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Headsmacking Tip #6 – Test with Paid Search Before You Target with SEO

SEOmoz August 30, 2008 Comments Off on Headsmacking Tip #6 – Test with Paid Search Before You Target with SEO

Posted by randfish

This may seem like old hat to many SEOs, but it’s a tip that never fails to get an "oh yeah!" during client meetings. The concept is simple – in any given search engine optimization campaign, you are naturally going to form a list of high-traffic, (perceived) high value keywords that are an idealistic goal for your site to dominate. For a site like SEOmoz, those might be the highly competitive terms like "SEO" or "Search Engine Optimization," while in a field like BuddyTV‘s it might be "tv shows" or "tv news."

The problem is that while these keyword searches seem like no-brainers, ranking for them can take a remarkable amount of effort on both the content and link building side. To warrant that investment, you need to know, from a business perspective, that financial returns will accompany the rankings. One great way to do this is to use paid search to investigate the likely ROI of visits from those keywords. Buy the keyword traffic for a few weeks or a month and measure visitors via a segmented tracking campaign (check out this post on action tracking to learn more). If the visits that arrive via those searches convert well and produce value, you know that a serious investment is warranted. If, however, they turn out to be tire-kickers and have a low propensity to produce returns, you can re-focus on higher ROI targets.

There’s just a few valuable tips to bear in mind when you’re pursuing this process:

  • Paid search traffic can behave differently than organic traffic, so don’t take the figures at 100% accuracy. Build in some room for error, and you’ll create far better expectations.
  • When crafting your PPC campaign for test purposes, make sure to narrow to exact match so you don’t accidentally measure traffic that’s coming in for longer tail or modified versions of the search query. It’s great to do this and measure response in a PPC campaign, but with SEO, you won’t be able to naturally rank for those same variants unless you identify and target them individually.
  • Make sure to narrow to a geographic area, especially if your keywords contain any potential local intent or local modifiers. Otherwise, you can seriously over/under-estimate.
  • Keep seasonal variation/flux in mind. Use Microsoft’s Keyword Forecast or Google Insights for Search to help out. Volume fluctuations usually indicate shifting intent as well, so purchasing keywords in a down period can hamper the accuracy of your forecasts.

That’s it for this week’s headsmacker. I’ve got a very personal post I worked on during my plane flight back from LA this weekend coming soon (hopefully tomorrow), and we’re also launching our new blog etiquette guidelines and some explanations this week, so stay tuned!

BTW – If you somehow missed it, go back and check out Danny’s brilliant post from last week on analyzing the Top 100 Blogs. It flew under the radar a bit, but is worth a thorough examination.

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