Like peanut butter and jelly, some things are just better together. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising are no exception. Think about it. SEO itself can be virtually cost-free, yet, the results can take some time. Now while paid search gets you immediate results, it can be expensive, but together, we hit that sweet spot of better outcomes and insights, for less dollars.
In this episode, we sit down with Heather Molina, VP of Cross-Channel Marketing and Tyler Trent, SEO Strategist at Red Door Interactive, to explore how combining SEO and paid search strategies, can make for pure marketing magic.
What is SEO? What are the fundamental best practices?
Reid: Well, I'm excited to talk about this because obviously, we know that putting things together, tactics like this, always make a big difference and help magnify results. But I do want to talk about first, SEO. This, the part of SEO and paid search. What is SEO and what are the fundamental best practices? Tyler?
Tyler: Historically, SEO focused on using keywords and content to have your web pages appear in favorable search results. Today, the search engine has gotten a bit more sophisticated where pages used to be created to influence search engine crawler bots. We are now helping our clients create sites, content, and pages, which delight users and provide them with valuable information on their search engine user journey, which is the core focus of any strong SEO program, in the modern era, at this point.
Reid: Well, and that's such a great perspective how about SEO is delighting users. I mean, how often do you hear that from SEO, but I mean, you're delighted if you find what you're looking for, right?
Tyler: Exactly. And it didn't always used to be that way. Remember, like I said, historically, it was all about keywords and tricking the search engine, but with how Google has evolved, SEO has also evolved. Google's goal being to give you the most useful piece of information that you could possibly get, as quickly as possible. SEO being here to just facilitate that goal for users. So, like you said, you're delighted when you find what you want quickly. Nobody wants to sort through the junk drawer for a half hour.
What is paid search advertising? What are the pros vs. cons?
Reid: Well, that's right. And the funny thing about now on the balance part of that is advertising is that I don't think people tend to think, outside of maybe Superbowl commercials or something like that, to be delighted by advertising. But paid search and finding what they want, paid search advertising is a big part of that as well. Heather, what is, from your definition of it, what is paid search advertising? What are the pros and cons of that?
Heather: It's buying keywords and stuff, paying a lot of money, I'm kidding. Trying to break it down as simple as possible, but, in the decades now at this point that I've been working in search marketing, both the SEO side and the paid media side, what paid search is today versus what it was 17, 18 years ago when I started, foundation is still the same. The principle of you basically bid on keywords, but how you do that and all the complexities of what goes into that have completely changed and similar to SEO, it's all about delighting the user. Google wants to make money or not just Google, but Bing or Microsoft ads and other-
Heather: Everyone wants to make money. And so they're going to monetize that and they have. They have always monetized that ad experience so that users will find delight in and relevancy in the ads that they're seeing when they search for a keyword and want to click on it. So the rules and the parameters have all changed. The foundation, just like with SEO, from Google side is still there and has always been there, that make things useful for users. But how you get there, and the parameters that Google has put in place for you to game against and stuff have changed and everything. But the core of it is still relevancy for the user, both on the ad side and the SEO side.
Is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising the same as paid search?
Reid: Yeah. I mean, speaking of things that have changed, I think, from the advertisers side, there's a difference between pay per click advertising and paid search. Can you talk a little bit about the kind of nuance of the difference of that?
Heather: Yeah. Paid search is all about that search page. So wanting to show up on the top results of that paid search page, where those ads are listed, and those ads are a pay per click. So you are paying per click for anybody who clicks on your ad. Pay per click though, as a general model, it kind of applies to any paid advertising out there. Where if you are running on LinkedIn or something else, there are options across all these different display networks and whatnot, where you can pay for impression, you can pay by acquisitions of people coming to your site, doing the thing that you want them to do. And then pay-per-click, you can pay for the clicks themselves and paying, I shouldn't say pay-per-click, but the clicks is something that we do track overall in media advertising and SEO.
Heather: But mostly from a media advertising perspective, when we're maybe looking at the marketing funnel and trying to understand if something that we are running from a brand awareness perspective is having an impact, we're going to track those clicks that go from the ad to the site and use that as one of the parameters for what we're tracking. And so pay-per-click just kind of refers to overall advertising when you're paying for every person or every click that comes to the site.
Reid: Yeah. And ultimately, you're trying to do on the advertiser's side, do the math and figure out where you're getting your ROI from and what audiences you're reaching and if you're getting the right folks. So, speaking of them getting the right folks, coming to the site and getting the right balance in place, the crux of the topic here is combining search engine optimization. What Tyler was talking about with paid search, what Heather was talking about. So to elaborate on this topic, how can this unified strategy help a marketer? Tyler, why don't you talk a little bit about putting those two pieces together from the SEO perspective?
Why would you combine SEO with paid search?
Tyler: Yeah, absolutely. In my first years as an SEO, there was a lot of competition between paid advertising teams and SEO teams. Almost kind of a competitive spirit between earned and paid marketing approaches, right? But what we've seen in the past two to three years is a reversal of that trend. Where instead of competing for clicks and competing for people's attention, paid search advertising and SEO have come together at the data level to compare our performance metrics, to use those comparisons, to find new insights, to find new opportunities for us to build more effective campaigns, to target more profitable audiences for our clients, so that we can ensure that the recommendations we provide don't simply improve their visibility in the search engine, but they also add value for the audience and improve the bottom line for the client. And that data level relationship between organic and paid marketing efforts really allows us to support one another in our search for new opportunities, and our ability to capitalize on existing opportunity.
Heather: Yeah, I agree with that. I mean, just to jump off of what Tyler was just saying. There's so much learning and so much insight across both channels that really feed each other and not just search, they can feed other areas too and provide a lot of insight. And this is why at Red Door we call it, I think, I believe this is why, because the name Cross-Channel Marketing predates my time at Red Door. But, Cross-Channel Marketing truly is that taking all the data and insights from some of these other areas and using it to leverage into other areas.
Heather: So, what Tyler was just referring to, within our teams where we are lucky and fortunate enough to do both the paid media and the SEO. We can take a look at how things are performing on the site from an SEO perspective and collect things from Tyler's team and use that to help inform us on any changes we need to make on a paid search perspective, to maybe some of the text ads are running, or maybe there's an emergence of new types of keywords, that new keyword iterations that we didn't know about before, that maybe we should be bidding on. And likewise, we're seeing that stuff on the paid search side, and we should be feeding that to the SEO team as well.
Heather: So when we work on clients in both areas, that cross-channel analysis is already happening. And then, where we work with brands where maybe we're just doing one side or the other, we feed that to the client so that they can share it with whoever is doing that other piece that maybe we're not doing, but there's so much to Tyler's point, there's so much to learn from the other areas. And, two years ago we were still having conversations with Ken about cannibalization. And if you bid on your brand terms, you're just messing yourself up on the SEO side. And that's what we found through practice and not just us, but across the industry, that's not the case. You should be bidding on your brand terms or really any terms where it makes sense. Even if you're in the top results for your branded term, you should still be bidding on your branded terms because if you're not somebody else might be.
Reid: Yeah, I mean, you want to own the shelf space, right? You want to make sure that you're occupying and this is the benefit of brought up the idea of cross channel, is all of these things need to be coordinated. The consumer is where they are. They're in the real world, they're online, they're on a mobile device, but it's the same person who you're reaching through these different formats. So why wouldn't you want all these things coordinated together to have learnings, to magnify or amplify the things that you're doing beyond just what we're talking about here, being paid search and SEO, but in content, paid medias, in traditional advertising. So that's a big reason why all these things are, we put it all together to make sure that we're coordinating with each other and how do you... So then from that standpoint, I'll talk about how do we coordinate all of this stuff together, operationally? So what are the tools and tricks and tips that you've got to try to make the respective groups between the paid and the earned or organic components of it work together to get you guys in alignment?
Heather: It's magic.
Reid: It is.
Tyler: It's actually totally magic.
Reid: That's the magic of this podcast, right?
Heather: No, I mean, it's frustrating because for me, because we have a process at Red Door and a collaboration, and we have what we call that core centralized strategic team on any client where the two sides are connecting on a regular basis. And that's part of just who we are and how we function, and it's the expectation of the role. But there are so many agencies and even in brands where inside at brands, when you have brand teams where, and we see it on the client side, where the SEO team on the brand side, doesn't talk to the paid media team, they're so siloed still. And it just, it's insane. So I mean, my perspective is what makes it successful at Red Door and us to be able to do that, is simply the fact that we do have this expectation that on any client, we have these team members connecting, and it's part of how we do the reporting and roll out the reporting.
Heather: So reporting just isn't within the SEO and the media team, there is an analytics team or a data science team, as I like to refer to them, whose job is to look at the whole picture and then ask the questions and sort of get people within cross- channel outside of their comfort zone of their subject matter areas and provide that analysis and stuff. I mean, Tyler and I were just talking about it this morning in a one-to-one, this really robust SEO PPC analysis that we do that totally rocks that we've gotten shortlisted for awards and stuff, because of the success that this analysis can bring to a brand for really fully understanding things as to what's going on with their audience on both sides.
Heather: So, for us, it's just part of who we are, because we're all data geeks here. And if somebody is not a data geek, they just don't really fit in here, I hate to say. But it's just part of who we are. It's part of our DNA. So my perspective, is kind of, we would just force it through the process and just through who we have working here and their curiosity around data and stuff. But I don't know if Tyler has a different perspective as to why it's so successful or why it works for us.
Tyler: At Red Door, what works for us is that we can cater to our client's needs at the level they're at.
Heather: True, that too.
Tyler: The goal of SEO is to help our clients meet their audience, where they're at. We carry that over to an organizational level. We're here to meet our clients where they're at. In that moment, Red Door reaching out to meet our clients where they're at, gives us the opportunity to scale an SEO and PPC analysis or any other analysis for that matter, to that client. So say a client is, just starting out with their SEO efforts and they're really not ready to jump in to the full blown SEO, PPC relationship, where the two teams are sitting at the same pod and collaborating every day. Maybe they're not ready for that. But what I can tell them that they're ready for is, "Hey, can I just export your Google search console term's report and your Google Ads exact match term's report, and merge them in Excel? Can I do that?"
Tyler: That's going to take me a very limited amount of time. And what I'm going to find out is I'm going to find every single paid keyword that's driving conversions, where we do not rank organically, thereby presenting opportunities for SEO to pursue conversion driving keywords that are guaranteed to drive conversions organically. And then for the paid team, I can share with them from my SEO insights, I can say, "Hey, I just found 500 keywords that we rank for, that have ads in the search results, but we're not buying any of those ads. And people are paying for those ads because they're getting returns on it. We should be buying those ads." So it's this reciprocal opportunity fountain where every time the paid team finds that they can drive conversions and I'm not ranking, I need to go rank. And every time I find an ad where they're not buying it and I'm ranking, and it's a good keyword, they need to go buy that ad.
Tyler: So, basically by joining the data, we can cover all of our bases on both sides of the aisle. And what's really cool about that is you can do it in a really simple way for that client who's just starting out. Or we can scale it up to our big enterprise clients who operate at the global scale and show them a case study that literally completely redefines how they do ads internally. I mean, this may have happened recently and it may or may not have shown a client that they had basically taken a large pile of money and spent it very frivolously through their ads campaign and the issue, it wasn't necessarily that they had already spent that money, but we were preventing them from continuing to do so. It's like, "Hey, look, we know that these ads didn't work so we should stop running them." And we validated that the ads didn't work via the PPC SEO analysis.
Reid: Yep, and that's one of the harder conversations I think sometimes for people to have.
Tyler: Oh yeah, they were not happy.
Reid: Well, but I mean, here's the thing is we have to recognize it's an evolution. And sometimes the benefit it, is we prevent it from continuing to happen. But just because we're going to be a little hurt about it and say, "Oh man." It sounded like it was unwise, but there's got to be a lot of stuff out there that continuing to find deficiency, to not get too bent out of shape about it, because it happens.
Heather: That's the whole point of digital marketing and cross channel marketing in general is test and fail test and fail. And search is one of the fastest, easiest ways, both on the organic and paid side, more so on the paid side, to really uncover those opportunities in that test and then iterating all the time and stuff. So it's just, it's a natural part of the evolution, you should expect to have these things change frequently and nothing aggravates me more than when picking up a new client and seeing the crap that, sorry for the language, but the crap we inherit from a previous agency where things just are not set up properly, both on the paid media side, and then you look at things from an SEO perspective and you're like, "What is this?" It's just terrible.
Heather: And I mean, it's exciting because we're going to show easy gains for the client with minimal work. But at the same time, you're dealing at Red Door with a bunch of really sophisticated digital marketers who they want to do the exciting and innovative breakthrough stuff in the field. And, we've got to get a client up to speed, and get them to that level that where we like to operate at. But we certainly are able, as Tyler mentioned, able to meet the client wherever they are in their comfort zone, on their search journey and stuff.
Tyler: And ultimately, like I said, we help them meet their audience on that journey, just like it's our job to meet our clients on their journey. So the philosophy behind SEO and behind that test, fail test fail, scales up to the organizational level really, really well. And even though we told this client that their campaign had not done anything for them, they were grateful, the gratitude was there. They said, "Thank you for not pulling punches. Thank you for not sweeping this under the rug. Thank you for not hiding the fact that our campaign was unsuccessful because you were afraid to give us bad news." I've seen plenty of agencies where they hide bad news from clients, or they pigeonhole themselves to a specific tactic because they think it's too hard to pursue, but at Red Door, we don't.
Tyler: We tell people, this is a high impact tactic, that will be high effort. I don't pull punches when I show up in a client's SEO and PPC analysis. I don't say this is going to be less work. When we're doing SEO, what I'm doing is I'm finding opportunities for us to do more work, to perform better. And so ultimately, we start off with these SEO PPC analyses, and I say, "Hey, look, I found a bunch of paid keywords we need to target. Hey, look, I found a bunch of organic keywords we need to target." That's not the end of it, that's the beginning. That's where we make an action plan from. We do that analysis and we say, "Look at this data we've joined and created this new opportunity for both teams, to work together for the betterment of the whole organization, and the directionality of it is to provide value to users. The organization becomes better by providing more value to its audience and the SEO PPC analysis facilitates that at multiple levels of the organization.
Reid: And that's the benefit of having people who are value driven. Are we creating value or driving value, as it relates to not just the client, but obviously like you said, to the consumer, the customer, because if we continue to kind of thread that through and create alignment value to the customer, value to our client and then providing high value services, then we're going to have a good, long-term outcome, that is perpetually evolving. And this is the other part of it, and why hopefully we're making the case that these two things need to be done together, is because this is where innovation happens. This is when someone surfaces something they see and drops that into the lap of someone else with a different perspective, which is why we bring these groups together to talk about it so that they say, "Oh, that's interesting. I have a different take, a different idea, and I can build upon that idea and then work together to kind of magnify those results."
Reid: So, it's a fun experience, certainly to watch you guys piece these things together. And hopefully we've operationalized this in a way that keeps it going day in and day out, because thankfully for us, the world's always changing. Consumer expectations are always changing. And then, what a client expects as a result is always changing to a degree as well. So the net result is value, creating value.
Tyler: Yes. Yes. It always-
Heather: I try to create value. I'm mediocre at creating value, I'm just kidding.
Tyler: Some people say creating value, I like to say helping people on their journey. And it's exactly right. What we do is we see something and we are sharing it in a way that allows our clients to innovatively evolve their approach to PPC and SEO. And the outcome is that what SEO and PPC do alone is easy to exceed when you combine the two. PPC and SEO combined will always exceed what the two can do individually. And so with that awareness, we can go forward to clients, even when we don't have both relationships at any given time. We can still say to them... I have a client where we don't work with the PPC team, but I'm allowed to shoot emails back and forth, I'm allowed to communicate, we have a good back and forth. And I can say, "Hey, real quick, can you export this month's exact search term conversion report for me so I can just compare it to the rankings?"
Tyler: And that's that easy, low level way of having SEO and PPC be working together, that's that day to day. But then turning into that scalable project where we're showing a client, "Hey, we spent X dollars on this campaign and the ROI was zero." And it's not fun to swallow that pill. But the reality is, we've now learned what doesn't work and we can test and fail and test, fail and exceed the next time. We can evolve the approach, and we can target things in a way that allow us to innovate at a level that other agencies aren't because they're not bringing PPC and SEO together in this way.
Reid: And nothing warms my heart, like hearing our core values all used. I know, of course, I always do. And I do appreciate the focus on the journey. And I think for the audience on this podcast today, our journey for this conversation is over. Hopefully we made the case for why SEO and paid search need to operate together to support the customer's journey. And so thank you. Heather, Tyler, thanks for joining us today.
Tyler: Thank you.
Heather: Thanks Reid.
For listeners, be sure to check out our show notes from this episode and more at www.reddoor.biz/learn. And as always subscribe to The Marketing Remix and leave us a review on Apple podcasts.