AdWords folks. They’re the traders of the online marketing world. They spend their time analyzing scoreboards, making little improvements and brainstorming their next ideas. They split-test their ideas, scale the best and ditch the best. In a world where scarce resources force them to make choices over budget, positioning and copy, they’re having to think totally differently to SEOs.
Rand posted back in 2008 about the disconnect between PPC spending and SEO spending. Despite the well documented differences in results, PPC is a science from the outset, but SEO still leaves lots to chance. AdWords folks live-and-die by the following five rules. Today, you’re going to learn how to adopt them as an SEO and win:
Perry Marshall once said that advertising is “one of the world’s most wasteful and deceptive industries” since results from campaigns are so difficult to track. In an online world with universally simple, yet sophisticated analytics available, it’s a totally different ball-game.
Sure, you understand the concept of profit and yes it is the end goal, but not in the same way as AdWords folks where not making money is an unforgivable sin from the word go. SEO and Social Media agencies can still charge $5k for a campaign that may or may not affect the client’s bottom line (spending is speculative), but an AdWords account manager can’t spend $5 without being accountable for every penny. AdWords clients can see what money is being spent on, and the results – there’s no excuse anymore.
We’re in the business of making money; whilst SEOs can be accountable, PPC folks are always accountable. We need to emulate PPC guys.
You’ve used Google Analytics, but do you really know how to apply custom filters, advanced segmentation and setup tracking. Take Google’s Conversion University course, take the exam and prove it to yourself.
Pour through your Google Webmaster Tools, especially the ‘Search queries’ tab which gives similar statistics to what AdWords folks see on their dashboard.
Next up, rule #2…
PPC is still an investment – with each visitor (potential customer) you gain more and more user data. Direct marketers are conditioned to split-test mailings and harvest data to make continual improvements; AdWords and other PPC services make this even easier.
Tim Ferris used AdWords tests to name his book, ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’, knowing he’d get more ‘instinctual’ responses than the perhaps group-influenced results from a focus group (plus, AdWords is so much more scalable).
Yes, we spend our time doing tests, but we need to experiment like AdWords guys do as well, agonizing over their campaigns titles and numbers month on month. We don’t talk about swipe files enough in SEO. When was the last time you tried editing and testing your title tags to improve your click-through rate?
Go through your bookmarks and draw together a list organized by factor of your favourite, most inspirational sites for improving your SEO. Rand’s Head-to-Head Presentation from ProSEO Boston consisted of little more than showing off his awesome swipe file and his concept mashup.
Conversion rate optimizers put together awesome guides like this to help you on your website. Use the same tips and tactics to brainstorm and implement tests on your onpage SEO.
Rule #3 next…
Use words carefully.
In the business of signup forms, calls to action, headlines, sub-headlines, and AdWords advertising copy… few words make a huge impact. As well as being the most viewed pieces content, often the content that most influences your visitors.
Joshua Porter is an interface designer you need to be aware of. His advice – “The fastest way to improve your interface is to improve your copywriting” – applies just as much to your search campaign.
Start with these basics for understanding microcopy.
Phew! The last-but-one rule…
SEO is like having an unlimited AdWords budget that harvests ~85% of the clicks from a given SERP, but that’s a mixed blessing. Scarce resources, like a PPC budget force you to choose and optimize your input for maximum gain. Economics 101 in action.
Its like the difference between a funded startup and a bootstrapped startup. Jason Fried of 37signals explains the first thing a bootstrapped company has to do is turn a profit – or the owners go hungry – whereas the funded startup needs to spend the money first.
The PPC guy has to figure out and test where the money is, or they go hungry too…
Bad times. Picture via Declubz
Don’t think of SEO as an unlimited AdWords budget, but as an expanded AdWords campaign. The profit discipline has still got to be there. Although SEO doesn’t have direct costs-per-click, but it still is very expensive in terms of time. The trouble is it’s too easy to spend time like you’ve got waiting on the results later. Don’t.
37signals plan on ‘what takes two weeks’. They expect results at the end of that. If something isn’t possible in two weeks, the task is too big (cut it up instead) or focus on something that will deliver results. You need to watch this video like your next meal depends on it.
Apply some 80-20 analysis to your SEO spending (both time and money). Where’s the most money coming from? So if I cancelled 80% of next month’s SEO budget, would you still meet your numbers?
“Revenue’s Vanity. Profit’s Sanity.” The same principles apply to search – traffic is vanity. Yes, it makes you feel good but you can’t go to the bank with traffic figures. You only need highly-targeted visitors that convert into customers.
When you’re paying for each visitor to your website, boy are you going to try to extract the most value from each visitor. Not every visitor is a “hot” lead, so gaining their permission to follow up is essential. AdWords guys recognize the power of opt-in landing pages and follow-up marketing.
Whilst landing pages used in a PPC campaign might not be the most linkable content, it is still important to build content that engages visitors in the prospecting process.
Brainstorm alternative methods to maximize the value of your current search traffic. How can you capture their email address, and lead them to a sale? Is the offer not right for them? How can you link in alternative offers?
AdWords is not expensive search marketing. It’s direct marketing on steroids, and direct marketers appear to be the smartest guys in the business. It’s a no-brainer to study them and apply what they know to SEO. So I may have accidentally, on purpose, published my public to-do list for getting good at SEO. And it’s not like enough homework has been set already…!
The beauty of SEO is it combines the creative, artistic side of marketing with the rigorous, science that is online marketing; what do you think? Is it worth peaking over the shoulders of our comrades in paid search?