Asif Anwar is a Search, Social, & Internet Marketing Consultant/Specialist working in Bangladesh (In Indian Subcontinent aka South Asia). Professionally consulting and helping small businesses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) since 2003 and actively learning about Search Marketing trends from 2001. Passionate about SEM (Search Engine Marketing), SMM (Social Media Marketing), and PPC (Pay Per Click).
If you are involved in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), either for your or clients’ site(s), you know how important it is to get the number 1 ranking for the most important keywords. If the keyword is popular, then it is a dream come true.
Or is it? How can getting the #1 ranking for your keyword can be a nightmare? Well, the answer is: ROI (Return on Investment). Your ROI can be disturbed in many ways for having number 1 position.
Why the #1 Position in Google and Other Search Engines Sucks
So, it’s not the #1 ranking that you should rely most on. Even if you do, don’t over-emphasize it, also don’t feel sad that you don’t have #1 position. You should have realistic SEO Mindset, depending on your financial and operational capabilities.
We are mostly ROI driven and strive to achieve the best ranking to boost your ROI. Without a good ROI, the #1 ranking in search engines can disrupt your business operations, marketing, and branding. Here is how:
Even with sophisticated web analytics tools, it can be difficult to identify the search intent. i.e. you never can learn what was the intention of the searcher, when they made the search and landed on your site. Most of the searchers don’t merely come to your site to buy your product or service. Bringing visitors is good for your site. But, bringing visitors with varied intentions and expectations may not always be good or turn into sales. These varied intentions can be like:
Most visitors will have different motives to visit your site, but it is obvious that it will not always match your commercial goals. Moreover, if you always emphasize your commercial goal, then you might not be successful both commercially and SEO-wise.
If you rank #1 for a popular keyword, you will get substantial amount of traffic to your site. However, all the serious and non-serious buyers will come knocking on your door for queries. The bad thing is, you may think all of them are leads, while most are queries. To keep up with the pace, you need to put more pressure on sales and support team or increase the size of the team. If you are offering free trial or samples of your product or service, then the increased number of non-serious visitors will seriously increase your operation costs, including sales and marketing costs.
Again, in any industry, contacting or comparing more than 2 suppliers is usual behavior of all the customers. And for B2B-customers or customers-of-costly-products, the number can be more. So, just being the first company they find is not enough. So, by being on #2 to #5, any site can do equal business as you, if not, better than you.
As mix of serious and non-serious visitors come to your site, it is obvious that the number of sales against each query or lead will be low, hence a low ROI. As the cost of goods sold increases, your ROI will also decrease automatically. Because, when the cost increases, you are increasing your investment, while the return is actually the same.
The intention of the searcher to go beyond the #1 position is directly related to his/her seriousness to purchase. So, the ROI of #2 and #3 position will be high, if they make the same number of sales. If you have a good sales approach and give better value than your competitors, then being the #5 or even the #10 company is not a huge problem.
So, what happens is, you spend your budget to entertain the non-serious lead generators, while the #2 and #3 position competitors get to eat the same fruit with less effort. Moreover, if your competitors’ sales approach more efficient or has better product, then they will just be piggybacking on your position.
Actually, the #1 position will be kinda like a philanthropic position to educate customers on what to expect. As the searchers go beyond the #3 position, the level of seriousness generally increases. Traffic on the other hand decreases. But, with the amount of sales that the site generates, it is able to generate a higher ROI.
The clear winner from a serious buyer will be the company/site that has good sales approach, quality product/service, and offers good value to the customer. i.e. if a searcher knocks almost all the companies/sites in the top 10 list, then there is no competitive advantage of being the #1 ranking site.
So, you are thinking about decreasing cost and increasing ROI, by not being philanthropic and being selective on who you reply to and not? Then, be ready to face the invisible wrath. When you don’t reply a customer, it has some ripple affect. Some of the affects are:
Think of a real life example of a shopping mall where you can buy similar products. You try to see all the offers, products, features, and prices at all possible outlets. You make the final decision based on the outlet that offers you the best value. However, there is really no advantage to be the first outlet seen.
The #1 position for your main keyword is highly desirable, if you can bear the expense. Moreover, it also helps to gain strong reputation. So, I am not discouraging your SEO effort to get #1 position in search engine. Again, if you don’t have top 10 rankings for your important keywords, then you have no chance in getting leads.
I am again not encouraging you to obtain ranks beyond the top 10 positions. It is really hard to find so serious customers that go beyond top 10 results. Only people that are data-mining typically do that, who may never be your customer.
However, if you are a mom & pop company and striving to make maximum profit with less cost, then you can use this mindset to stay happy with little. But, if you are a big company, then go for the #1 ranking, which you truly deserve.
SEO or Organic Search Marketing and PPC or Paid Search Marketing/Advertisement, both have same goal to get your site found through keyword search in varios search engines. So, is the goal so common that they should get married? Or should SEO and PPC date, or just stay single?
Let’s define marriage first:
Marriage is about mutual understanding and about the economy of utilizing the limited combined resources in an efficient way for better life, if not, better future.
Well, that’s not a perfect one, but in Economics, it should sound like that. If I translate that for corporate language than it would be this:
If SEO and PPC are operating differently, then they are learning in different ways. This can mean doing the same homework over and over again. Not doing the homework separately is very healthy for the economy. That’s why we see the giant companies acquiring (or marrying) the small companies. So that, the homework is not done again in the same economy. Even though, the giants have the setup to do it all over again. But, that’s bad for the industry. You are increasing the competition without adding any value to the economy.
So, whoever the husband between SEO or PPC is, both of their understanding can help each other greatly. PPC can use the learning from SEO and vice versa to reduce marketing cost and increase ROI. Isn’t that what the companies and advertisers are looking for? With mutual understanding, they can mutually reduce their homework and add value to the economy.
Before marriage, you probably have been using a small blender for milk shake that served your single user need. But, after marriage you can afford a better blender, which costs less than 2 blenders alone. i.e. you can also cut the capital investment and cost if you have SEO and PPC together. Moreover, they also can interchange their duties to perform other important tasks for the growth of your business.
You definitely have a budget for your marketing, from which you can’t go beyond. So, you should economize on getting more sales with less money. Since you are in fixed budget for SEO, you can cutout the variable budget for PPC, when you have competitive advantage in organic results for a specific keyword. So, for PPC you can only explore the markets, where you don’t have competitive advantage on. That’s should make the great use of your limited budget. So, managing these in separate units would mean extra cost for you, since there wouldn’t be any synchronization between these two units.
When you have total understanding of your Search Marketing, you can have the flexibility to implement your strategy and set the players in the field. Thereby, you can play a good and strategic game utilizing every resource efficiently. Moreover, you can also reduce waste or spillover, which is a major factor in reducing cost and maximizing profit.
Companies can gain greater ROI from the marriage and the management can also get all the information for their strategy from one source. So, that’ll make life easier and comfortable. It is obvious that combined SEO and PPC saves money for you. In return, you get greater ROI.
In harsh situations, when comfortable life can’t be ensured, marriages are made in the intention to have better future. Investments are also like marriages craving for better future. Getting the reward right away isn’t possible. Combined investment in SEO and PPC can mean quicker break even. Moreover, as resources are utilized efficiently, the chance of having better life is quicker than having them separated.
Now, if it happens that SEO and PPC can’t marry, then they can go out on dates from time to time to share things together. Even if they are separate, they should share each other’s learning from time to time by synchronizing each other and go toward a mutual understanding.
That way, some cost for advertising and marketing can be reduced by removing ad spending away from PPC, when SEO has organically reached its goal for a specific keyword. However, it can be more time consuming if you are to synchronize learning within these units.
If they don’t synchronize, then the best way to learn from each other is by staying in the same premises and experiencing social and corporate activities together. That also can expand their learning. This can also mean hiring same internet marketing agency with separate units running campaigns with separate PMs.
SEO and PPC in the isolated island may mean loss in terms of the many benefits I mentioned above. But, not always their marriage is necessary. Their marriage can encourage cost reduction. But sometimes for the sake of online branding and converting visitors into sales takes more than just strict control of organic search marketing and paid search advertisement.
In the sales funnel, from visitors to sales, the communication and information feeding should be made several times before the purchase. So, limiting your doorways for the visitors to your business can harm you, if you are planning to sale big.
In case of online sales funnel, remember that:
So, in all stages of the sales funnel, there should be multiple ways for the visitor to get information about your company or product. If you have done SEO and simultaneously running PPC for content network (AdWords for AdSense), the chances are, when the visitor is reading something related, s/he might come back to your site.
Otherwise, after going a long way, the visitor might buy from the last good outlet s/he could remember, even though you were in top of the search (SEO efficient) when s/he found you earlier.
This happens to us always, when we go to a special product mall. Everyone visits the front stalls, but you happen to buy from a stall inside the mall. There is almost no extra competitive advantage for being the front stall (SEO effecient), when you have product that visitors always move around to find a good bargain. Getting these temporarily lost customers back to your site for sale is called retargeting. So, for retargeting, you need to be more liberal on SEO and PPC.
Another fact is, the objectives of SEO and PPC is not same. Most of the time PPC concetrates on Conversion and SEO on Branding & Reputation Building. I said “most of the time”, not “always”. e.g. Most popular keywords may not convert well and will mean unnecessary PPC spending on visitors that are not in action mode to purchase. But, popular keywords are good for Branding and Branding is one of the major targets for SEO. This difference in objectives is a good reason to stay in separate units.
Well, if you have a product that visitors doesn’t care much about going for a good burgain (usually for cheaper products), having SEO and minor PPC dating is sufficient. If you are a small company, then having SEO and PPC get married would be a right choice. If you want to sell big, then SEO and PPC should stay single.