SEM growth hack #4: Grow ROI with cross-channel optimization
Columnist Lori Weiman explains how a holistic, cross-channel strategy can help search marketers direct their efforts towards the channel where they will have the greatest impact.
This article addresses the importance of optimizing your SEM (search engine marketing), SEO (search engine optimization) and PLA (product listing ads) channels together to gain monster ROI growth in the search channel.
Optimization of search advertising often occurs in a vacuum where SEM, SEO and PLA efforts are optimized separately. By optimizing these channels together, you can save money on unneeded ad spend while boosting your page visibility in the right places to generate more sales or leads — pushing you into monster growth territory!
Why cross-channel optimization matters
Search engine results pages (SERPs) feature different sections where different types of results appear. These sections include, but are not limited to, organic listings, text ads, product listing ads, local results, image results, news results and more. In implementing a holistic, cross-channel strategy, which takes into account site visibility across these different sections, we can direct our search marketing efforts to the channel where they will have the biggest impact on a keyword-by-keyword basis.
There are measurable benefits to optimizing SEM, SEO and PLA channels together:
- Weak SEO. If you are weak in organic rank, you can quickly gain top-of-page visibility by boosting paid efforts in either SEM or PLA (as relevant for the keyword at hand).
- Save money on SEM. If you are strong in organic rank, you could save some money on SEM by lowering to position 3 or 4.
- Drive efforts based on SERP layout rather than channel. Manage the media channel that commands the top spot in the SERP (search engine results page) layout for each keyword. For example, if the page layout for a particular keyword displays PLAs first, you are better off optimizing PLA and not putting as much effort on SEM ads for that keyword.
Cross-channel optimization has eluded all of us
We all want to optimize for the entire search results page. I hear our company’s clients discuss this need frequently. However, optimization across channels has remained elusive to the industry for a variety of reasons:
- Disparate departments. SEO, SEM and PLA usually operate in separate silos.
- Data availability. It’s a dirty job to obtain the needed data to do this optimization.
- Competition. Even if you have data on yourself, do you also have similar data on your competitors?
The tools you need
To get your sleeves rolled up with cross-channel optimization, you will need to know the following items:
- Keyword list. Identify the keywords for which you want to optimize your site. You can use several metrics to define your priority keyword list:
- Top search volume
- Top impression volume
- Top sales drivers for your business
- SERP layout for each keyword. What comes first? There are several common page layouts:
- PLA is first.
- Organic is first, SEM is at the bottom.
- SEM is first, followed by PLA, and then organic.
- Organic layout. What comes first? Within organic, various sections may appear above others. Common layouts:
- Video appears first for video-related searches.
- Local/Map listings display first for localized searches.
- Traditional organic text listings are displayed at the top of the SERP.
Data you need
Once you have defined which section comes first for each keyword, next you will need to score your own appearance in those sections — at the keyword level. You will need to measure and obtain the following data:
- Avg./Top Rank: Average rank for paid search listings (Text & PLA ads), and top rank for SEO listings.
- Page Share: The number of times your listings appear/the total number of listings.