Cross-channel marketing empowers your brand to stay relevant to consumers in moments that matter (and accelerate your campaign performance). This is why search engine marketing is so powerful because it takes multiple channels and amplifies them within a single platform. Because we think this is so lucrative, below is only the beginning of our SEM blog series, so stay tuned!

But first…

A challenge for many agencies who provide robust SEM (search engine marketing) services, which includes both SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click marketing), often have difficulties aligning their teams to meet their clients’ objective of delivering the right message at the right time. Both teams are doing their best to ensure their listing shows when the visitor searches on a keyword relevant for their client’s brand. However, paid search clearly has the upper hand when it comes to prominent real estate.

This has always been the case for advertisers who bid on brand terms, but the organic channel is fighting harder and harder to maintain their CTR, even when the organic listing is in the #1 position! PLAs (Product Listing Ads), local search results, the knowledge graph, carousels, news results, and constant testing by Google in attempts to provide relevant results… and to get clicks to sponsored ads are pushing organic further and further down the page.

With that said, for brand terms, we strongly recommend the #1 spot for paid search for reasons we’ll cover in a bit. If you do not have the #1 organic rankings for your brand terms then something is seriously wrong with your site, and you should immediately seek help from a reputable agency who is strong in Technical SEO.

A recurring scenario, at our agency, involves either a client or SEO strategist who wants to save media budget (and improve the organic numbers) by staying away from brand terms, and let organic garner the traffic that would be sent to paid. We’ve tested it multiple times and each time organic failed to make up for the lost paid search traffic. There have been numerous reports that indicate having multiple listings on the SERP has a multiplier effect by creating a stronger branding experience on the page. See https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/collections/search-ads-pause-studies.html for some great studies on the cannibalization of organic traffic by paid ads.

That said, it is getting tougher for the organic search (SEO) program to maintain their fair share of traffic when the paid search ads are taking up more and more real estate on the SERP with sitelinks. If your site is heavily promotional, or carries a diverse product offering, you may choose to take up more real estate with paid ads at the expense of organic as it’s easier to control the messaging.

Let’s take a look at Chico’s SERP domination:

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Chico’s is able to dominate above the fold with both paid search and organic while doing a great job of providing unique sitelinks across both channels. Which listing would you choose? It depends on your intent. If you’re looking for a store or are already a Passport member, you’ll likely choose organic. Now if you’re ready to buy, you’ll likely choose the paid result – it’s on sale! As long as the strategy is collective across both channels, you’ll have a much better chance at a great experience, better conversions, and a better return.

Don’t forget to check the mobile SERP! This is what I see above the fold on my Galaxy S6:

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If I were on the Chico’s SEM team, specifically the SEO Strategist, I might ask my paid media team to test reducing sitelinks to see if I can get balanced traffic to the mobile site or local SEO page. Ultimately though, this all depends on the goals which should be set across both channels.

Thinking holistically across channels will provide the best experience and deliver a balanced return across all SEM channels (PPC, SEO, Shopping) but one of the first steps should be taking the perspective and intent of the searcher. You can’t do this with a set of tools. You need to go to the SERP and search!

We’ll discuss goals, intent, shared keywords, landing pages, and RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) in follow up posts, as this initial post on integrating SEO and PPC is the tip of the iceberg. But hopefully this has provided some fodder for appreciating SERP domination and the interplay between PPC and SEO.

We’d love to hear your thoughts!