By August 11, 2011 12 Comments

Paid and Organic Search: Why the Marriage of Both Is Important

The industry continuously talks about how Paid and Organic Search work better when in market together.  It’s no secret, when you have 2 listings you own more real estate or “shelf space”, but what is the degree of this impact and is it significant enough to require investment in one, when you have a reasonable presence in the other?

Google published its own recent research and presented interesting results across a variety of large brands and industries, including the finding that when both are present on a results page:  conversions increase and revenue per visitor is higher.

Additionally, Paid Search is the guaranteed way for a brand to emerge (with a reasonably competitive rank) for generic searches when Organic Search typically cannot, due to lack of meaningful content.  Google’s research (found in Google AgencyLand) shows the importance of non-brand throughout the search process as a large part (~50%) of the research phase happens on non-brand terms throughout the search cycle.

Google’s claim that “more searches + more ads = more traffic”, sums it up.  

Mantra for the marketer: Own as much real estate to capture consumer interest across the funnel.  This is precisely what Razorfish saw in our own research.


Razorfish Paid and Organic Synergies Research

Razorfish wanted to prove the relationship of paid and organic search visits and their impact on client revenue as well as to explore additional attributes that contributed to this revenue.  To do this we built statistical models on a year’s worth of client data of a large retailer.

The goal:  to identify key factors that impacted Organic/Paid Search revenue and quantify the synergistic or cannibalistic (if any) impacts of Paid and Organic Search channels.  The results were clear: the chemistry between the two channels worked great together!  Here’s how:

Before a consumer clicks a Paid Search ad, the probability that the consumer already visited the site’s homepage through Organic Search is very high.  Our research showed at least half (53%) of conversions and revenue happening through Paid Search are preceded by Organic Search visits within the previous 7-days.

It gets even more interesting!  For Branded Keywords, Organic Search visits impacted the Paid Search visits by 81% indicating the cyclical switching between Paid and Organic listings. The Razorfish models show strong synergy between paid/organic links, especially for Branded keywords. Our hypothesis  ( that was supported by the data), indicated that visitors use Organic Search links to navigate easily to a site’s homepage for research, before converting through Paid Search ads.

In spite of this ‘friends with benefits’ relationship between paid and organic: why does the paid link get the edge? As consumers research across both non-brand and brand keywords, Promotional messaging on Paid Search ads trigger conversions by reducing research time-span. The paid link triggers the conversion and is just the better deal since it offers you more ‘benefits’.

Playing defense against your competition is important.

What else did we learn?  Organic Search links and Premium Paid Search ranking (top ranked ads above Organic listings – not right rail) drives greater coverage on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and prevents diversion of traffic to competitor sites.  So when someone asks “is it important to buy keywords if you already show up in Organic Search, even Position 1?”  The answer for the most part is YES!  Otherwise you set yourself up to lose that traffic and potential revenue to your competitors.  Our research quantified this impact: for every unit increase in Competitor coverage (a unit was defined as premium listing, vs. top 3 right rail, etc.) revenue declines by ~12%.  But more interestingly for every increase in Paid Search ranking (that resulted in a click), revenue increased 10%.  This tells us your revenue declines at a faster rate when your ranking slips.

This data tells us to protect our ranking, but it should be our standard practice to prevent competitors, negative ads or misleading messages from exploiting the SERP space for our brands.  It’s a crowded marketplace so advertisers must blend Art and Science when managing a Paid Search campaign to ensure our campaigns are successful in hitting our client’s goals (profit/sales/leads) with a mix of Awareness and strategic placements that keep the purchase funnel full and push competitors down.

In Summary:  Organic Search plays an important navigational role in the consumer behavioral patterns while Paid Search is known to close the deal to a conversion as promotional messaging trigger the close.  Again, just mere investment in Paid Search is not enough, but aggressive ranking in both channels is key to positive impact on client revenue.


Why Paid and Organic Work Well Together

  • Consumers convert  after multiple types of searches and clicks, in their ‘research’ phase
  • Organic Search ranks well for Brand terms(read:  mostly navigational), but Paid Search can fill the gap on Non-Brand coverage (read:  awareness, deal-breaker offers)
  • Paid Search messaging can be managed, tested and optimized.  And promotional language helps to close the consumer to the desired action.
  • You can ensure an optimal experience by driving consumers deep into a designated landing page that relates to the intent of the search query through Paid Search ads.
  • The more coverage you have, the less room available for competitors to steal traffic and revenue
  • 1+1 = >2 (Friends with benefits can end up having a family!)

About the Author:

Lindsay Blankenship has a decade of digital marketing expertise and a board member for the global non-profit, SEMPO. Lindsay enjoys time with her family, supporting breast cancer organizations through her team Jogging for Jugs, and enjoying life through experiences, travel and friends. You can follow her on Twitter @lcblankenship, circle her on Google+ or read more on her website.

12 Comments on "Paid and Organic Search: Why the Marriage of Both Is Important"

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  1. Steve says:

    In terms of ad spend and tracking, I had naïvely hoped that there was little overlap between organic and PPC in terms of converting potential customers. It seems like I may need to modify my tracking code accordingly.

  2. Ted Ives says:

    It seems like you’re saying:

    1.) When people click on a paid search ad, very often they’ve clicked on an organic listing for the same company.

    This makes sense.

    2.) The second half of the article seems to be saying that paid search ranking correlates with paid search revenue.

    This makes sense too.

    How does any of this lead to the conclusion that 1 + 1 > 2?

    If what you mean is “you should make organic pages so that people have some way to get into your funnel rather than just paid search only”, I guess that part makes sense, although the cost of doing so would have to be balanced against just buying more clicks.

    But “1 + 1 > 2″ seems to be implying that a paid search ad and organic search page presented in a SERP together will garner more clicks than one would otherwise expect separately. I don’t see where the data you’re talking about speaks to that.

  3. searchshots says:

    Ted: The presence of an SEO result has a significant impact on SEM clicks, and vice-versa. It seems users are more inclined to visit sites that show up twice in results.

  4. John says:

    “more searches + more ads = more traffic”,
    This sums up the blog . A perfectly placed link with a dynamic keyword will lead to newer results.

    Internet Marketing Assistant

  5. Lindsay B. says:

    TED: Our research shows that Paid and Organic links compliment each other, and that consumers switch back and forth between the two while researching. During early staged of the research phase, consumers nagivate the web with Search and typically start with Organic (initial visit) and then finish typically with Paid due to the promotional messaging. (hence, how the two links work well together). However if Paid Search wasn’t ranking then your competitors would thereby have presence, and most likely with a promotional message that would beat the non-promotional Organic listing.

    Another way to look at this is less ads = less clicks = less conversions or sales.

    The fact of the matter is that your site cannot rank well for thousands of terms, but PPC can. Also some terms are more competitive than others and it is harder to rank well in both, and easier for competition to threaten your rankings and capture your clickshare. To safeguard your campaigns and capture the most click share and revenue share, having a presence in both Paid and Organic is the best recipe for return.

  6. Can you clarify what this statement means: “For Branded Keywords, Organic Search visits impacted the Paid Search visits by 81%”

  7. Lindsay B. says:

    SEAN: Sure! The story we are showing is broken out by non-brand and branded term segments to understand the behaviors of both.

    Over 1/2 of Non-Brand searches (that result in revenue) through Paid Search had a previous Organic search visit within the prior 7 days leading to the non-brand PPC conversion.

    For Brand this was even greater. Of Branded searches (that result in revenue) through Paid Search, that visit was preceded by an Organic Search visit 81% of the time. Showing a huge cyclicality of how users research and flip between Organic and Paid Search links (navigate, research, purchase).

  8. Very interesting subject , appreciate it for posting . “Integrate what you believe into every single area of your life.” by Meryl Streep.

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