size, or some exact industrial application, and so on. There is little room for doubt at this stage.
Speak to Users throughout the Journey
How wide is your funnel? What’s the ratio of visitors to buyers or leads? What is your conversion rate? If it’s less than 2% there is a lot of room for improvement.
Is your conversion rate strong, but your traffic minimal? Do you have a wide funnel but are not attracting enough early-stage searchers at the top?
You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses to understand how best to leverage SEO, PPC, and Remarketing. The goal is to connect and engage with individuals at each of the possible touch points along the way. This could prove more valuable than just focusing on the final step of conversion.
Map – Map your content to the visitors’ journeys. Does your site speak to people in each of these stages? Do you have any obvious content gaps? If so, then you also have a content opportunity! If you don’t take advantage of it, your competitors will, if they aren’t already. Determine how best to reach people in each of these stages and to get your content “out there.” What are competitor sites doing that you can do better?
Engage – How do you engage with your site visitors? How many come back? How many visit only once? How many sign up for your email newsletter (you do have one, don’t you?)? How many go to your blog and social media sites?
Search Strategies in a Nutshell
Use each of these techniques based on your site’s gaps and opportunities. Ensure you have rich content for each type of searcher. Use multiple methods of capturing their attention and staying top of mind. Provide ads and landing pages for each stage of the journey. Guide them through the process with general content that leads to more specific content and provide clear calls-to-action along the way.
Most importantly, when you use SEO and PPC together, both are strengthened. The majority of clicks are always on the organic listings. When you appear in both, you appear more authoritative and improve the odds of generating more targeted visitors.
SEO, while not free, is more everlasting. The content you create, the pages you develop, the rank you earn, will remain strong — as long as your competitors don’t do better!
PPC is easy to focus, easy to flip on and off again as needed. Use it to get a leg up while your organic ranking is still growing. Use branded PPC to stay top of mind and support the decision making process among those who know of you already. Design PPC landing pages and quality content to compete with larger companies, for specific keywords. Use PPC simply because 20-30% of all clicks are on the paid ads! Don’t leave that space for your competition.
Here’s a handy table showing the relative strengths of a few typical search strategies.
|SEO||Site optimization for organic search results||Broadly, this is great for pulling people in to the top of funnel. Free clicks but require ongoing SEO effort.|
|Local SEO||Optimization for local or geographic searches (eg. “laser printers bohemia ny”, “car insurance hicksville ny”)||If your market is local, then your SEO should be as well!|
|Long Tail SEO||Optimization around long, specific search phrases (eg. “high speed color laser printers” vs. “printers”)||Focus on very long, specific keywords, to aim for searches farther down the funnel! Remember, their search phrases get longer and more specific as they get closer to a purchase decision.|
|PPC||Paid search ads (Pay per Click), in Google AdWords, or Bing ads, and similar.||Gets you to 1st page right away. Can target specific keyword searches, in specific areas, at specific times, and so on. Craft your ads carefully, and you’ll find you can display calls to action to the right people at all levels of the buyers’ journey. Very effective but need to monitor costs per conversion.|
|Remarketing||PPC banner and text ads that enable you to reach out to visitors who already visited your site. The ads “follow them.”||Aimed at self-selected individuals – those have already visited your site. Stay top of mind as they travel step by step deeper into the funnel and visit competing sites. You will be remembered as they approach a purchase decision. Everyone should do this!|
|Similar Audiences||An extension of remarketing – Shows your banners to individuals Google determines to be demographically similar to your site visitors.||Brilliant! Great for advancing brand recognition among people who are likely to find your product or solution relevant.|
|Branded PPC||A PPC campaign bidding on your branded keywords, company or product name.||Very similar in effect to Remarketing and Similar Audiences Remarketing. These will be inexpensive and not very competitive. But you will offer another point of entry, and own the search results real estate for searches based on your name. Everyone should do this too!|
Use PPC and SEO together to learn which keywords work well, which landing pages and content are strongest, which calls-to-action are most effective, and to own the search results for the keywords that are most important to your business.
Are you doing PPC and SEO? What about the variations described above? Need another look at your strategy? For help with an effective PPC keyword and bidding strategy, speak to our experts. Try our free SEO audit tool for quick feedback on your site’s SEO compliance.
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