Use Paid Promotion to Refine Your SEO and Make Your Visitors More Valuable
Posted by shannonskinner
I recently found myself trying to give a client a rough estimate of the value organic traffic brought them. In the process of doing so, I stumbled upon the world of paid promotion. Considering Rand’s Whiteboard Friday about
surviving the SEO slog, paid promotion is important to tactics that we know do provide immediate tangible value, and I wondered if there was potential for it to be a part of a wider online marketing strategy that could also enhance the work of SEO. I want to open up that world a bit and discuss what I discovered: how paid promotion can complement organic search.
First, let me define what I mean by “paid promotion.” This might include typical paid search, but also display ads, remarketing, and paid ads on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Paid promotion comes in many forms, including sponsored images, sponsored stories, and everything else in the following image (tap/click to enlarge):
Image source: http://imgur.com/z059ueV.png
Recently, there’s been lots of discussion of the
decreasing organic reach on Facebook. It seems that there’s been a shift in the Facebook algorithmâcertain posts have seen a decrease, others an increase in organic reach. Pages with over 500,000 likes are seeing a particularly massive decrease in organic reach, perhaps in an effort to encourage them to pay for ads. Additionally, MarketingLand recently reported that Pinterest will be adding promoted pins.
The reality is, paid promotion has a lot to offer online marketing, and can really complement some of what you might be doing with search marketing and optimization. Paid promotion offers a way to test things out to make sure they’re worth putting the effort and resources into, as well as add more punch to the impact that search is already making for a site. Paid promotion offers quick results you can control, making it a great complement to your overall marketing strategy.
Test things out: Use Facebook and AdWords to test your ideas
Optimizing for search and creating interesting content that will get shared requires a lot of investment. Paid promotion can be used to test recommendations and creative ideas out before investing a lot of time, energy, and resources into making them happen. It can also be used after content has been made to ensure you’re using optimal headlines. Upworthy provided a really fantastic deck for how to make things go viral, and it included the recommendation of using Facebook as a means to test headlines.
Titles can be the difference, according to
Upworthy, between one million views and 17 million views. That’s a pretty big impact. I particularly love this deck because they use examples to illustrate how you really can’t predict which titles will work with people, making it critical to test. And then test some more.
I’ve used Facebook ads to estimate interest in projects. Is the click-through rate (CTR) good enough to actually build out a project? If not, it’s better to go back to the drawing board and make sure you’ll actually have an audience. For a little more depth, this post also explains how to do what Upworthy did to optimize their headlines.
You can set up an ad campaign relatively cheaplyâyou can purchase over 200,000 unique impressions for around $100 on Facebook (side ads, not feed ads, which are a bit more expensive). From there, you can calculate whether there is a statistically significant difference in the CTRs of each of your variances (if you need a statistics refresher, you can easily use this fantastic spreadsheet from Visual Website Optimizer).
Image Source: Visual Website Optimizer
It can be used for determining the significance of any test by simply having two sets of conversion statisticsâin this case, for “Visitors,” you’d enter the number of impressions & for “Conversions” you’d enter the number of clicks. The spreadsheet provides a YES or NO about whether the difference between the two sets of numbers is significant with 90, 95 or 99% confidence, making the math super easy. If the difference between your tests isn’t significant, you’ll have to run them again with a larger sample, or they may be equivalently impactful, so you could use another version to test again.
Facebook has the advantage of segmentationâwhatever population you want to target can be targetedâcat lovers, people who like a particular musical artist, play tennis or live in a small town, but aren’t from that location. Any segmentation you can imagine, you can target.
To test for free, you can use Upworthy’s trick of posting to specific cities with different headlines, but considering the recent decrease in organic reach, that may not yield the kind of results you’re looking for.
AdWords can also be useful to
test out titles and keywords to target, as well as viability of new products. Each of these tests will vary in price greatly depending upon the type of keywords you’re targeting as well as the number of clicks you end up needing to get statistically significant results (same situation as with Facebook). Unfortunately, you won’t know exactly what you need until you’ve got it, but if you can give yourself around $500 of budget, to test a few headlines, you may well be able to get some quality data.
Either using Facebook or AdWords to test out headlines means you need something to click to. I’ve found great success with LaunchRockâit’s super easy to set up and either use their server or your own to point visitors to. The added bonus is that you can easily collect contact information, generating leads while you’re testing things out.
AdWords can also be a great
source of keyword data, in part because you can see what the conversion rates are for different keywords for your site. You could use a similar technique for Twitter, or really any other advertising platform. But these are some of the most commonly used and advertised on, and relatively easy to launch advertising for.
The advantage for SEO of testing in this way is that you can then select which keywords to target and titles to use not just based on volume of queries, but also by how conversion rates for your site are for each query. Getting 500,000 new visitors where only 5,000 turn into new clients is not as fantastic as getting 100,000 new visitors where 10,000 of them turn into new clients. The same is true, of course, for amount of revenue. Not all traffic is equal, and paid search can help SEO determine which traffic should be pursued, and which titles to use to do so.
Pack more punch: Use remarketing to convert more visitors into customers
It’s great to get traffic to your site. It’s even better for traffic to generate revenue. Remarketing is basically targeting previous visitors to encourage them to behave in the way you’d likeâbuying your product, signing up for your email list, etc. It is
extremely effective (one study says an incredible 1,046% increase in trademark lift!). Remarketing is effective because, as AJ Kohn at Blind Five Year Old explains, you are marketing to people who already came to your site. Larry Kim provided an excellent case study on using remarketing to enhance the impact of SEO on Moz last fall. It’s a fantastic example of how powerful remarketing can be for search, because it is a way to build brand.
There are some simple ways to do remarketingâremind a visitor to a particular product that they were looking at that exact productâbut there are also some other, more inventive ways to use remarketing. Get them to join your mailing list. Offer a discount if they come back and buy. The important thing, as Larry says in his post, is to:
- Provide them a call to action (“sign up for our mailing list!”)
- Include branding or images that will improve brand recall
Always do some A/B testing with your remarketing campaigns to ensure you’re using the optimal ads. If your ad is in your brand voice, and has a message that fits with your brand, you will be getting value out of the ads into the future, because your ads will not only be leading to immediate action off of your call to action, but also building up the recall of your brand.
Twitter conducted a study about the impact of impressions on brand favorability and brand lift, as well as purchase intent. While this information is clearly aimed at encouraging promoted tweets, and should thus taken with a grain of salt, psychology has firmly demonstrated that familiarity breeds likability. If you want people to like your brand, they should be familiar with it. And impressions are one way to enhance familiarity.
As with testing out headlines and keywords that convert, remarketing can optimize value of the visitors search brings to a site. Reaching out to people who have visited the site, and thus clearly shown that they are interested at some level in what you’re offering can turn visitors into conversions, either as customers today, or leads to nurture.
What do you thinkâwhen have you seen paid promotion complement SEO? Do you think it should be a completely distinct strategy? Let me know in the comments below!
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!