Paid search and SEO should work hand-in-hand, not against one another. But how do you manage a campaign that adjusts paid search budgets once organic rankings are achieved? Mightybytes’ go-to PPC wizard Matt Cardoni (he’s managed PPC campaigns for some pretty big-name B Corp retailers, y’all) calls this “the Cardoni metric,” and he’s agreed to explain it for our audience.
Warning: this piece is a little technical. Be prepared to have your mind blown.
How to Integrate PPC & SEO
Integrating paid search and SEO is a well-researched and thoroughly discussed topic in online marketing. Few dispute the value and depth of opportunities that are achievable when the two channels are leveraged in concert. Where most practitioners fail is actually implementing reliable and effective approaches to integrating channel management with optimal results.
Set a Unified Goal Across Teams
Almost every team I’ve been involved in has had a singular goal that applies to ONLY their channel. I’ve had goals that range from “Maximize revenue of PPC within a specific efficiency threshold” to “Cannibalize paid search.” When teams have goals that are as competitive and divisive as cannibalism, it’s hard to imagine one team extending an olive branch to the other with useful data — much less proactively helping the other team to optimize their campaigns without being asked. Setting a common goal across both teams incentivizes teams to help each other to achieve that goal. Example unified goal: achieve CPA of $x across both channels by Q3.
Develop a Process for Ongoing Reprioritization of Keyword Focus
Creating a reliable process that keeps teams continuously working towards a shared goal is crucial for repeatable and ongoing improvement. To this end, I have developed a system that allows SEO teams to strategically adjust their target keywords that, if rankings are achieved, will produce the maximal visibility and profitability across both channels and the largest reduction in cost to the Paid Search team.
I humbly call this number: The Cardoni Metric [insert dramatic music here]. The math is as follows:
The Cardoni Metric = Impressions * Impression to Conversion Rate (I2C) * Keyword Profit * PPC Spend
Once you calculate this metric for all the keywords in your paid search program — using at least 1 month of data, preferably more like 6 months — you sort the keywords by this number. The resulting list is the priority keywords that the SEO team will focus on for the next month in their optimization efforts, social media content and internal and external link building efforts. Depending on your resources available, this list can be as few as 3 keywords to as many as thousands. I recommend a digestible chunk to truly provide focus, like 20-50 keywords. This list is recalculated monthly. Once a ranking is achieved in SEO, the keyword can be de-prioritized for ongoing optimizations but should still be measured to prevent it from slipping down the ranks.
Here is the logic of this approach broken down:
- Impressions are used to integrate visibility: if a keyword gets a lot of impressions, it represents significant traffic opportunity if you were able to achieve a top ranking for this keyword in organic search.
- Impression to Conversion Rate (I2C) is used to integrate the metric of maximal impression to order conversion rate. This article explains I2C in more detail, but to summarize: it’s the ratio of conversions from impressions, so it includes both impression-to-click CTR and click-to-order Conversion Rate.
- Profit of each keyword: large revenue doesn’t necessarily result in large profit, so if you have the metrics to include profit insights into your metrics, USE THEM. If not, use revenue.
- PPC spend is included in the equation to include the goal of saving the most money in Paid Search, with the logic that if you were able to achieve the ranking for a keyword in organic search, it would save you more money in paid search.
A similar approach to guiding the PPC team should be adopted as well: perform a gap analysis to uncover opportunities in the paid search keywords that the organic performance is missing. Keyword research in Paid Search is a different beast entirely. My go-to tool for this is Google’s Keyword Planner Tool.
Unify Reporting and Meetings
Having a regular check-in is important for ongoing communication and cross-channel optimization; the right arm needs to know what the left arm is doing in order to optimize intelligently. I recommend weekly or every other week meetings between teams for long-term projects, or more regularly for short-term projects.
Integrated reporting is helpful for keeping your eyes on the prize: a UNIFIED cross-channel goal of maximal ROI. Integrated reporting also helps highlight how gains in one channel can impact gains in other channels. I also highly recommend utilizing Google Analytics’ annotations, especially when running tests, to warehouse your insights and give others reviewing your analytics an idea of what the marketing channels are doing when interpreting data.
Finally, I also recommend a testing calendar to share across teams. As simple as it sounds, keeping track of your tests and sharing the insights can have a huge impact on your ability to act on the insights gained from each test as well as the ability to share your testing progress and insights to clients across all levels of an organization in an easy and digestible way. It also gives organizational leaders the ability to provide input on which tests they feel are important to prioritize.
Once you set up the right processes to get your teams aligned in ongoing collaboration and optimization, they will be able to effectively produce more profit and accrue less cost across both channels. It remains industry standard to have teams with one channel of specialization. Being able to lead teams and help them to produce optimal results across both channels will set you apart from the crowd.