Paid Search Drives Organic Search Traffic – A 48 Hour Case Study
What struck me so directly, was how readily available and easily developed this insight was, once it occurred to me to try. 48 hours ago, I shut off a paid search campaign of over 10,000 keywords. The exact amount isn’t as applicable to you as knowing that this was the entire SEM campaign for a specific website. The results were not surprising so much as they were significantly important.
Experienced, was an immediate drop in organic, or natural, search traffic. Of almost 12%!
Let’s be clear for those of you unfamiliar with each channel from search engines to your site. Your organic search results are the listings for your website that automatically appear in Google and Yahoo. I hope you are practicing SEO or, Search Engine Optimization, which is the process of improving the quality of your site so that it appears as prominently and accurately as possible in search engines. On the other side of search you have SEM or, Search Engine Marketing (which is, personally, a confusing reference as SEO is technically also marketing). SEM usually refers to Paid Search or the keywords you buy directly from or through an agency into Google. This program costs you money but puts you more prominently on the page.
There has been some work on the idea of Search Synergy (I think I just coined that term for lack of a better way to summarize the study); that is, that paid search campaigns and how/where you appear in natural search can be optimized against one another. Performics has done some work in this space and every so often we see a study about the similarity between SEO and SEM. But little solid work has been done due to the complexity in tracking, benchmarking, and changing your organic search results to test things. What can be done, is testing paid search based on your organic search results. In effect, that’s just what I’ve done; on a comprehensive scale.
Shutting off all paid search resulted in 12% less FREE traffic. This is critical stuff. Your paid search budget, your campaign, has an ROI greater than you are likely measuring. Such a statement has been known for years and I’ve posted before how important it is that you completely track searcher clickstream to understand the complete impact of your paid search activity. Now, I have some concrete data validating that your paid search ads actually cause people to click on your natural search results.
The only way to really know the impact this has on your site is to do it. Luckily, I had results in 24 hours and gave it another 24 only so I could validate the days data. How do you do this? First, shut of paid search, only for a couple days, but you have to stop to get the insight. You probably have straightforward paid search metrics; such as, spending $20k a month on 10k keywords from which you get, say, 250,000 clicks to your site. Now watch how much your organic search traffic changes. In my case, 12% or a drop of about 5k clicks a day! 150k clicks a month.
At the end of the day, that paid search program, the one on which you are spending $20k a month and measuring 250k visits, is ACTUALLY delivering 400k visits. You aren’t spending $.08 per click but, effectively, only $.05; you can either increase your bids and paid search budget to bring it back to an effective $.08 (in turn driving more traffic and revenue) or, call your boss and chalk up a huge win for the day
Has anyone else had a similar experience? If so, please share. As we wrestle with constrained budgets, higher expectations, and increasing need for justification, knowing that your SEM program results in more traffic through the free listings you have in the organic results could make all the difference in the world.