Use PPC to see what converts

Google Ads gives you insight into which keywords people are typing in, and what percentage of them are converting. This data, which you don’t get in Analytics, can be really useful for identifying both the long-tail and short-tail terms that offer ROI.

In this respect, paid search makes a fantastic testing ground for organic search, as it allows you to experiment with different avenues without committing to them long-term. For example, if one vertical converts particularly well on paid, you’ll know it’s worth pushing your rankings up organically (and conversely, you’ll learn what isn’t worth pursuing).

Tools like Google Trends and Answer the Public can help you establish what people are searching for around your industry. Google Trends gives a relevancy score by location, shows interest over time (so you can identify rising and seasonal trends), and suggests related topics and queries. Similarly, Answer the Public shows a whole range of queries related to your topic area, and gives an abundance of insight into what it is users are searching for. This is great for getting users into the funnel in the first place.

Knowing what people are searching for is the first step to creating highly relevant content, and building landing pages that answer key queries. Landing pages that Google deems to be highly relevant to a search query are given a higher Quality Score and consequently come at a lower Cost Per Click (CPC).

Use top-level terms to fill the funnel

Top-level terms, like ‘call tracking’, give little away in terms of user intent, yet their vagueness does suggest that the user hasn’t quite decided what they’re looking for. They’re still in the research phase, which means this is your opportunity to wow them with some content that will help them with their decision-making process. Establish yourself as an authority now, so that when the user is ready to convert, you’ll already be in their thoughts.

For PPC, top-level terms are often more expensive than long-tail — and similarly, you can usually expect to pay more for broad-match keywords. If budget is limited, you should use exact match — this will help you appear for the precise keyword, rather than all variations on it. The benefit of broad match is that you’ll gain more impressions, however the audience will not necessarily be as relevant. However, as long as you’re on the ball when it comes to adding negative keywords and are always ready to pause things that don’t convert, broad match can be a useful way to bring more people into the sales pipeline.

Take a web design agency for example – while you want to appear for a number of design-related terms there are many you may not want to show up for, for example, ‘print design’, if you don’t provide this service. By setting ‘print’ as a negative keyword you can prevent your ads from showing for this search term.

Use long-tail terms to seal the deal

By using long-tail keywords you can typically drive traffic that’s more relevant than the traffic driven by top-level terms. These users are already further down the funnel: they have done their research, and now know what it is they want.

From an organic search point of view, these keywords are often easier to rank for than their top-level counterparts, and the traffic is usually more likely to convert. In terms of PPC, ads tailored to long-tail search terms will be far cheaper than top level terms, and these too have a higher conversion rate.

Take for example someone who is searching for ‘corporate tree planting East Anglia’: they know exactly what they want and are a highly valuable customer to target. While such long-tail terms are far more likely to convert, the traffic levels are significantly lower than a top-level term, e.g. ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘plant trees’.

So, which approach do you take when it comes to Google Ads? Long-tail to seal the deal, or short-tail to get people into your pipeline in the first place? Essentially, if your funds allow, you should do both. The ratio will depend on what your objectives are, how much budget you have, and what you’re looking to achieve.

Website optimisation is also a key consideration when it comes to getting people to convert. Site speed, including landing page load speed, and mobile-friendliness are vital factors when it comes to reducing drop-off.

Catch non-converts with retargeting campaigns

Retargeting campaigns are a great way of stopping people from falling through the cracks. For example, a software company might choose to set up retargeting campaigns for those who sign up to a free trial. If people visit the landing page but don’t convert, you can encourage them to revisit with well-positioned ads using Google’s Display Network.

To get the most out of SEO and PPC, you’ll need to pay attention to all stages of the funnel, making sure resource and budget is distributed in order to support the areas that need it most. Most brands are good at talking about what makes them great — it’s getting people interested in the first place that usually gets neglected. Using paid and organic search to get your brand in front of users at the early stages of the decision-making process will see you gain brand awareness and trust, while targeting them later on will result in conversions. At every stage you should be aware of what your competitors are doing – keep an eye on their landing pages and any marketing activity.

Account-based marketing (ABM) and SEO

One of the first steps to an ABM approach is determining which accounts you’re targeting, who the stakeholders are, and what exactly they want. SEO can help with this: the search data should give you a good idea of where people are in the decision-making process; and you can use the language, tone and knowledge level of the ranking content to determine the seniority of the intended audience.

Long-tail keywords are the most important here: for example, adding things like “for fintech companies” or “for managing directors” can help you identify common problems that people in certain positions and industries often deal with. This puts you in a much stronger position to target specific accounts.

Then, create similar content of your own, and distribute it via the channels that your targets are most likely to use. Remember, as 71% of B2B decision-makers begin their journey with a general web search, organic search should always be a priority. Your content can then be adapted and honed for highly targeted email marketing campaigns and for hyper-specific LinkedIn ads so you can get the most out of it.

The best SEO strategies aim to provide audiences with informative, quality content that answers their query. In that way, SEO and ABM share the same goals — so bringing them together can result in more effective campaigns and higher ROI.