[Case Study]Does SEO Affect PPC Click-Through-Rates & Conversions? The Results Shocked Our Client
Overview: We are working with a new client and they have recently launched a new website after securing a second round of financing. They have the cash, and now have expectations to show something for it to the Board of Directors in 90 days. The clock is ticking….
Some of the stakeholders have not experienced the benefits of a successful SEO program, and because of this, they are 100% in the paid Ads camp (PPC). Others are more centrist, but are not quite sure how to quantify the value of the SEO program on its own merits, and are quite incognizant of any real SEO-PPC interactions from a KPI perspective (this is also true for most of the industry).
One of the stakeholders asked me to “whip up” an analysis that could help provide some concrete data whereby everyone could at least understand the benefits and costs of the SEO program and its interrelationship with PPC.
From the analysis, it was quite clear that the participants were surprised by the results, and I was clear that I should share this with my connections on Linkedin. So let’s begin with the first analysis.
CASE STUDY #1: SEO & PPC CTR Interaction (Compounding Click Through Rate Effect?)
First I wanted to see if there is any interaction between SEO & PPC regarding click-through-rate (CTR). For this comparison you need to connect your Google Search Console to Google Ads, export the data, pivot it, and then add a couple of filters to segment branded and non-branded keywords.
From the screenshot below, there are two sections, top is non-brand and the bottom section is branded search phrases. Let’s take a closer look at the non-branded search phrase results.
I have highlighted “ad shown only” (17% CTR) and the organic shown only” (7% CTR) in green. This is the click through rate (CTR) when only one of these appear in the Google search results. Highlighted in blue, is the click through rates (CTR) when both the Ad (22% CTR) and organic (5% CTR) appears in the search results.
What I find interesting is that the CTR for organic search drops from 7% to 5% when the Ad is present. Meanwhile the CTR for the Ad increases from 17 to 22%. (The data set I am pulling this from has a sample size of about 2,800 search phrases over a 6 month period. Which is large enough to interrogate and draw out some meaningful interpretations.)
With this drop in organic CTR and increase in the Ad CTR, it appears to me that the presence of the organic listing provides some type of credibility, authority, or comfort to clicking on the Ad listing; meanwhile foregoing a click on the organic listing.
Secondarily, from an experience perspective, the Ad copy + URL tends to be more specific to the user’s search phrase than the organic listing (especially if the campaign is using Dynamic Keyword Insertion – DKI). Combine this with the presence of the organic listing, and the CTR for the Ad increases from 17 to 22%.
And more interestingly, the combined CTR for the Ad and the organic search result is 27% which is 18.5% higher than the Ad and the individual Ad or organic search result. Here it is evident that there are two dynamics at work here; (a) Ad CTR gets a bump from the organic listing, and (b) there are 2 listings (Ad + organic) in the search results; occupying more clickable real-estate.
Now, let’s go take a look at when we include the client’s brand name in the search queries.
Here, with the addition of the client’s brand we see a new dynamic occur; both the Ad and organic search results’ CTR increase significantly (>26%). And combined, the CTR is 44%, which is 47.70% higher than either search type individually. Just imagine if your website had a combined Ad + organic click-through-rate of 44%.
In the next section, Conversion Path Analysis, I dig into some additional data to help shed some light on how the combined CTR’s for Ad and organic can be so dramatic when they both appear in the search results, and how this translates into conversions.
CASE STUDY #2: SEO & PPC Conversion Path Analysis (How Does SEO Affect PPC Conversions?)
Returning to our client who has holdouts that do not yet understand the benefits of SEO and its effects on PPC (and vice versa), I wanted to first establish a baseline from which we could use to draw comparisons and hopefully a few recommendations.
I chose the 1st quarter of 2019 as the baseline. The screen shot is from Google Analytics (Conversions/Multi-Channel-Funnels/Top-Conversion-Paths). I then setup a filter to show and quantify only the conversions where organic search traffic was somewhere in the conversion path for PPC (Ads).
Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that organic search traffic contributed to 7.15% of the of the PPC conversions, which equates to a value of $ 137,394 for this period. Now, let’s remember that this is a contribution from organic traffic to ad (PPC) conversions. Here, somewhere in the buyer’s journey, they clicked on an organic search result prior to converting on the website.
Now that we are using GA’s Conversion Path Analyzer, we can clearly see how many times, and by which channels, a buyer may interact with the website. Please see screenshot below for an example.
Now, let’s take a look at a more recent timeframe and compare. I chose from June 28th to August 6th for the comparison for a couple of reasons. First, this is a post new website launch period, and second, the launch has been a rough one. Through no fault of the client, there have been a series of events via contractors which have led to some technical and performance issues which have affected the organic search performance.
During this period (06/28–>08/06) the organic website traffic is about 40% lower than it was in the 1st quarter of 2019. With this lower organic traffic volume let’s see how this impacts the organic traffic contribution to PPC conversions.
Looking at the screenshot below, and applying the same filters and segmentation which was applied to the 1st quarter data, we can see that SEO contributed to 1.5% of the Ad (PPC) conversions during this period, as compared to 7.5%; or a decrease of 80%.
And when we apply the financials we get even more context; $17.9k of conversion contribution versus $137.9k from organic traffic. What I have learned to value immensely in any circumstance is clarity. Once we can see what is occurring, we are able to formulate a plan to make a change.
Using this data I provided 5 recommendations. First, get the website back up to where the organic traffic is back to making a 7.15% conversion contribution to Ads (PPC), and second, how to increase the organic contribution to levels well above the baseline of 7.15%.
In summary I have developed an SEO program that is content focused, with heavy syndication, and optimized with our own in-house A.I. technology.
CASE STUDY #3:-SEO & PPC Conversion Path Analysis Case Study After 2 Years Of Optimization
My team and I have been optimizing the SEO and the PPC for this other client for a 2 year period. This client is B2C with a $299 transaction value (very similar to other referenced client). We have been aware of this SEO-PPC interaction for many years. Applying our processes and technologies, organic traffic contributed to 52.51+% in the Ads (PPC) conversions.
For this client we took the Google Ads search terms and focused on them with our SEO program (plus additional keywords). For this we developed content using our Marketing Content Optimization Systemwhich analyzes Google’s behavioral search for search terms related to the Google Ads. By doing this we develop content that is; (a) closely related to the Google Ads search terms that are converting, and (b) answering specific questions which buyers are searching Google for on the related topic(s). Below is a sample screenshot.
The Marketing Content Optimization System (MCOS) is output to an editorial calendar where the writers produce the content and then publish it to the website.
Once the content is on the website, we use our Content Syndication System (CSS) which taps into our database of 99,000,000+ syndication sites. And using our A.I., it develops a syndication group and submission process. Each month the CSS analyzes its own performance via traffic and conversions and makes adjustments.
Reporting Data Analysis & Visualization
Using Google Data Studios as a platform, my team and I have developed our own 17-view reporting analysis system for these types of applications. Here is a screenshot of the main summary page, and a link to a demo if you want to check it out.
This report has been developed to provide quick and effective analysis by the analysts, and stakeholders. With our clients, we are looking at this report every day and making adjustments in order to achieve the goals of the SEO and/or PPC programs.
I hope it is a little more clear to you now how SEO affects Ads (PPC) both at the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and Conversion levels. And with an integrated SEO program, the PPC program will benefit greatly.